South Carolina’s 9 Strangest Laws

A gavel sits on a wood desk beside the words "South Carolina

Every state has some goofy laws — old rules that were put on the books a hundred years ago that nobody ever bothered to cross off the list. They’re a window to an earlier time when people had different concerns, like boomerang attacks. Here are some of the weird ones from South Carolina:

1. Tattoos Are “An Offense”

What does that mean? Most people have no idea. It’s one of those legalese things that has no exact definition or application. It doesn’t mean tattoos are outlawed in South Carolina — they were legalized in the state a long time ago — but the books still say that tattoos are “an offense.”

2. No Dancing in Public in Lancaster

Did you ever watch Footloose and wonder if anyone would actually outlaw dancing? Well, Lancaster, South Carolina did. No doubt this law isn’t exactly enforced.

3. You Can’t Eat Watermelon in the Magnolia Street Cemetery

Whose fault is it that this is illegal? Surely, at some point or another, this must have been a problem for police in the area. Why? Who was the serial cemetery seed spitter getting watermelon seeds all over the headstones? We’ll probably never know.

4. Horses are to Wear Pants at All Times

Just two questions: How? And why? Makes you want to see a horse in pants now, huh?

5. The Fire Department is Allowed to Blow Your House Up

Don’t get on their bad side. Seriously though, this is just in case a fire is getting out of hand and, for some reason, blowing up the house with a few sticks of TNT is the only way to control the blaze. We can’t imagine a scenario where blowing up the house with dynamite is actually safer and more effective than trying to put it out with fire hoses and sandbags, but that’s a question for a professional firefighter.

6. No Changing Clothes in a Gas Station without Permission

Perhaps this law is designed to keep the homeless out of gas station bathrooms. Or maybe attendants got tired of people changing clothes right in the gas station itself. The wording of the law is kind of ambiguous.

7. You Must Be Eighteen Years of Age or Older to Play Pinball

This one actually has some historical precedent. Pinball machines were once an easy way for the mob to launder money. Because of this, places with pinball machines used to have a reputation as hang-outs for unsavory elements. Gang members would hang out in these areas and do their dirty dealings, attracting a criminal element. So police eventually began cracking down, and that includes laws like this one. Nowadays nobody plays pinball as much, so it’s not the easy money laundering scheme it used to be; but once upon a time, this law made sense.

8. Only Light Bulbs May Be Sold on Sundays

This one obviously isn’t strictly enforced these days. The funny part about this one isn’t that they restricted purchases on Sundays, but that they made an exception for light bulbs. The legislators probably met and then one of them stood up and said, “Let there be light!” so then they amended the law.

9. You Must Warn Horse Traffic with a Firearm

This law states that if you’re driving a car and you come to a four-way intersection, you’re required to stop a hundred feet from the crossing and fire your gun in the air to let horse traffic know you’re coming. This would probably get you into trouble rather than avoid it nowadays.