It can be argued that the rule of law is the bedrock of any nation, state, or household. Strong, common sense legislation can keep people safe and allow society to function somewhat freely.
Of course, laws can have the inverse effect: some seem to arbitrarily prohibit or impede people. Others are archaic reminders of years past, when technology was limited and communities operated far differently, or they were mere responses to a very strange set of circumstances. Those laws remain, lurking in the background, unenforced and unnoticed, and seemingly not worth the energy to repeal.
Below are some of the zaniest laws from years past that are still in effect. You might not end up in the back of a police cruiser for breaking them, but they’ll definitely make you scratch your head!
1. Gambling in a library: Sorry folks, but if you’re in a library in the United Kingdom, you’d better pocket your chips. Your game of blackjack will have to find a different venue. Thanks to 1898’s Library Offenses Act, gambling is strictly prohibited, unless, of course, you’re taking a gamble on a new romance novel!
polyform / Flickr
2. Wearing armor inside the House of Parliament: King Edward II, who was also (probably) known as King Buzzkill, banned nobles from wearing their suits of armor in Parliament. The purpose was to prevent people from sporting an intimidating get-up in order to help their requests—or threats—carry a little extra weight.
Nic McFee / Flickr
3. Claiming a whale: If you’re within a three-mile radius of British shores, it doesn’t matter how much you love the whale you spotted; you absolutely cannot claim it as your own. All whales, dolphins, porpoises, and sturgeons that close to the shore belong to the Queen, making her the world’s only “whale hog.” Share the whales!
4. Bootlegging booze: Back in the dark days, when the U.S. government decided to prohibit alcohol, laws popped up to make transporting alcohol illegal as well. Technically, some of those laws are still in place. So the next time you pick up a six-pack and drive across city lines, just remember: you might officially be a bootlegger, officially committing a crime, and officially really cool.
5. Using too many coins: Have you ever been stuck behind someone at the grocery store who’s gratuitously picking pennies from a coin purse? Well, if you’re in Canada, you are allowed—nay, required—to enact a citizen’s arrest on the penny-pinching slowpoke: there are actually restrictions on how much change you can use to pay for something.
6. Putting caffeine in soft drinks: Although overturned in 2010, Canadian law once stated that putting caffeine in soft drinks was a big no-no. Non-dark sodas were nothing more than fizzy sugar water that would rot your teeth. Thanks to the law’s termination, Canadians can finally enjoy fizzy sugar water that’ll rot their teeth… and give them a tiny jolt of energy. Still, some restrictions on the amount of caffeine allowed in soft drinks remain.
7. Dwarf tossing and pig greasing: Good people of Minnesota, you might want to sit down for this news: the state has outlawed any activity that involves catching a greased-up pig, so you might have to find something else to do on Saturday nights. Meanwhile, in Florida, it’s illegal for bars to participate in or host dwarf-throwing contests. That dwarf-tossing was so prevalent that it necessitated a law is oddly impressive… and horrifying.
8. Eating people: From a pretty early age, most people learn that, in general, consuming human flesh is really uncool. In Idaho—and, strangely, only in Idaho—the rule of law reinforces this early-learned universal truth. Unless you’re in a survival situation. Then the law says “go for it!”
Ulf Sjökvist / Flickr
9. Selling Kinder Surprise eggs: What does any kid love more than biting into a delicious, milk chocolate egg? Biting into an egg and finding a small surprise hidden within its hollow center! Unfortunately, U.S. kids are out of luck there: Kinder Surprise eggs have been banned since 1938 due to choking hazards.
10. Waking up a bear to take its photo: Science has revealed that there are precisely zero photographs in the world that are worth invoking the wrath of a hibernating bear. Tell that to the people of Alaska, where the problem was evidently so rampant that the state created a law banning the act. That’s right: you might be able to shoot and kill a bear, but waking one up for the purpose of taking its photograph? That’s a crime, punk.
Sakari Niittymaa / Flickr
In this day and age, these laws can be downright baffling. It’s a bit daunting to think of all the other laws that are technically on the books but never enforced. Who knows? Maybe you’re breaking the law right now…
Share these odd laws with your friends below!