News Article

News Article

Vernon, Florida: The Dismemberment Capital of the Country


Vernon is a small town in the Florida panhandle. Currently home to less than 800 residents, and threatened with destruction due to highway expansion, Vernon has always been an impoverished town. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the residents of Vernon found a way around that.

They started dismembering themselves in order to collect from insurance companies.

Exactly how the trend began, or with who, seems to be lost to history, but during this time period, nearly 50 people lost limbs and collected insurance payouts. Over two-thirds of the total insurance claims in the United States for loss of limb came from Vernon, which soon became known as Nub City. Just some of the insurance claims filed during this time included a man who sawed off his hand at work; a man who shot himself in the foot while "protecting" his chickens; a man who shot his hand while defending himself from a hawk; and a man who lost two limbs in shooting and tractor accidents. One man shot himself in the foot trying to shoot a squirrel, a mere 12 hours after he took out an insurance policy.

Not a single person was ever convicted of insurance fraud, though goodness knows the insurance companies tried. Juries had a hard time believing that someone would disfigure themselves just to collect money.

The dismemberment trend died off in the early 1960s due to increased scrutiny and insurance companies refusing to offer policies to Vernon residents. But that's not quite the end of the story. Documentarian Errol Morris came to Vernon in the early 1980s, intent on making a documentary called Nub City. Allegedly, Morris received death threats, which caused him to shift focus to the eccentric - but full-limbed - people living there at the time. The new documentary was titled Vernon, Florida and was released in 1982.

The legend of Nub City and its residents are all but forgotten. To the best of my knowledge, none of the dismembered people from this time period are still alive. It remains a strange, fascinating tale of how far people will go to survive.

For more "weird Florida" stories, check out this haunted house for sale; the final days of the Miracle Strip Amusement Park; or Disney World's secret, abandoned theme parks.