In America’s short 242-year history, some pretty strange things have happened in our 50 states. Something strange can be found out about pretty much every state in America — whether it has hosted a weird event, erected a strange monument, or simply produced more canned pumpkin than any other place in the world.
Texas may have passed some questionable legislation just to prove a point. A Star Wars character watches over one U.S. city from atop a cathedral. And somewhere in the South, a tree lawfully owns itself. These facts and histories are strange but true, collected through extensive online research scouring periodicals and delving into the annals of history.
We selected these facts not just because they offer quirky information — many of them actually represent some unique aspect of the given state’s character. So check out the strangest fact about your state for some laughs and some light head-scratching over information you might never have imagined to be true.
The Boll Weevil Monument in Alabama honors the insects that forced the state’s farmers to grow other crops instead of cotton. The monument depicts a woman holding a large weevil over her head.
The bolo tie has been recognized as the official state neckwear of the state since 1971, according to NPR.
If you find a diamond while scouring the field at the Crater of Diamonds, you are allowed to keep the gem. If you are serious about your search, the Arkansas center rents out mining tools that you can use. The colors of the diamonds you’ll likely find here include white, brown, and yellow. This is the only diamond mine in the United States.
The original California state flag was designed by former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s nephew, William Todd.
There has never been a U.S. president or vice president born in Colorado.
The ladybug is Delaware's official state bug.
There is a post office in Molokai that lets you send a free coconut through U.S. mail as long as postage is attached. They call it the “Post-A-Nut” service, and it has been around for two decades.
The Chicago River is the only river in the world that flows backwards. In 1900 a reversal technique diverted sewage away from Lake Michigan (where Chicagoans were getting their drinking water) and dumped it into the Mississippi watershed. The engineering feat has been recognized as one of the largest public earth-moving projects ever completed.
The world’s first Pizza Hut was opened in 1958 by two brothers in Wichita. They started their business by borrowing $600 from their mother.
According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, there are more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than there are people. There are 4.7 million barrels of bourbon and 4.3 million people!
The Louisiana State Penitentiary has a public golf course on it, called the Prisonview Golf Course. As you might expect, it’s got pretty tight security — guests have to submit information for a full background check 48 hours in advance, cameras are not allowed, all vehicles are subject to search, and play may be suspended any time at the warden’s discretion.
Maine is the only state in the U.S. with a one-syllable name.
If you own a toilet in Maryland (and we really hope you do) you’re being taxed $2.50 a month for that luxury.
Michigan is the only state in the country made up of two peninsulas — the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula — with the Straits of Mackinac separating the two. Due to this unique geography, it also has the longest freshwater coastline in the world.
In 1942, a phantom barber terrorized the town of Pascagoula by cutting the hair of sleeping people. Newspapers at the time reported that he would occasionally only snip a lock or two, but would sometimes cut off a whole head of hair. He particularly liked blonde women.
The first ready-mix food to be sold commercially — Aunt Jemima pancake flour — was invented in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1889.
Kool-Aid has been the official state soft drink of Nebraska since 1998.
A six-person group of do-gooders were sued in the city of Keene for paying random people’s tickets for expired parking meters in 2013. The charges were later dropped by the judge.
The names of the properties on the Monopoly game board are meant to refer to streets and places in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Pinball was illegal in New York City until 1976.
Although North Dakota has 13 state parks, the state is the least visited of all in America. Most of those who do end up traveling to the state are in the oil industry.
The first ever traffic light in America was installed in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 5, 1914.
Portland, Oregon, is home to 68 breweries. That’s more breweries than any other city in the United States!
In the town of Centralia, a coal mine fire from 50 years ago is still burning underground. Due to the fire — which has been burning through the town for all of these years — Centralia has lost a majority of its residents, with only seven people remaining as of 2013. This Pennsylvania ghost town even lost its postal ZIP code in 2002.
Rhode Island is home to America’s oldest carousel, The Flying Horse Carousel. It’s located in Watch Hill.
To celebrate the potato crop, the small town of Clark, South Dakota, hosts Potato Day. On this day guests can take part in events such as a Mashed Potato Wrestling Contest and a Potato Dish Cooking Contest.
Though it’s a hub for country performers, Music City’s other artists were once thought to suffer from the “Nashville Curse.” According to Nashville Scene, the hex began in the early ‘80s, when next-big-thing rockers Jason & the Nashville Scorchers took the word “Nashville” out of their name to get a record deal — but then never hit it big. No non-country artist from the city scored a platinum record until the pop-emo band Paramore did it with their album Riot! in 2007.
This state once accidentally honored the Boston Strangler. On April 1, 1971, Texas state Rep. Tom Moore proposed a bill that would honor the Boston Strangler, a man who allegedly murdered 13 women. He did this to prove that his colleagues did not read the bills that they were voting on. He later retracted the bill after it passed, but could you imagine? National Boston Strangler Day!
Planners for the town of Winooski once proposed covering the whole town with a giant dome to solve the winter energy conservation problem. Though the proposal received worldwide media attention, it received little political support and never began construction or planning.
In Virginia, amusement parks determine the academic calendar for summer. In 1986, the Kings Dominion Law was passed stipulating that schools cannot begin before Labor Day. It was created to bring more money to the state by way of the tourism industry.
The Washington state official dance is the square dance.
In a competition for “gargoyle” designs to raise money for the construction of the National Cathedral’s west towers in the 1980s, one child’s Darth Vader design took third place and earned the right to be carved in stone. Darth Vader has sat atop the National Cathedral ever since.
Green Bay, Wisconsin, is also known as the “Toilet Paper Capital” of the world because of the large number of toilet paper manufacturers based there.
One Wyoming town was built on top of an abandoned airport. The town of Bar Nunn exists where Wardwell Field airport used to be, and the town’s more than 2,000 people use the original runways as streets. One of the town’s two restaurants is actually located in a repurposed hangar — but since Wardwell Field is no longer active, it’s not eligible for our list of the 35 best airport restaurants in America.
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