Joe Littrell forwarded me a St. Petersburg Times article, Dismembered Again
, about the town of Vernon, Florida. It was so weird that I first I thought it was one of those joke articles, the kind that magazines such as the Phoenix New Times
sometimes run. But all the references in it check out, so now I'm pretty sure it's real.
Vernon used to be known as Nub City, because the main source of income for town residents was dismembering themselves in order to file insurance claims. People there would come up with all kinds of ingenious ways to lose limbs:
L.W. Burdeshaw, an insurance agent in Chipley, told the St. Petersburg Times in 1982 that his list of policyholders included the following: a man who sawed off his left hand at work, a man who shot off his foot while protecting chickens, a man who lost his hand while trying to shoot a hawk, a man who somehow lost two limbs in an accident involving a rifle and a tractor, and a man who bought a policy and then, less than 12 hours later, shot off his foot while aiming at a squirrel.
Eventually insurance companies refused to insure anyone in the area, but Vernon went on to achieve some fame as the subject of a film (titled Vernon, Florida
) by Errol Morris:
What Morris produced instead was 56 minutes of surreal monologues from an idle police officer, an obsessive turkey hunter, a pastor fixated on the word "therefore," a couple convinced that the sand they keep in a jar is growing, and, among others, an old man who claims he can write with both hands at once.
It sounds like a fun place to visit.