Vernon, Florida – Vernon, Florida - Atlas Obscura

Vernon, Florida

For a time this small Florida town of less than 1,000 residents was the national leader in dismemberment. 


Hard times have befallen the residents of countless American small towns, but few have fought back so boldly as many of the citizens of Vernon, Florida who found that severing their limbs could be even more lucrative than using them.

During the 1950’s and 60’s Vernon had become a depressed Florida town that ranged from a small population of 500-800. However during the 1960’s, it became clear that not everyone was suffering equally, at least not financially. Eyebrows began to be raised when it became clear that despite the small population, the town was accounting for a full 2/3 of all insurance claims for dismemberment in the entire country. While it was never proven that any of the reported maimings were intentional whether it was a foot lost while driving a car, or a hand shot off, a full 50 citizens lost major parts of their body in the height of the drama. Some accident prone residents even took out dozens of different policies at a time. While many were suspected, not one resident was ever convicted of insurance fraud.

In 1981, critically acclaimed documentarian Errol Morris travelled to the town hoping to make a film about the phenomenon. Originally scheduled to be titled, Nub City, the film’s focus did a complete 180 when the filmmaker began receiving death threats from Vernon locals who did not want this chapter of their town reopened. The film was eventually retitled, Vernon, Florida and was simply a harmless portrait of a quirky small town.


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