Why does so much weird news come from Florida

Claudine Zap
Claudine Zap

Remember butterfly ballots and hanging chads? Not to mention a killer whale attack at SeaWorld.

Florida, says a column in Slate, is home to the weird.

Not that weird news doesn’t happen elsewhere. It certainly does. But, author Craig Pittman argues, it’s come to be expected in Florida:

“When big news happens somewhere in the country, people in other states say, ‘Oh my goodness!’ or ‘What the —?’ But we Floridians will scan a story like that muttering, ‘OK, where's the Florida connection?’”

Population is one explanation, Pittman writes. There are now 20 million people in the state. On top of that, 80 million tourists descend on the place each year, “from every group imaginable, crowded into that same narrow space, usually without a clue about how to act here.” (Spring break, anyone?) The author contends it’s a recipe for disaster. But population isn't the only ingredient.

The history of the Sunshine State is shady — Slate points out that back when it was trying to bring in settlers, the state gave away deeds to swampland to anyone who promised to drain it or fill it. “By 1883, the government had given away deeds to 17.5 million acres of wetlands — even though it only owned 14.7 million acres.“

Then there’s the subtropical climate and the unusual flora and the scary fauna. (Just think about those alligators and boa constrictors.) And then, Pittman points out, there are the nudists.

The thick foliage means that machetes are a common backyard tool — and sometimes a weapon to use against burglars. (Yes, that actually happened.)

The warm weather doesn’t seem to make for a marital paradise: Florida’s Panama City tops the country as the No. 1 divorce capital — due at least in part to the state’s lax divorce laws.

There’s also greed: The Slate column points out that Florida has the dubious honor of being the No. 1 state for mortgage fraud and identity fraud. It’s also home to the “Queen of Versailles,” the documentary about a couple building — and abandoning — the most expensive single-family home in the country.

There's an entire Twitter feed just for "Florida Man" stories. And An analysis of AP stories listed Florida as number one in strange, including:

"Man wearing sleeping bag as cape attempts robbery" — Gainesville.

"Florida lotto winner seeks to open a nude dude ranch" – Brooksville.

"Man calls 911 after eatery runs out of lemonade" – Boyton Beach.