Town Bans Residents From Dying

By Dave Basner

April 17, 2024

Photo: Getty Images

Plenty of towns have strange rules that regulate what residents can or can't do, but one town has them all beat because they have outlawed dying, and with good reason.

The small hamlet is called Longyearbyen and it is located in one of the world's northernmost areas. The Norwegian town is part of an archipelago between Norway and the North Pole, and along with being incredibly remote, it can get incredibly cold, with temperatures dropping to -22 degrees in winter. During that time, the town is also in 24 hours of darkness.

The problem with dying there though is that bodies don't decompose, and that can cause diseases to spread. In fact, in the 1990s, scientists exhumed the bodies of people who died of the Spanish flu in Longyearbyen in 1918 and the virus was still present. With recent permafrost thawing, fears are that viruses can spread again. For those reasons, none of the 2,000 residents, who are mostly coal minors, are allowed to die locally. Instead, if they are nearing the end, they are flown to mainland Norway.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology further explained the reason for the ban, noting that it is in place because "the permanently frozen ground will not only tend to keep your buried remains from decomposing and push them to the surface - it may also perfectly preserve the disease that killed you, for locals to pick up later."

While it isn't technically illegal to die in the town, since 1950, it has been illegal to bury residents in the local graveyard. Interestingly, residents are also not allowed to have cats since the land is preserved for birds.

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