Laws have a gravity of all their own. They determine the rules of our society, chart the penalties after our misdeeds, and lay the very foundation for how our communities function on a daily basis. Sometimes, though, these solemn laws can be remarkably silly.
Off-kilter mandates exist in every community, and are often shared predominantly via word-of-mouth gossip and blog posts that are equal parts indignant and amused. But what most people don’t necessarily realize is that some – if not all – of the laws they roll their eyes over are either taken out of context, exaggerated, or outright fabricated. Let’s take the oft-quoted “five women in a house” law as an example of the last.
If you visit a college campus and ask around, you’ll probably hear someone say that the sororities on campus aren’t permitted to have houses due to a local anti-brothel law that forbids more than five women from living in a house. Many are quite reasonably angry about this – but if you take a closer look into the county legislature, you probably won’t find that particular law on the books. One writer for the hoax-debunking site Snopes summarized her investigation into the matter as follows: “We routinely hear from students who are convinced their particular university lacks a sorority because of this non-existent law. Their vehemence aside, none have yet produced a copy of the statute they so firmly believe in, an act that would earn their city and institution of higher learning a measure of fame in the world of contemporary lore.” Sororities might encounter unfair barriers to establishing their own housing – but odds are, that block won’t be an outdated anti-brothel law.
All this said, remnants of outdated Puritanical mandates and long-passed civil cases do still float about in local and state legislature. Below, I’ve listed just a few standout lines from Ohio state law. Enjoy!
Women must not wear patent leather shoes in public.
It is illegal to fish for whales on Sunday.
It is illegal to get a fish drunk.
No civil arrests can be made on Sundays or on the 4th of July.
Conducting or participating in a duel is illegal.
You must honk whenever you pass another car.
Odd Town-Specific Laws
If a person loses their pet tiger, they must notify the authorities within an hour.
The installation or usage of slot machines in outhouses is forbidden.
Bay Village, Ohio
It is illegal to walk your cow down Lake Road.
It is illegal to catch mice without a hunting license.
It is illegal to throw a snake at another person.