Time for a little Halloween honesty: Florida is terrifying. Serial killers Ted Bundy and Gary Ray Bowles have stalked our towns. Prehistoric, sharp-fanged creatures circle our swamps and oceans, hungry for blood. Real-life vampires kill their victims and slit their throats.
In fact, the Sunshine State has enough real monsters around to make John Carpenter look like Mister Rogers. While you slather on your best zombie makeup to stalk Lincoln Road on Monday, here are eight reasons why walking out your front door is scarier than a Dexter marathon.
Forget Twilight, remember Nikolai and Azreal? We reported on these fiends and their vampire community lurking around South Florida back in 2009. They'll drink your blood if you let them and if you want the pleasure of drinking some DNA, the dentist will gladly suck the $400 out of your wallet to give you fangs. Here's what writer Michael Mooney had to say about South Florida's blood-sucking sub-genre:
Nikolai ... and his friends are all part of a South Florida community of vampires -- they sometimes spell it vampyre to differentiate the living, human versions from the fictional, undead forms. They identify with the lonely, torn spirits in vampire stories, but these folks are not your typical goth kids. Nor are they role playing. Some of them claim to be psychic vampires with an ability to drain energy with their minds. And some are sanguine -- vampires who lust after and feed on human blood.
The community consists of circles of like-minded vampires and donors, often called "black swans," who are willing to let a vampire drink from them. There are also blood fetishists, who involve blood and blood consumption in their sex lives, and "slayers," deranged individuals who sometimes try to harm or kill the vampires. There are parties where vampires socialize, where elders give new vampires advice on the lifestyle, magazines and newsletters with classified ads, and dentists who install permanent fangs.
Last summer, a local TV crew up in Panama City visited 17-year-old Stephanie Pistey to find out why she allegedly helped lure an ex-boyfriend to a house where three friends beat him to death and slit his throat. Her answer? She was born part-werewolf! (And part-vampire, to be fair).
The early '90s crack epidemic was not kind to the Magic City. In 1994, in fact, a wave of crack-related crimes led police to warn that legions of drug fiends who slept during the day were stalking town at night armed with socket wrenches to break open fences and steal whatever they could get their hands on. Dubbed "the night zombies" by Miami police, these ghouls broke into mechanics' and auto-body shops, and stole roofing and construction supplies and generally anything they could grab with their rotten fingers. Here's the Herald's lede:
Cops in South Dade call them "the night zombies " -- crackheads sleeping by day in hurricane hovels, roaming the back streets past midnight with socket wrenches to pop open fences surrounding other people's stuff.
Late last year, the zombies moved in on a warehouse district in Perrine. They hit Blanchard Machinery. They hit Bob Hilson Roofing. They hit auto-body shops and mechanics' garages and construction supply yards.
In 1994, Paul Van Shaik stabbed a fellow classmate to death at Coconut Creek High School. Shaik's lawyers later told the court that he had an addiction to video games, which caused him to be "beset by demons" that told him to kill his classmate. The court bought it -- Shaik was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
4. Chainsaw Massacres
Almost 40 years after its release, watching Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre hack his victims to death is still terrifying. But Florida had its own would-be Leatherface in 1989, when 24-year-old nursing aide Inger Lemont killed and dismembered 72-year-old Ruth Nedermier with a chainsaw and stuffed her remains in a trunk.
Lemont later pleaded guilty, admitting she'd killed the elderly woman in her care because Nedermier had discovered she'd stolen $17,000.
3. Ax-Wielding Maniacs
Florida's got ax murderers, too. Back in 1989, with three whacks of an ax, Edwin Shields killed his roommate Frank Larson in his Orlando apartment because he "never listened," then spent the last hours of his free life boozing it up at the neighborhood bar before turning himself in, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
2. Monster Gators
Alligators are a common sight in Florida, but what about monster gators? Sure enough, a poor Florida Atlantic University student by the name of Yovy Suarez Jimenez was jogging near campus back in 2006 when a nine-foot-long, 400-pound gator reached out of the water and attacked.
Jimenez was dead before she hit the water, police later said. Hunters later tracked down and shot the killer gator.
1. Mutant Snakes
In 2009, Gypsy, an 8-foot-6-inch albino Burmese python, escaped from its tank and strangled 2-year-old Shaiunna Hare to death as she slept in her central Florida home. The girl's mother and her snake-loving boyfriend were each sentenced last August to 12 years in prison for manslaughter, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
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In the Everglades, meanwhile, freed pet snakes have adapted so quickly to the River of Grass that the state now licenses hunters to kill the invaders on sight. Their insatiable hunger also led to the scariest photo ever taken by park rangers: