Flickr user Jimmy Emerson
Flickr user Jimmy Emerson

8 Towns that are Numbered

Flickr user Jimmy Emerson
Flickr user Jimmy Emerson

Towns with strange names are an opportunity to peek into the past to determine where those names come from. It's also a window into the many marvelous places in the United States, as each community has a story to tell. Here are the stories behind the names of six communities named after numbers.

1. Hundred, West Virginia

Photo credit: Hundred Area Pride.

Hundred, West Virginia was founded by Henry Church, one of its earliest settlers. Church was born in 1750 and was sent to America to help put down the colonies' rebellion. After the Revolutionary War, he elected to stay, and built a cabin in West Virginia along with his new wife, who he met in America. Church stayed at his farm until he died in 1860 at the age of 109 (shortly after his wife died at 106). Locals called this first inhabitant of the area "Old Hundred," and the town took on that name in his honor. The post office was established in 1886, and was named simply Hundred.

2. Fifty-Six, Arkansas

Photo credit:

Fifty-Six is a town of 163 people in Stone County, Arkansas. In the 1920s, Reva Newcomb opened a general store and applied to establish a post office in the community. He requested the name Pleasant Hill, but since that name was already used in Arkansas, the postal service responded by approving his second-choice name, which was Fifty-Six, the number of the school district. Fifty-Six is nestled in the Ozarks, and offers several tourist stops, such as Blanchard Springs Caverns and Mirror Lake.

3. Ninety Six, South Carolina

The town of Ninety Six, South Carolina, dates at least to 1730, the earliest documentation of a general store, which served traders traveling to Cherokee country. The name is thought to have been derived from a surveyor's estimate that the town was 96 miles from Keowee, an important Cherokee community. A fort was built at Ninety Six in 1775 to defend the community from the British. The British took the town, built a new fort in a star shape, and held it until 1781, when they left and burned the community behind them. In 1783, a new Ninety Six was built next to the ruined fort. The location of the original Ninety Six fort and the Star Fort are now designated as a National Historic Site.   

4. Twentysix, Kentucky

Photo credit: Wikipedia user Coal town guy.

Twentysix is an unincorporated community in Morgan County, Kentucky. The story is that the community's first postmaster, Martha Rowland, submitted 25 possible community names, and then jotted down "26," which was the year she submitted the list -1926. The post office was officially established in 1927, and closed in 1957.

5. Eighty Eight, Kentucky

Photo credit: Flickr user Jimmy Emerson.

The town of Eighty-Eight, Kentucky, is in Barren County, near Glasgow. It was named in 1860 by postmaster Dabnie Nunnally, who figured that "88" would be readable even in his own bad handwriting. The number came from the amount of change in his pocket. In the 1948 presidential election, the community reported 88 votes for Truman and 88 votes for Dewey, which earned it a spot in Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Photo credit: Donald.

Then in 1988, postmistress Donnie Sue Bacon noticed an increasing number of letters were being sent for the purpose of having them stamped with the Eighty Eight postmark. The community took advantage of the special year and had a celebration on August 8, 1988. A parade (held the day before, as 8/8/88 was a Monday) was led by a child who would turn eight on 8/8/88, and the grand marshall was 88-year-old Eighty-Eight resident Elsie Billingsley. A couple drove in from Wyoming to be married in the community at 8:08 PM on 8/8/88.     

6. Seventy-Six, Kentucky

The town of Seventy-Six, Kentucky, was named for nearby Seventy-Six Falls, on Lake Cumberland. Seventy-Six Falls is actually easier to reach by boat than by road. The number has nothing to do with the height or width of the falls, but was the designation on a surveyor's notes for the nearby station number. The town was settled in 1806 when John W. Semple built a grist mill, and later a general store. The small town thrived for about 100 years, and then began a long decline. The mill burned in 1943, and the area is now a park.

7. Eighty Four, Pennsylvania

Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, is a community of over 600 people about 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The community was originally called Smithville, but there was another Smithville in Pennsylvania. The local postmaster selected Eighty Four as a new name because the year was 1884. Or it could have also been named after a local railroad mile marker. Other stories about the name abound, like the one where settlers killed 84 marauding Indians, or that only 84 settlers survived a bad winter. The most likely explanation is the postmaster who "just didn't have a whole lot of imagination." Eighty Four was the birthplace of 84 Lumber, the largest privately-held building materials chain in the U.S.  

8. Sixes, Oregon

Photo credit: Flickr user Larry Myhre.

The town of Sixes, in Curry County, Oregon, is named for the Sixes River. The consensus is that the river was named Sixes as an English corruption of a Native American term, but which was the original term? It may have been "sikhs," meaning "friend," or "Sa-qua-mi," which is thought by some to be the original native name of the river (early maps label it the "Sequalchin River"), or maybe it was "Sik-ses-tene," the name of a local tribe.

See also:
10 Loud Places That Are Actually Nice and Quiet
The Origins of Weird State Park Names
10 Town Names That Will Make You Hungry
and Origins of 8 of the Strangest Place Names in Canada

Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you'll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren't good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.


As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior.

Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. In modern times, people can spend as much as they like to become the best Krampus around—and the tradition is spreading beyond Europe. Many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.


Jólakötturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It's no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.


Flickr // Markus Ortner

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta's story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn't really a monster: she's an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.


A drawing of Belsnickel.
Lucas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas. See a video of a Belsnickel visit here.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.


Hans Trapp is another "anti-Santa" who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.


The French legend of Père Fouettard, whose name translates to "Father Whipper," begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.


The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out ... if they are good boys and girls. 


All the Yule Lads answer to Grýla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don't obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn't crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Grýla. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

A version of this post originally ran in 2013. See also: more Legendary Monsters

Keystone/Getty Images
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.

A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.

Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.

American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.

Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.


More from mental floss studios