- . Florida is the third most popular state in the U.S., with over 21 million people.
- Florida has strong public records laws, so it is easier for the media to gain access to police incident reports.
- In 1930, this X-ray technician from Key West mourned when his true love passed away.
It seems that more crazy news stories originate in Florida than anywhere else in this country. Articles with shocking headlines like “Florida Man Tries Trading Live Gator For Beer” and “Florida Man Hides In Swamp After High-Speed Police Chase, Gets Stuck And Licked By Police Dog” appear often, and people wonder why all this chaos happens in the Sunshine State.
There is actually some rhyme and reason behind all the bizarre stories, and it is more based on factors like its large and diverse population and public records access than anything else.
A Lot of People
When there are more people in one place, the odds of having more strange things happen increases. Florida is the third most popular state in the U.S., with over 21 million people. That does not include tourists, which add on another 126 million (according to U.S. Census data from 2018). There are larger concentrations of Floridians near its big theme parks and by the coastlines, too. Another contributing factor is the weather; with so many sunny days, there are more folks outside more often where they can be seen.
Add to this the diverse populations and different languages, and you have a recipe for a large number of strange happenings. Once social media gets a hold of one, the news travels far and wide.
Florida has strong public records laws, so it is easier for the media to gain access to police incident reports. Barbara Petersen of Florida's First Amendment Foundation explains that journalists can access certain crime details “almost in real-time.” She adds that these public records laws are some of the broadest in the United States.
Some of the Best-Known Headlines
Count Carl von Cosel: In 1930, this X-ray technician from Key West mourned when his true love passed away. After she died, von Cosel dug up the grave and slept in bed with her corpse for nine years. He went to trial but was set free because the statute of limitations was expired.
Squirrel Attack: In 2019, a Sarasota man was attacked and bitten by a squirrel. The rodent had been raised by nearby neighbors, but when released it bit several others before taking a chomp out of the man.
Others include tales of a fired Burger King employee stealing chicken nuggets, an impatient patient stealing an ambulance, and a young man actually breaking into a prison to visit his incarcerated friends. The stories can be silly, funny, scary, or serious criminal events. The “Florida Man Challenge” encourages people to Google “Florida Man” and see how many stories they can find.
Not All Fun and Games
Florida journalist Craig Pittman warns that there are two sides to the Florida Man Challenge. Although many of the stories are harmless, others have “real tragedy behind them,” he explains. Some of those accused have real mental health issues, and the state does not have a good record for mental health funding. Pittman also says that when journalists share these stories, they should also look at the backstories behind them.