Across the world, people are stealing street signs and this is why.
They may be innocent road identifiers, town markers or direction indicators, but someone has their eye on them. Why? Well, in almost all cases, it’s because it’s funny.
These are some of the world’s most frequently stolen signs.
Ham Sandwich, Kent
This sign, pointing the way to an agreeable lunch in two Kentish towns, has been stolen at least seven times. It’s now replaced with a cast iron replica of the original, firmly rooted into the ground to prevent theft
One answer to the question of what you find at the end of a Chris Rea song is in Michigan. Here – with a population of fewer than 300 – the town of Hell nestles close to the border with Canada.
The origins of the name are clouded. Some claim local sawmill owner George Reeves said, when asked about naming the town, “you can name it Hell for all I care!”.
Others favour the reaction of German travellers who arrived in the region, describing it as hell, meaning ‘bright’. The sign is frequently stolen, so those wishing to get to Hell may need to consult other sources.
Pronounced to rhyme with ‘booking’, this Austrian village was founded in the 6th century by a nobleman called Focko.
It sits just a few miles from the German border, and has been playing merry hell with internet filtering software for many years.
Bat Cave, North Carolina
Sadly not just down the road from Gotham City, Bat Cave, North Carolina is named after a local cave. And you’ll never guess what lives there.
Thefts of Bat Cave Fire District signs became so bad that in 1992 – the year Batman Returns was released – the fire department decided to stop putting them up. So if you’ve got one, it’s probably a rare antique by now.
Bat Cave may not have the superhero connections we first thought, but we’re sure it’s a great place to go for dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner...
Stop sniggering at the back. Named Condatomagos by the Gauls, meaning ‘field or market where the rivers meet’, this French town has a population of around 7,000.
It has two castles and a cathedral, and – up until 2005 – a museum of contraception to profit from its amusing-in-English name.
Another attempted cash-in came in 2011 from a prophylactic-manufacturing company. It attempted to claim its products were made in Condom rather than, as was in fact the case, Malaysia. It was fined 9,000 Euros.
Abbey Road, Westminster
And now, a break from the smut (don’t worry, it’ll be back) for some culture.
Beatles fans have been making off with the sign from the corner of Abbey Road since the release of the band’s 11th album – named Abbey Road and recorded at what’s now Abbey Road Studios – in 1969.
There’s been so much theft, in fact, that the sign’s been relocated high up on a building to deter casual pilfering.
ACDC Lane, Australia
Staying with the musical theme, Corporation Lane, Melbourne, was renamed in 2004 after unsubtle Aussie rock band AC/DC, who are also Australian cultural ambassadors.
The slash or lightning bolt used to separate the two halves of the band’s logo was against the local naming rules, so was omitted. But that didn’t stop fans stealing the sign six times in two years.
This town’s sign was stolen so often, its residents resorted to carving its name into a ton-and-a-half of stone to frustrate thieves. It’s a tactic that has thus far worked.
The name was voted Britain’s worst in a 2012 survey, beating fellow Dorset landmark Scratchy Bottom. But locals find no problem with it – although the chairman of the parish council has admitted that it’s ”amusing”.
Butt Hole Road, Yorkshire
It’s named after a water butt, OK? Or at least it was. In 2009, residents of this Yorkshire street got so sick of sign thefts – and other lewd behaviour –that they voted to change it to Archers Way.
Where’s the joke? Well, there isn’t one. In 2000, the New York Times reported that the residents of this beachside town near San Francisco had repeatedly stolen their own sign from the nearby highway.
This was a ploy to dissuade “belligerent young males” intent on “getting really wasted” from visiting.
This attempt to disappear from the map was clearly only partially successful. The 2010 census shows the town’s population has grown by around 400 people.