Congratulations! You’ve just won free tickets to the opera in Chicago. You can’t wait to go, and take your French poodle as your guest. But wait a minute. It turns out, that’s against the law. 

The donkey in the bathtub

Just about every place has weird laws. In Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to sleep on top of a refrigerator outdoors. In St. Cloud, Minnesota, it’s illegal to eat a hamburger on a Sunday. And if you’ve ever thought it would be fun to wear a fake mustache to church to get some laughs, don’t do it in Alabama.

These rules sound crazy, but when they were made, there were reasons. Chances are someone once disrupted a church service in Alabama by wearing a fake mustache. Other laws were made to punish someone who was doing something wrong, but no law existed to get them in trouble. In 1924, an Arizona man let his donkey sleep in an old bathtub. When a local dam broke, the tub was washed way down the road and landed in a basin. The donkey was OK, but it took a lot of time and effort to rescue it. From then on, no donkeys were allowed to sleep in bathtubs.

Outdated and off the books

Many of these wacky laws aren’t what they call “on the books” anymore, meaning that at some point, someone made the activity legal again. Years ago, when girls and women wore dresses every day, some places enacted laws that made it illegal for them to wear pants. Things are different now, and chances are no one will arrest a girl for wearing pants today, even if no one has bothered to change the law officially.

And some laws you’ll hear about are just too silly to be true. Some people say that in Minnesota, it’s illegal to walk around with a duck on your head, but that’s probably just a story.

Activity: Make your own weird law

Congratulations! You’re in charge. Get together with a group of friends and make up some weird, funny rules. Spend a recess or a Saturday afternoon trying to catch your friends breaking the rules. Be sure not to do anything that will hurt anyone or get you into real trouble. Here are a few suggestions, but have fun coming up with your own. 

You have to jump up and down three times before you talk to anybody wearing red.

You’re not allowed to pick up a ball with your right hand.

Anytime you turn a light on or off, you have to shout “Light on!” or “Light off!” first.