Weird Wild Stuff 

Words by Shelton Hull


Is summer over yet? Not until Sept. 23, according to the calendar, but the difference is purely academic here in Florida, where even Santa Claus wears shorts. The craziness of our news stories has tempered a bit, maybe because it’s too hot to go outside, which means a lower likelihood of heat-induced madness. But do not fear, there is still more than enough crazy to fill this space, easily.


Let’s start in Florida with arguably the most quintessentially #Florida story we’ve ever seen. It starts pretty normally with an incident of road rage that quickly turned lethal for one combatant. Here’s where it begins to deviate: The victim was 87 years old, and his killer was 75 — which is not normal in such cases. The killer absconded, and his identity was unknown until a detective recognized him as the man celebrating a rare hole-in-one in his local newspaper, resulting in his arrest. It further develops that the whole incident began after the victim backed into a car, which the killer thought was his, but didn’t realize the truth until it was too late. Now, where in the world could such a bizarre sequence of events unfold? At The Villages, of course.


Staying in Florida, in this case Sarasota, here’s another story about death, which is even weirder than the previous one. This death actually took place at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in April, but we didn’t get the full story until recently because, to be fair, it is a lot to unpack. Apparently a couple of manatees were feeling frisky, which is no laughing matter when you weigh upwards of 1,000 pounds. The 38-year-old victim, whose name was Hugh, died mysteriously at first. However, a necropsy by the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Marine Mammal Pathobiology Lab found a 15-centimeter “rip” in poor Hugh’s colon, which happened during a sexual encounter with another, larger male manatee. Now we all know that aquariums are basically prisons, but this is a bit too on-the-nose for our tastes.


Speaking of animals, most people are smart enough not to mess with snakes. But sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes a snake just falls from the sky onto you, and you just have to deal, as one Texas woman was forced to do recently. She was just minding her business, mowing her lawn, when the snake suddenly latched onto her arm. Turns out that the snake was in the midst of a near-death experience, having been seized for food by a hawk, which then came swooping down to pick up the meal it dropped. Fast forward a few seconds and the snake is dead, the hawk is satiated, and the woman is covered with snake venom, fang marks, claw marks and a disturbing amount of her own blood. But at least she gets a story that will impress anyone at any bar, anywhere, even in Texas.


Here’s a fun fact about animals: They hate people, and they hate your cars even more. How else to explain their persistent determination to block traffic whenever possible.You’ll see different animals in different areas: bears, bison, moose, ducks, geese, possums, sloths, alligators or even — in this comparatively rare case from Washington state — a llama. Suffice it to say, llamas are not native to the Pacific Northwest, so this was far outside the wheelhouse of first responders, especially since even domesticated llamas are also dangerous llamas. Thankfully, the beast was soon returned to its owner, and no officers got spit on.


Everyone has their own views on religion, and this is not the place to get into that. We’re just here for the laughs, the memes and, of course, the gabagool. A Lutheran church in Germany has recently become just the latest house of worship around the world to outsource preaching duties to AI, specifically the Chat GPT platform, which delivered a whole-ass sermon (including sermon, prayers and even music) using the avatar of a bearded Black man, which probably didn’t help, in terms of PR. I would love to know what Martin Luther would think, having basically risked death to found his faith. Eventually, robots will be able to dress like pimps, endorse shady politicians and defraud their flocks, and then a lot of preachers will be out of business.


We’ll end this month with something that isn’t really weird but actually pretty fantastic. This story comes from San Francisco, which gets a bad rap from our scumbag governor and the greasy, slack-jawed yokels who love him. It’s one of the country’s greatest and coolest cities, one that has influenced American culture in many ways, perhaps most notably through music. That proud legacy is being celebrated by the San Francisco Public Library. Bay Beats is a new streaming platform built specifically to spotlight their local music scene. Artists will be paid a $250 honorarium to participate, and the site will also link to their own websites and social media. Anyone can access the site, but the nearly 500,000 SFPL card holders can download music for free. Similar platforms are already active in Nashville and New Orleans. It would be fun to try something like that in Duval, but folks would just complain about it and slander each other on social media, so no, never.

About Shelton Hull

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic. He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009. He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at [email protected].