Amazingly weird headline–Man in underwear arrested at animal shelter after fighting invisible nemesis

Oh, you might think I’m embellishing that headline, that I’m gilding the weird news lilly. Nope. 

Here’s a direct link, which is only one word different, and it’s a word that only adds to the fun of the story.

Police: Man in underwear arrested at animal shelter after fighting invisible nemesis

See? The headline is completely accurate, sourced to the police, and the police report adds even more weird news goodness:

  • He was throwing things at passing motorists
  • He told police he hadn’t slept for a week
  • He also told police that his heart was not beating

If I made this all up, and put it in a short story or novel, you’d laugh me out of the room. 

But if I said this took place in Florida, you’d nod your head and add it to the long list of Florida Man headlines. So maybe the weirdest thing about this weird story is it happened in Kentucky, instead.

Here’s to you, Kentucky Man–you may be a pioneer, one of the first to truly challenge Florida Man, but I hope you’re not the last.

 

Top 10 creepy sea creatures — and why creatures are a staple of our weird news diet

Odd creatures aren’t just a staple of weird news stories.

They’re a huge box-office draw. Name a blockbuster or billion-dollar movie and it’s almost a sure bet that they feature fantasy or alien creatures.

Think about it: AVATAR, STAR WARS, the Harry Potter series and the lame Harry Potter prequel series, STAR TREK, MEN IN BLACK, any of the 5,832 Marvel movies, LORD OF THE RINGS and the lame Hobbit prequel series that should have been one flipping movie.

Yeah, there are cute fluffy creatures sometimes. Yet just about every giant hit has a zoo’s worth of Ewok’s, orcs, space elves or cybernetic raccoons with a gun fetish.

So what gives a creepy sea creature, man-eating forest monster or elephant-sized wild hog such power to fascinate us?

Let’s break it down.

WILL THIS MONSTER SEE ME AS A SNACK?

That’s the most visceral attraction, a caveman instinct we can’t get rid of: paying close attention to obvious threats.

And yes, a healthy chunk of weird creatures–whether they live in the sea, the mountains or your local forest–tend to be predators with humans possibly on the menu.

IS IT FASCINATINGLY DISGUSTING?

There’s some crossover here. Many of the things that can totally go nom-nom-nom on us–like leeches, lampreys, giant squids and alligators–can’t be called cute.

A bunch of non-threatening weird animals are only interesting because they’re so bizarre and repellent, like the blob fish.

THIS CAN’T BE REAL

Other strange creatures get our attention because we can’t believe they’re not CGI.

How do Christmas Tree Worms really eat? Do lampreys have eyes or are they just a wormy eel thing with giant teeth?

THE FLORIDA MAN TEST

Weird news stories typically involve people in groups (usually men) late at night plus alcohol or drugs and the following optional ingredients: firearms, dangerous wild animals, explosives, 7-Elevens, the police. Oh, and the state of Florida, a state that generates so many weird news stories that headlines starting with “Florida Man” and ending with bizarre mayhem are truly a thing.

So whether or not an odd creature gets featured in a weird news story may hinge upon it passing the Florida Man Test, as in: can a Florida Man use this creature to generate a headline?

Two great examples: alligators, pythons and sharks.

Florida Man has robbed a 7-Eleven late at night, hid from the cops in a pond and been eaten by a gator. An entirely different Florida Man carried a live gator into a gas station and used it to steal beer or money, or beer and money (I forget, wasn’t there, sorry).

Pythons have overtaken the Everglades, and may be impossible to eradicate. They’re devouring local animals and even trying to eat the gators.

Sharks are another common element in weird news, with Florida Man getting arrested for dragging a shark behind a boat.

One unlucky Florida Man has hit the weird news lottery, getting bit by a shark, punched by a monkey, bitten by a snake and struck by lighting. No joke.

VERDICT

I salute you, weird sea creatures that should not exist, and I hope global warming doesn’t bring too many of you within range of Florida.

 

The Exploding Whale and the explosion of weird news

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy called Oregon, the local Empire decided to used tons of explosives to blow up a whale on their beach. It did not go well. But it was a prophecy, foretelling the explosion of weird news we see today.

Why is the exploding whale footage such a harbinger of things to come?

Maybe I just like to use the words harbinger and prophecy in nearby sentences.

Maybe I’m a trained journalist who loves to collect, analyze and dissect weird news stories.

And maybe, just maybe, I have a theory that explains the whole glorious Florida Man-style mess.

A Grand Unified Theory of Weird News

First: Weird news is omnipresent.

You’ll find it on an Oregon beach, in the middle of Alaska or on every acre of this land I call Florida.

There are strange people and bizarre bits of mayhem anyplace you look.

While my wife was in law school, I worked in this small-town paper in a place you can’t pronounce.

And listen, you would not believe the amount of mayhem I witnessed and wrote about, and not because the little town was a war zone.

Massive floods, with houses floating down the river. At least two serial killers. Political scandals. A man who died when a mobile home fell on him as he installed it. A sniper who shot at me (and everybody in sight) until the county sheriff deputies rolled up in a tank.

Here’s a little taste: The killer beside you

But if you look, there are always crazy stories happening locally.

Second: Weird news is not related to the crime rate.

This seems counter-intuitive. Criminals and criminally idiotic people make up the majority of weird news. 

Take away petty crime and Florida Man stories would wither and die.

Yet the numbers are nuts, when you look at them. Crime is down and has been going down for years.

Things were actually wilder and crazier before today’s explosion of weird news. I mean, the late ’70s and early ’80s were Animal House.

You just didn’t know about every single thing that happens like you do today. Why is that?

Third: Weird news lives on the interwebs

Without the speed and reach of the Series of Tubes, you’d never hear about 99.9 percent of weird news.

Before, the only real way crazy news would spread was by newspapers, so feeding your need for Florida Man stories would require serious resources. Because your local paper would not devote a full page to random wire stories about crazytown happening far away.

There are entire sites devoted to the daily collection and curation of funny and bizarre stories. 

Fourth: Weird news is intensely visual

This is the most essential ingredient. As a writer, it’s hard to fully describe the insanity of what you see.

Photos help.

Video is better. There is no substitute.

This is why Russian dash cam footage goes so viral. It’s raw, it’s real and the cameras are on all the time, so they capture all kinds of crashes and cray-cray.

Fifth: Smart phones, smart phones and more smart phones

Now that everybody has iPhones or Samsungs in their pockets, weird news is constantly being not only captured, but shared with the world.

All day and night. Everywhere.

You don’t need to have a TV crew on site, or watch the broadcast at 11 p.m.

So get out there and keep your phone handy. Florida Man doesn’t just hang out in Florida–he’s everywhere you look.

Hot tub crime machine

No, I did not make up that headline. That’s the real deal, word for word.

Shockingly, this did not happen in Florida.

Let’s break it down, journalism-style.

WHO: A female inmate, 34 years old.

WHAT: An escape from custody while she was getting booked on a drug possession charge.

She was later found hiding in the hot tub of a senior center, still wearing her orange jumpsuit from the jail.

WHEN: December 19, 2018. It took police hours to find her after the escape.

WHERE: Waverly, Ohio.

WHY: That’s the mystery.

Hiding in a senior center could make sense. It’s not like the cops have to show up there every Friday night to break up bar fights. But to make that plan work, you’d have to change your clothes and pretend to be a visitor, or a janitor, that sort of thing. You don’t hang out in the hot tub, where you’ll (a) get spotted by all kinds of people who (b) maybe want to use that hot tub and (c) will definitely call the cops when they see your orange jail gear.

And for those who don’t get it, the headline is a great riff on the movie HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, brought to you by the same geniuses now doing COBRA KAI.

However, this story is only the latest entry into the proud historical record of Criminals Who Stink at Hiding.

Florida Man takes the top spot in my book, with a man running from the police late at night getting the bright idea that he’ll hide in a pond. True, the 5-0 didn’t find him. That’s only because an alligator did first.

There are hundreds of other stories of criminals hiding in stupid places: in a dumpster, a manure lagoon, the lion cage at a zoo–you name it, some idiot has done it.

So I salute you, Hot Tub Crime Machine Woman–you get an F for achieving your goal but an A+ for style.

Why the Hot Duck of Central Park went so viral

There’s nothing unusual about seeing a duck paddling around the ponds of Central Park–or any pond, lake or stream. But one duck has caught the attention of Gotham and the world.

Check out the video:

OK, that is one spectacular duck, and it’s nice to see a weird news story that doesn’t involve Darwin Award winners or Florida Man.

So why did this story spread so far and wide?

Amazing images drive coverage 

The shots are amazing. It’s far, far easier to get media coverage when the visuals rock–and a lot tougher when you have zero visuals.

TV stations live and die on good visuals. And this duck makes for great shots. 

Once you get TV coverage, that drives newspaper, radio and web stories, too.

Plus it’s a lot easier to share a story that has all kinds of videos on YouTube already, whether shot by an NYC station or amateurs using their iPhones.

Mysteries make people curious and give a story legs

Nobody knows how the Hot Duck got to Central Park in the first place. This species of duck isn’t native. It should be halfway around the world in Japan, where these ducks are common.

Was it a pet somebody let go or an escapee from a zoo?

How far could a duck fly, if it wanted to?

Another mystery happened when the Hot Duck disappeared. Did it get eaten, trapped, run over by a car or sucked into the engine of a Boeing 787? People care about this duck now, and they got worried.

Turns out the duck took a side trip. Maybe he went on vacation.

Then when he returned, that was a big happy story, too.

Unlikely animal friendships are always a good story

The Hot Duck has good manners, making friends with the local ducks and some of his biggest human fans.

If he was a loner, or a jerk, this story wouldn’t have legs. People would root for the evil show-off duck to beat it.

His good manners make you root for the Hot Duck, to hope he keeps on making friends and thriving.

It’s just a sweet little story that makes people smile. Kind of like red pandas, genetically engineered by mad scientists to be the most heart-melting animals ever.

P.S. If you’re interested, here are 21 facts about Mandarin Ducks.

Just what Florida needs: Pythons interbreeding to create Super Snakes

Florida is the epicenter of weird news, so much so that it’s the only state with (a) it’s own Fark tag and (b) a Twitter handle dedicated to all the crazy headlines which all start with “Florida man” and end with mayhem.

The latest news, however, is more scary than funny.

There are 2.43 bazillion pythons already in Florida, busy killing and eating alligators (yes, not a joke) when they’re not nom-nom-nomming on every bit of fluffy native wildlife they can find.

OK, it’s more like “tens of thousands.” Which isn’t a big comfort.

So if that video didn’t freak you out enough, now we learn that the swamp-loving Burmese pythons are interbreeding with Indian pythons to create Super Snakes.

Yeah, that’s right. Super Snakes that can live What can we do about this? Who will save Florida from the rise of voracious, hybrid Super Snakes?

While this man captures snakes barefoot and barehanded, and we technically have the technology to clone him, I don’t see that as a viable option.

Authorities in Florida have tried offering cash bounties for every captured python to mobilize the population. They’ve tried the opposite approach, hiring a few expert snake hunters.

I think they’ve tried just about everything.

Maybe it’s time to get Florida Man on the case.

Florida Man: Why one state is the absolute mecca for weird news

As a reformed journalist, I have a lifelong fascination with weird news—an addiction that a single state tries hard to satisfy.

Every. Single. DAY.

No other state can hold a candle to Florida.

It’s the only state with its own Fark tag, with so many weird news headlines starting with “Florida man” there’s a Twitter handle that endlessly tweets out insane stories starting with those two words.

I could not love Florida more for this.

Here’s a sample of recent Florida headlines, lovingly curated by fark.com:

Florida Man enters Jacksonville store and chases people with live alligator

Florida teacher quits to become full-time grocery shopper and doubles his salary

Key West mayoral candidate takes a personal cell phone call during a debate. From God

Florida man charged with identity theft after impersonating Backstreet Boy

17-year-old gets attacked by snake while mowing lawn. Gives sage advice: “watch out for snakes”

Police say Florida man planned his suicide for years, making it look like murder by using a weather balloon to carry away the gun

All this craziness packed into a single state begs the question: Why does Florida Man live in Florida?

Theory # 1: Deadly wild animals up the wazoo

Alligators, sharks, pythons invading the Everglades—and those are just the apex predators. You’ll find crazy stories about rabid racoons, bat infestations and all sorts of animal disasters and shenanigans. Yes, that’s the proper spelling. Take note.

Few other states boast the biodiversity needed to generate this much mayhem.

Theory # 2: Dumb criminals

A weird news story’s power gets squared when a stable genius criminal does something truly idiotic only to have karma delivered by the local wildlife.

One great example: man commits a robbery at night and the cops chase him … so he makes the brilliant move of hiding in a nearby pond, where an alligator has him as a midnight snack.

Theory # 3: Paaaaarty time

Florida is seen as a tropical getaway, a place where you go to party on spring break or to retire in the sunshine.

Alcohol and drugs are a common ingredient in weird news stories. Florida gets far more than its fair share of dumb criminals doing dumb things after getting hammered or high. Sometimes both.

Theory # 4: The power of convergence

Every great weird story is a combination of factors, usually (1) men who are (2) drunk or high, doing something risky involving (3) crime, (4) firearms, (5) explosives or (6) wild animals who can kill you.

It’s like baking a cake. Even if most states have an ingredient or two, they don’t have all six, not in the quantities that Florida does. It’s a giant state, one of the biggest, with more people moving there all the time and all those pythons in the Everglades busy laying eggs when they’re not fighting alligators. The weird news will only grow with time.

VERDICT

Florida is an interesting, dynamic place, a semi-tropical paradise that also happens to be home to some of the craziest stories you’ll ever see. We love you, Florida Man—don’t change a thing.

Is this dinosaur-sized alligator fake or real?

This is the video that has the internet, and the mainstream media, losing their minds.

It’s like The Dress, except whether a bit of fashionable fabric is blue or gold didn’t really matter to anyone, while the existence of massive alligators roaming golf courses could, in fact, matter a great deal to ALL THE PEOPLE IT GOBBLES UP.

So yeah, this is exciting and fun. Let’s break it down.

Evidence pointing toward fakery and prankery

1) Nothing screams “green screen” like a green background

We all know how you make a fake video, or do special effects in movies. It starts with a green screen.

Adding a moving object that goes straight across, left to right, on the same plane? Piece of cake.

2) Terrible audio

Audio that’s all chopped up points to film that got edited to bits.

3) No closeup

With most footage of real-life craziness, the person shooting it has a choice: (a) run far, far away from Things That Can Kill You, like tornadoes, great white sharks, zombies or alligators the size of garbage trucks, (b) risk your life to see it, but only from a safe distance, (c) get as close as you can for a real look at the thing and a chance for YouTube infamy or (d) be smart and use the magic of zooming to get a closer look without turning into lunch.

Why is the shot so static? Anybody with two brain cells to knock together would zoom in on this monster.

Evidence making me think it’s real

1) The shadow knows

the shadow knows

No, not that Shadow.

Check out the shadow of the gator as it crosses the sand trap. Pretty hard to fake that.

2) Alligators this size are rare, but not insanely rare

If you’ve ever watched National Geographic, The Crocodile Hunter or any other show dealing with nature, you’ve seen crocodiles and alligators. And yeah, they get big.

It’s a reptile thing. I believe reptiles keep growing and growing until they die.

Could be wrong. Not a scientist. Wait, I’m right. They grow forever.

3) This is Florida

If you told me this video was shot in Georgia, Michigan or California, I’d be 149 percent more skeptical.

But we’re talking about Florida, the only state with it’s own Fark tag.

Weird news and Florida go together like chocolate and peanut butter, Han Solo and Chewbecca, coffee and milk.

There’s so much weird news coming out of this state, there’s a Twitter account dedicated to insane headlines that all start with “Florida Man,” as in “Florida man dresses like ninja to rob 7-Elevens” or “Florida man hides from cops in pond, gets eaten by alligators.”

Verdict: Real.

Snopes.com investigated this issue, because somebody had to, and they dug up the truth.

This alligator is not only real, he’s well-known and pretty chill. Hasn’t eaten any golfers that we know of and is kind of a mascot for the course.

Man leads police on 112 mph chase, crashes, then flees with his pet monkey

Monkey chase. Photo courtesy of the Burien Police Department.

Monkey chase. Photo courtesy of the Burien Police Department.

Photo courtesy of the Burien Police Department.

This sounds like an Onion story. But it’s not.

As a reformed journalist and unrepentant fan of weird news, this story is classic. Let’s break it down.

Related post, which WordPress put on the front page: How weird news teaches us great storytelling

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