TALLAHASSEE -- Did you hear about the giant Lego man that washed up on Siesta Key beach? What about the man who walked into a bar, ordered a beer and disappeared for 30 minutes to rob a bank, only to return and finish his drink? Or how about the puzzling story of the baby grand piano that showed up on a sandbar near Miami?
That’s Florida, where weird is an everyday event.
Over the past year, a 92-year-old woman fired four shots at a neighbor who refused to kiss her, a Delray Beach man cut off a piece of a dead whale that washed ashore -- planning to eat it -- and an 8-year-old girl gave her teacher some marijuana and said: “This is some of my mom’s weed.”
The piano was a mystery for about a month. On Jan. 1, 2011, the charred instrument showed up on a Biscayne Bay sandbar, a couple hundred yards from shore. A 16-year-old student eventually admitted he put it there as part of an art project. A day after it was removed, someone set up a table with two chairs, place settings and a bottle of wine.
It’s still not clear how the 100-pound, 8-foot-tall Lego man washed ashore. The local tourism bureau hoped to use Lego man to promote the area, but the man who found it has placed a claim on it.
He can keep it if the owner doesn’t collect it before early next year. As for the bar-bank robber, he was arrested at his watering hole, not too long after the holdup.
Author Tim Dorsey, whose novels include Florida strangeness both real and fantasy, said the state is an odd place because of its diverse, highly transient population.
“There’s pockets of strangeness all over the country, but here it’s a baseline lifestyle. There, it’s the aberration. There, it’s the tail end of the bell curve. Here, it’s the peak of the bell curve,” Dorsey said.
Young people made up a large part of the peculiar tales.
In Palm Beach County, an elementary school teacher opened an end-of-the-year gift from an 8-year-old student’s grandmother and found toiletries and a loaded handgun. A Tampa woman upset with her 15-year-old son’s bad grades forced him to stand on a street corner with a sign that read: “Honk if I need an education.”
A 15-year-old Florida Keys girl who is a big fan of the “Twilight” books and movies was afraid that her mother would get upset by the bite marks her boyfriend gave her after they acted out her vampire fantasy. She made up a story about being attacked; doubtful investigators got her to tell the truth.
Deputies arrested an 18-month-old’s father after they found the man passed out in his mobile home while the toddler was in the yard picking up beer cans and drinking them.
Pasco County deputies said a woman walked into a bank with a 3-year-old boy and robbed it. A homeless man held up a Tampa bank, fled on a city bus and handed out stolen cash to passengers.
And while he didn’t rob it, an unhappy Palm Coast bank customer left quite a deposit. He urinated in a drive-thru bank tube and drove off.
Animals always account for a fair share of odd news. At the Miami airport, a Brazilian trying to get through security was caught with several baby pythons and tortoise hatchlings in his underwear.
A woman found a 7-foot alligator in her bathroom, and a man stored his dead cougar in a freezer.
In north-central Florida, an Ocala ice cream shop got rid of its costumed mascot -- a waving vanilla cone -- because passers-by kept mistaking him for a hooded Ku Klux Klansman.
In unusual crime stories, two managers of a Lake City Domino’s Pizza were charged with burning down a rival Papa John’s as a way to increase business. Two deaf men using sign language were stabbed at a Hallandale Beach bar when another costumer thought they were flashing gang signs.
And finally, a North Naples man who was pulled over for a traffic violation called 911 and reported a shooting nearby to get out of a ticket.
He still got a ticket and was also charged with making a false 911 call.