by Brandon James Anderson
On Tuesday, the Huffington Post ran a piece outlining the single weirdest fact about each of the 50 states in America. Some of these facts, such as the state of Kansas literally being flatter than a pancake or Wisconsin being home to a pointless upside down replica of the White House, are far from surprising.
Yet, the piece highlights some interesting tidbits. My quasi-home of Ohio, for instance, technically wasn’t even a state until 1953 due to not having a date of statehood declared by Congress until 150 years after establishing statehood in 1803.
As for Michigan, its one weirdest fact, as deemed by the article, is that Lake Superior State University offers a license to hunt unicorns.
While “Unicorn Hunters” sounds like a half-hearted name for a ska band or a fantasy football team, it was the name of a club actually in existence at LSSU from 1971-1987. As the university’s website denotes, the club was started by then PR director W.T. “Bill” Rabe as a means of garnering attention for the school.
As it turns out, the publicity stunt worked out — and then some. While the group officially retired along with Rabe in 1987, Lake State still receives mail addressed to the Unicorn Hunters making this a marketing ploy with extreme longevity.
It’s not hard to imagine why such an idea was successful. It was the early 1970’s – a time before cable television, let alone a time before the Internet. And, over 40 years after they were written, the group’s regulations provide a good laugh. (Iambic pentameter, general levity, and sweet talk as methods of capturing unicorns all seem oddly fitting.)
As I’m wont to do, I went down a few rabbit holes and discovered that Rabe was essentially a blend of P.T. Barnum and Oscar Wilde as he followed up the success of the Unicorn Hunters with the establishment of World Sauntering Day in 1979. The inaugural celebration was held at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel and the concept of a day dedicated to walking leisurely came about as a response to the increasing popularity of jogging in the late 1970’s.
Perhaps even more interesting than all of this is that LSSU still issues unicorn hunting licenses through its website.
And unless today is St. Agnes’ Eve, it’s open season. Happy hunting!