NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — If you look up “weird laws in Tennessee,” you’re likely to find a list of truly unusual things that people claim Tennessee legislators have enshrined into law. From prohibitions on ice cream in pockets, to restrictions on the number of women allowed to cohabitate, to whether or not roadkill is acceptable food, some things Tennessee is said to have enacted as law truly sound too good to be true.

And if something sounds too good to be true, it just might be.

WATE’s sister station WKRN asked Tennessee Legislative Librarian Eddie Weeks — an expert historian on all things Tennessee Capitol — about a number of claims found online about strange laws in the Volunteer State, and here’s what he found.

“Some are law, some are legend,” he said.

For the most part, there is no record of several of the claimed laws ever existing, though some claims have truth at their roots.

Claim: More than 8 women living in a house is considered a brothel

True or false? FALSE

This claim, and subsequent claims that the law was overturned, have long been a myth in Tennessee. At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, sororities did not have their own houses until the early 2010s, until the on-campus community Sorority Village was constructed. As recently as 2018, questions about the limitations of the number of women allowed to live together in Vanderbilt University sorority houses brought up the rumor.

However, a search throughout the entire Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) does not turn up the word “brothel” nor any related limitations on women’s cohabitation.

There is a definition for “house of prostitution,” but it makes no mention of more than eight women living together.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-512: “House of prostitution” means any place where prostitution or the promotion of prostitution is regularly carried on by one (1) or more persons under the control, management or supervision of another

Claim: Carrying a skunk across state borders into Tennessee is illegal

True or false? TRUE

According to TCA 70-4-208, the “unlawful importation of skunks” is prohibited in the Volunteer State, except by zoos and research facilities. Additionally, those with a “valid wildlife rehabilitation” permit may receive skunks from the wild for the purpose of rehabilitation and release only.

This law was enacted in 1974, with amendments coming in 1984, 1989, and 2018.

Claim: You may not carry ice cream in your back pocket

True or false? FALSE

According to Weeks, there is no such law that currently exists in Tennessee.

“Supposedly this was a way of luring a horse away without ‘stealing’ it. If the horse just followed you trying to get the ice cream…,” he said.

Claim: Hollow logs may not be sold in Tennessee

True or false? FALSE

No such law currently exists in Tennessee, according to Weeks.

Claim: It is illegal to wrestle a bear in Tennessee

True or false? PROBABLY TRUE

Purportedly, bears were once included as part of wrestling shows, and men would get in the ring with them – after the creatures had been muzzled and de-clawed for the fighter’s safety.

According to TCA 70-4-402(3), “wrestling bears” are not included in the legal definition of “circuses.” Per TCA 70-4-403, bears are considered a Class I animal, meaning one of a species “inherently dangerous to humans.”

“Bears are Class I wildlife and may only be possessed by ‘zoos, circuses and commercial propagators,'” Weeks told News 2. “Some states do have specific laws prohibiting this practice.”

If “wrestling bears” are not permitted as circus acts and bears may not be possessed by anyone other than a zoo, circus or commercial propagator, it’s likely Tennesseans aren’t legally allowed to wrestle them.

Claim: Roadkill can be picked up and consumed in Tennessee

True or false? PARTIALLY TRUE

Part of this claim states roadkill is legal to be picked up from the side (or center line) of the road and eaten by those who desire to. Another aspect states anyone who comes across a deer is required to notify either law enforcement or the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency if they intend to take it home for some country cuisine.

According to TCA 70-4-115(c), “wild animals accidentally killed by a motor vehicle may be possessed by any person for personal use and consumption.” However, motorists who accidentally kill a deer are required to notify TWRA or a law enforcement officer within 48 hours of the accidental kill and supply the person’s name and address.

Interestingly enough, the statute also describes what is required of accidentally struck bears by vehicles: “personal possession of a bear accidentally killed by a motor vehicle is permitted only when authorized by an enforcement officer of the wildlife resources agency and the person is issued a kill tag.”

Claim: Shooting any animal from a moving vehicle, except whales, is prohibited in Tennessee.

True or false? FALSE

One of the more bizarre claims involves whales being permitted to be shot from moving cars. As Tennessee is landlocked by eight different states, it seems unlikely any Tennessee hunter would happen across a whale in the wild. Indeed, the claim is unfounded.

TCA 70-4-109 prohibits hunting from aircraft, watercraft, and motor vehicles in operation except as provided for by law, rule or regulation or proclamation. Violations of that section are a Class C misdemeanor.

“Interestingly, a person ‘confined to a wheelchair’ may hunt from a stationary vehicle,” Weeks noted of the citation.

Other weird laws

According to Weeks, while most of the laws purported to be true are not, there are some silly laws on the books in Tennessee, such as a prohibition on multiple operators of a bicycle built for one [TCA 55-8-173(b)], the legal definition of the borders of the state of Tennessee [TCA 4-2-101 through TCA 4-2-107] and “many, many others.”

And, while not a law, there is a House Joint Resolution from 1870 that prohibits roller skating in the halls of the Capitol.