Vernon, Florida

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.

Body Manipulation Places

Posted on Mon Sep 03, 2007


Errol Morris changed the direction of his film because he was threatened with death if he filmed the story of the insurance cheats by some Vernon residents, according to interviews with him.

Vernon, Florida is a pretty bizarre and fascinating movie to watch. His next movie, Gates of Heaven, is about two pet cemeteries and the people who own them. Roger Ebert has called it "one of the ten best movies of all time."

People tend to either really love or hate his movies. Use his name as a search term at to see what I mean.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Tue Sep 04, 2007  at  03:27 AM
"Gates of Heaven" is indeed a great movie (not to be confused with "Heaven's Gate," which came out at close to the same time). The pet cemeteries aren't nearly as interesting as the family who runs them. "Gates of Heaven" comes from Morris's classic period, before he decided he was a national treasure and started making more grandiose pictures.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Tue Sep 04, 2007  at  06:21 AM
It has been years since I saw Gates of Heaven doc but the thing that always stuck with me is the guy talking about the smell of the rendering plant (I just looked up and found the quote I semi-remembered):

``The only thing that hit your nostrils wasn't that good piece of meat you bought to eat ... you first had to grab the wine glass off the table, and take a whiff of that, to get the smell of the rendering company out of your nose before you could eat.''

I rembember enjoying the Vernon, FL as well but it has been years. Errol Morris has been writing some interesting pieces on perspective, memory, knowledge, and photography recently for the NY Times.
Posted by Floormaster Squeeze  on  Tue Sep 04, 2007  at  11:46 AM
My Dad grew up near Vernon, Texas, which seems very tame compared to Vernon, Florida. I heard of a few people in Vernon, TX shoting themselves in the hand or foot, but not intentionally.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Tue Sep 04, 2007  at  12:56 PM
Now I know there's something in the water in FL
Posted by Sarasota  on  Wed Feb 20, 2008  at  03:30 AM
Those are some unfortunate accidents. Sometime I wonder how can some one shoot one self.. where is safety? Great blog
Posted by Dennis Alexander  on  Sun Apr 13, 2008  at  04:44 PM
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