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Real (Strange) Laws

Just when you thought you'd seen just about every loopy, stupid, silly, dopey law out there...well, we've got more.

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It is illegal to loiter in the city morgue in Detroit.
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The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act defines an employee as "any individual employed by an employer."

It is illegal to loiter in the city morgue in Detroit.

Redford Township, Mi., has a "Downspout Appeal Board."

Due to a typographical error, a routine ordinance in Shelbyville, Ind., about charging for bad checks started out: "Whereas, the city of Shelbyville through its various governmental fascists receives numerous checks..." This was changed to "governmental facets."

An ordinance proposed in Robbins, N.C., states, "In the future, anyone not living within the immediate vicinity of Robbins must have a permit from the Chief of Police and okayed by the Mayor or one of the Commissioners." It's not clear what the permit is for, but they may be on to something.

North Carolina just passed a law saying a political action committee, or PAC, has to have a name that describes the group's cause or purpose. The idea is to prohibit, say, the highway or tobacco lobbies from calling themselves "Citizens for Good Government."

Under a recent change in federal law, garment workers can now make mittens at home.

A Minnesota tax form is quite thorough. It even asks for your date of death.

Under the law of the state of Washington, any restroom with pay toilets has to have an equal number of free toilets. This law came to pass after the speaker of the state House of Representatives raced to an all-pay facility without a dime.

A regulation in San Francisco makes it unlawful to use used underwear to wipe off cars in a car wash.

Baltimore has regulations governing the disposal of hog's heads, pet droppings and oyster shells.

In Baltimore it's illegal to block the sidewalk with a box. But the offense only carries a $1 fine. Another law makes it illegal to throw bale of hay (or of anything else) out a second-story window. That gets you a $20 fine.

To cut down on its once-horrific graffiti problem, New York City several years ago made it illegal to carry an open can of spray paint.

In San Antonio, Texas, you can't honk a horn, run a generator, have a revival meeting or do anything else that disturbs the neighborhood and the city has a four-member noise police squad to enforce the law.

In North Carolina it's illegal to sell cotton lint at night. It's also legal to sell cottonseed at night.

A city council member in Albuquerque, N.M., introduced a resolution a few years ago to ban Santa Claus from the city. The matter was defeated.

If you've got a gal in Kalamazoo, better whisper sweet nothings to her. An old law forbade swains from serenading their sweeties from outside the window.

It's illegal in New York to start any kind of public performance, show, play, game or what have you, until after 1:05 p.m.

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In Hartford, Conn., it's illegal to plant a tree in the street.
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In New York, it's unlawful for any person to do anything that is against the law.

New York drivers are known to be crazy, but so are pedestrians in the Empire State. The law may be part of the problem. Jaywalking is legal, as long as it's not diagonal. That is, you can cross the street out of the crosswalk, but you can't cross a street diagonally.

A Boston mayor who disliked dancing and liked to retire early once banned midnight dancing in the Hub City.

In Boston it's illegal to post an advertisement on a public urinal. It's also against the law to hang a vending machine on a utility pole.

Under an 1872 law still on the books, an alderman in Chicago can carry a gun.

In Hartford, Conn., it's illegal to plant a tree in the street.

In Boston, it's illegal to cut firewood in the street, or shoot a bow and arrow in the street.

In New York City, it's illegal to throw swill into the street.

San Francisco prohibits kerchoo powders and stink balls.

Members of nine New York Indian tribes are exempt from the city's eight percent parking tax.

In a law that predates returnable bottles and cans, it's illegal in Boston to rummage through rubbish containers.

In Danville, Ky., it's illegal to throw slops or soapsuds in the street.

New York City may be the theater capital of the country, but it's illegal to have a puppet show in your window and a violation can land you in the snoozer for 30 days.

In Forest City, N.C., it's illegal to bring a pea-shooter to a parade. It's also illegal to shoot paper clips with rubber bands.

Take some elocution lessons if you're going to Joliet, Ill., where it's against the law to mispronounce the city's name. Offenders can be fined up to $500.

In Salem, Oregon, it's illegal for patrons of establishments that feature nude dancing to be within two feet of the dancers.

"Dwarf-tossing," the strange practice of hurling dwarfs in padded suits, is outlawed in the bars of Springfield, Ill., because it's dangerous and exploitative. The practice is apparently allowed elsewhere in town, with a special permit.

In Christiansburg, Va., it's illegal to "spit, expectorate or deposit any sputum, saliva or any form of saliva or sputum."

Oakland, Calif., makes it illegal to grow a tree in front of your neighbor's window and block his view. However, you're off the hook if the tree is one that town officials consider an attractive tree, such as a redwood or box elder.

In Oxford, Miss., it's illegal to "create unnecessary noises."

Balloons with advertising on them are illegal in Hartford, Conn.

In Provincetown, Mass., it's illegal to sell suntan oil until after noon on Sunday.

In Boston it's against the law to keep manure in a building unless the building is being used as a stable. If it is, you can keep up to two cords of manure. If you're overstocked, you need a permit to move the stuff. And you can't leave it in the street.

Perhaps anticipating telemarketing, the town fathers of Albany, Va., have for years prohibited peddlers from using the telephone to either sell things or raise funds.

Communism has been against the law in Haines City, La., since 1950.

Under an 1889 law, the health officer of East Jordan, Mich., could send any nonresident with an infectious disease back to where he came from, as long as the person could travel. If not, the officer could rent a house for use as a pest house.

During the 1960s, Youngstown, Ohio, briefly had a law making it illegal to walk barefoot through town.

The people in Manteno, Ill., do not want used facial tissue, period. Hence, you cannot "throw, drop or place" a used hankie "upon any public way or public place or upon the floor of any convenience or upon the floor of any theater, hall or assembly or public building or upon the surface or any lot or parcel of ground or on the roof on any building or in any light or air shaft, court or areaway."

In Minoola, Ill., it's illegal to take your clothes off and "expose the naked person" during daylight or twilight, even if all you're doing is taking a bath.

By town law the sewer service charge in Belhaven, N.C., used to be "$2 per month, per stool." It was recently changed to read "per toilet."

Funeral jargon seems to have crept into the wording of a cemetery fee regulation in Norton, Ohio. There regular plots are $33, but "creamies" are $75.

The good people of Tryon, N.C., are serious about getting a good night's sleep. It's against the law for anyone to keep "fowl that shall cackle," or for anyone to play the piccolo between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.

As in many towns, you need a permit to run a barbershop in Christiansburg, Va. But the wording of the town's law indicates that the permit will be revoked if you're caught operating without a permit.

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