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The 2012 Weird Stories That Defined Florida

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The end of the year is approaching and the news columns and web sites of a hungry nation are filling up with weird Florida stories, each supposedly an illustration of the character, lifestyle and unholy preoccupations of our strange, strange state.

WEIRD RIDE: She rode a manatee at a Pinellas County beach, got arrested and became a weird Florida story.

This Top 20 list from MSN includes the stories of the Naked Causeway Cannibal, the giant blue disembodied eye that washed ashore on a beach, the woman in shorts and a bikini top caught on tape and then arrested for riding a manatee, and a motorist who blew up a gas station in her impatience to get to a pump.

Along with the cannibal story, in which the cannibal was killed by police and a homeless man was blinded, there's the one about Gov. Rick Scott and the phone sex line. Oh, and a cat video.

The New Times has two lists, one each for sex and politics. The politics list is a must-read, especially the item about Rachel Burgin, the state representative whose bill-filing blunder inadvertently exposed where laws come from in Florida.

New York magazine has an interactive map of the U. S. where clicks reveal its choice of that state's single weirdest story. It's choice for Florida...?

Credit file photos
WEIRD STORY PRINCIPALS: Naked cannibal Rudy Eugene, left, and victim Ronald Poppo.

Florida has always been a strange state to people who don’t live here. But the strange used to be charming, at least when Miami novelist Karen Russell was growing up. In a recent interview with NPR's "On the Media," she remembered her school field trips to the Miami Science Museum.

"They had these wilderness areas," she said. "You’d go outside and you could see spiders and lizards and snakes, and it was always completely unclear what was part of  the exhibit and what was just chilling on a trash can. I'd be, like, 'Is that tarantula the exhibit? Of just kind of around?'"

That passed for weird back then.

On the same show, Will Greenlee, a crime writer who blogs the weird stuff for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers, said strange stories that might go unnoticed elsewhere are easy to find in Florida.

"I think a lot of it is due to the open records laws in Florida," Greenlee said. "They are very liberal. It's very easy to get arrest affidavits and police reports."

There will be another list next year, unless the weirdness profile of some other state rises to obscure ours, as ours did to California over the years.

Before that happens, why don't you let us know what your memorable Florida stories from 2012 are? Just click to join our Public Insight Network and fill out the form.

In the meantime, Happy New Year. Ring out the old. And, or course, ring in the weird.

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