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Only in Florida

Matt Schudel

I spent way too many years in Florida, which is by far the strangest, most violent state in the country -- and, therefore, a great place to be a journalist. I began to collect what I called "Weird Florida" stories about all the crazy things that were all too common in the manic, overheated, shoot-first-and-think-later state that I loved and loathed in equal measure.

For several years, I wrote an annual roundup story capturing a few of the bizarre events that pass for daily life in the Sunshine state....

Here's how I opened the 1998 version: "In a state that perennially leads the nation in crime, in lightning strikes and in attacks by deadly reptiles -- both the four-legged and two-legged varieties -- things strange are never in short supply. After all, this is where Santa Claus catches on fire, where convicts break into prison, where people scheme to import drugs on submarines, where a grandmother in a convertible becomes the getaway driver for a couple of lame-brained but heavily armed bank robbers.
"Sometimes the headlines are enough to send you into titters of wonderment, shock or disgust: "Criminology student accused of bank heist"; "Lawyer attacks client in court, witnesses say"; and -- one of our favorites -- "Police say woman used chicken, saw as weapons." And you thought California was weird? Welcome to Planet Florida, a parallel universe unto itself."

These stories came to mind when I ran across a recent story that is sad and horrible in a peculiarly Floridian way. It seems a 2-year-old girl in central Florida was recently strangled to death in her crib by a 9-foot python. The St. Petersburg Times reports that the boyfriend of the girl's mother woke one morning to find his pet python missing from its terrarium. He also apparently owns a 6-foot-boa constrictor named Dixie.

"Our stupid snake got out in the middle of the night and strangled the baby," the boyfriend said.

Apparently, python attacks are not that unusual in the United States -- and are particularly prevalent in Florida, for some reason. Since 1980, 12 people have been killed by pythons, which constrict their prey and sometimes swallow it whole.

In 2005, a 13-foot python tried to swallow an alligator whole in the Everglades, with diastrous results for both reptiles. The gator died, and the python exploded. If it's not too
gruesome for you, National Geographic provides here's a photo of the whole gory aftermath. Now, that's truly an only-in-Florida kind of story.

By Matt Schudel |  July 8, 2009; 2:33 PM ET  | Category:  Matt Schudel
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