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.

The killer beside you

knife

The first murderer I ever met was tall and awkward, with curly hair. But this was sixth grade, and we were all a bit awkward. Every one of us.

This kid didn’t grow up to stalk the streets and slay prostitutes until the TV stations gave him a nickname.

He didn’t buy an AR-15 and shoot up a lecture hall or a nightclub.

This boy became a killer that same year.

One day he was in school. The next day he didn’t show up, and the next, and the next, until we finally learned the truth: he’d been charged with murder.
Continue reading “The killer beside you”