The Strange Files--A Sampler of
Alexander Strange's Online Column

Alexander Strange's coverage of news of the weird can be found in The Strange Files series of novels and at the online news service Tropic.Press

Coronavirus Claims Entire City--But the Mermaids are OK

Thousands of lives have been lost in Florida due to the coronavirus pandemic and now the disease has claimed an entire city.

Thankfully, the mermaids are okay.

The community in question is Weeki Wachee, a popular tourist destination about 50 miles north of Tampa, known for its mermaid shows since the 1940s and, at one time, the biggest tourist attraction in the Sunshine State.

The actual show is in nearby Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, and as the name suggests, the water the mermaids frolic in is fed by crystal clear springs. Dressed in mermaid fishtails, women perform for audiences under water in what amounts to a giant aquarium, separated from their audiences by a large glass partition.

But since the outbreak of COVID-19, the shows have been halted and the mermaids drydocked. And with the drop-off of tourist dollars flowing into the actual city of Weeki Wachee, it has become insolvent.

Weeki Wachee never was much of a city—it has only 13 inhabitants. It was incorporated so it could be put on the map to make it easier for tourists to find.

But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation dissolving it as a corporate entity.

During its heyday, Weeki Wachee’s mermaids attracted the likes of Esther Williams, Elvis Presley, and Larry the Cable Guy. The springs have been featured in several movies and most recently played an important role in J.C. Bruce’s book Strange Currents.

STRANGE FACT: Weeki Wachee is a Seminole Indian name meaning “little spring” or “winding river.”

Sheriff's Deputies Rush to Call for Help--But it Didn't Add Up

“Help…Please…Get me out of here.”

That’s the lettering on a yellow sheet of paper a maintenance worker saw in an apartment window in Naples, Florida. Was someone being held hostage? he wondered. Only one thing to do: Call 911!

When Collier County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, they, too, were alarmed as they cautiously headed to the apartment door.

One of the most dangerous things police do is approach residences where trouble is suspected. All too often domestic violence calls end badly. Would this be one of those times?

Fortunately, not. Turns out, the plea for help was written by a 10-year-old girl upset that her mother sent her to her room to finish her math homework.

“The girl decided to take an unorthodox approach,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement released to the press. “She wrote her impassioned plea on a piece of paper then stuck it against the window in her room.”

So, no gunplay. A peaceful ending.

“We were happy to know that no one was in danger,” the Sheriff’s Office said, adding that police “totally relate to the frustration that comes with math homework.”

One of the responding deputies gave the girl his cell phone number and told her “she could call anytime with questions to avoid another 911 situation.”

STRANGE FACT: According to a study by Stanford University, 56 percent of students consider homework to be a primary cause of stress in their lives.

Hop, hop, hop. Here comes the Easter Bunny--with some Porno

Maybe they’ll make a movie about this–Inside the Green Egg, or Deep Bunny, or Easter Bunny Does Bunnell.

Bunnell? Yeah, it’s a town just north of Daytona Beach on Florida’s east coast and it’s making headlines for an arrest there this week.

Police began receiving calls earlier this month from residents disturbed to find Easter eggs in their mailboxes stuffed with pornographic images.

Either the Easter Bunny had gone off his meds or someone was being naughty.

Police have now arrested a 42-year-old woman charging her with distributing obscene material, driving with a suspended license, and violating the state’s stay-at-home order during the coronavirus lockdown.

Why’d she do it?

She said she was “educating people,” according to police reports.

Down the road a piece from Bunnell is the town of DeBary where, in yet another coronavirus related incident, police have arrested a Florida man on charges of aggravated assault for deliberately coughing on a cashier while claiming that social distancing rules are “getting out of hand.”

The cashier told police that the 49-year-old man also told her that he coughs on people wearing masks.

He told the police a different story saying, according to the Associated Press, that he didn’t expect people to understand his sense of humor.

Back to the Easter Bunny, in a bit of good news, the prime minister of New Zealand has declared that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are essential workers and will be exempt from the nation’s stay-at-home restrictions.

STRANGE FACT: The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, in addition to having a swell sense of humor is also the world’s youngest female leader. Two years ago, she also became the first world leader in 30 years to give birth while in office.

So, You were Thinking About a Little Midnight Snack of Raw Centipede, Were You?

While we’re all on lockdown, avoiding contact with one another lest we spread or catch what some are calling the “invisible enemy,” I thought I would share this bit of science news about another unseen horror.

Here’s the headline from the excellent blog Science Alert:

Deadly Parasite Discovered in Chinese Family Shows You Should Never Eat Raw Centipedes

We can start with that admonition. Who among us hasn’t at one time or another been tempted to have a midnight snack of uncooked centipede, nobody ever asked.

Apart from being disgusting, the poisonous bite of the centipede, while ordinarily not fatal to humans, can cause severe swelling, weakness, fever and chills. In children and people allergic to insect bites, it can lead to anaphylactic shock.

Not to mention that having a wriggling multi-legged wormish critter dangling from the corner of your mouth may not identify you as desirable mating material in social settings.

And it could give you halitosis.

Most of us in the West may not have considered adding centipedes to our dinner menus, programmed as we are to find our meals neatly packaged in boxes and cellophane wrap. But elsewhere on this great big planet of ours, cooked centipedes are, indeed, a food staple. Further proof some people will eat anything. Even sushi.

So, what’s the big deal about chowing down on a raw centipede? Well, that takes us back to the invisible enemy portion of this discussion. Turns out that in addition to being creepy, centipedes also carry a parasitic roundworm often called the rat lungworm.

Invisible to the naked eye, this parasite can cause permanent damage to the central nervous system much like meningitis. And it can be embarrassing.

Imagine your conversation with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates when he asks you, “Well, dude, what brought you here?”

And you know you can’t lie to St. Peter so you are compelled to confess, “Rat lungworm.”

“Dude! That’s disgusting. Is it contagious? Get out of here. You need to go cook that out of your system.”

And then the trapdoor to hell opens.

But this humiliating situation can be avoided. As one scientist said: “We should not eat raw centipedes, as well as other raw animals. We should realize that proper cooking technique is important to protect us from food-borne diseases.”

Now, about that sushi…

STRANGE FACT: In Southeast Asia, large centipedes are bottled in alcohol and the resulting liqueur is considered medicinal. So is pickled scorpion.

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