Odd Florida: Van-escaping croc, mail-order snowman, world's tallest teen

Subscribe | UPI Odd Newsletter

March 14 (UPI) -- When it comes to odd news epicenters, one need not look much further than the great state of Florida, home of an escaped crocodilian, a mail-order snowman and the world's tallest teen.

News out of the Sunshine State has become a topic of international curiosity in recent years, with headlines promising the further adventures of "Florida man" becoming the stuff of myth and legend.


The year 2022, which isn't even 1/3 of the way over yet, is already off to a stunningly strange start for the residents of the southernmost U.S. state.

Here are the 10 oddest Florida stories of 2022 (so far):

Unusual, submarine-shaped vehicle spotted on Florida road

Michael Ruede was driving on U.S. 41 in Punta Gorda on Feb. 28 when he captured video of a strange site: a vehicle resembling a yellow submarine with wheels traveling at the side of the road.


The vehicle was later identified as a velomobile -- a three-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle owned by Dave Lewis. Lewis said the vehicle's bright yellow color is to make the vehicle more visible to passing cars and trucks.

Virginia woman's lost dog turns up five years later in Florida

The Cape Coral Animal Shelter in Florida facilitated a reunion that was 5 years in the making when a 15-year-old dog was brought in and scanned for a microchip.

The poodle, named Snowball, had vanished from owner Kathy's Virginia home 5 years earlier. The shelter said it was not clear where the dog had been for the past 5 years, or how he found his way to Lee County from Virginia.

Florida teacher has snowman mailed to class from Kentucky

Robin Hughes, a special education teacher at SouthShore Academy in Tampa, said she was teaching her students about snow when she got the idea to give them a more hands-on lesson with a snowman with the help of her sister, Amber Estes, who lives in Danville, Ky.

Estes made a snowman and mailed it to Hughes in a box packed with dry ice, and the school shared video of the snowman, named Lucky, being unboxed by the impressed students.


Crocodilian breaks out of zoo's van in Florida

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm said a number of crocodilians -- alligators and crocodiles -- were loaded into a van to be relocated to another part of the park in February when one of the animals broke through the back window of the transport van and made a run for it.

A witness captured video as workers chased the escaped reptile on Anastasia Boulevard in St. Augustine. The animal was safely recaptured and transported to its new enclosure, the zoo said.

Florida basketball star named world's tallest teenager by Guinness

Olivier Rioux, 15, a student at IMG Academy in Bradenton, was dubbed the world's tallest teenager by Guinness World Records when he was officially measured at 7 feet, 5.33 inches.

"My mom is 6 foot 2 and my dad is 6 foot 8," Rioux said. "When I was 10, 11, 12, I started growing and it was getting fast. Every week, I was like getting height. I was taller than every kid in my school."

Large hammerhead shark approaches paddleboarders in Florida


Videographer Evan Parness was using his camera drone to take video of paddleboarders in Palm Beach when he captured footage of a large hammerhead shark that showed up to investigate the boards and their riders.

Parness said the shark approached the paddleboarders multiple times, but did not appear to be showing any signs of aggression.

Florida man magnet fishing with grandson reels in two sniper rifles

Duane Smith said he decided to take his grandson, Allen Cadwalader, 11, magnet fishing in Miami-Dade County's C-102 canal after watching a video about the hobby on YouTube.

Smith said he expected to get a lot of trash from the canal, but ended up reeling in two Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles. The guns were turned over to police, who said tests would be performed in an attempt to identify where they came from and whether they were connected to any reported crimes.

Manatee rescued from dry land next to Florida road

Manatee rescues are far from unusual in Florida, but Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials said it was highly irregular when a manatee was rescued from dry land at the side of a Crystal River road.


"After a storm passed through during high tide, this manatee was likely able to swim near the side of the road in the rising waters, and it became stranded once the water receded," the FWC said.

225.13-pound ball of human hair breaks Guinness World Record

A ball of hair nicknamed Hoss broke a Guinness World Record when it weighed in at 225.13 pounds. The ball was started by Ohio salon owner Steve Warden, but the vast majority of the hair that gave Hoss its girth came from central Florida chain Floyd's 99 Barbershops.

Hoss the hairball was dropped by Ripley's Believe It or Not! to ring in the new year.

Hotel-invading raccoon rescued from engine compartment of SUV

Bradenton-based animal rescue group Wildlife Inc. said rescuers responded to the Bridge Street Hotel on a report of a raccoon wandering the third floor, but once they arrived the animal fled and took refuge in the engine compartment of a 2013 Nissan Sentra.

Rescuers said they attempted to coax the animal out from under the hood of the vehicle for several hours before a veterinarian arrived to safely sedate and remove the raccoon.

Teenager breaks his own blindfolded puzzle cube speed record


Guinness World Records said young Rubik's cube master Tommy Cherry broke his own world record when he solved a 3x3x3 cube in 14.67 seconds while wearing a blindfold. The attempt shaved .6 seconds off his previous record time.

"I still see room for improvement, so I want to try continuing to set records in 3x3x3 blindfolded," Cherry said. "Although I still have quite a sizable way to go, I eventually want to try for the world records for solving the 4x4x4 cube blindfolded and/or the 5x5x5 cube blindfolded."

Latest Headlines