You’re probably thinking after seeing the title of this episode that it is a joke, or at least a play on words. But no, we’re not kidding! In some places, it’s illegal to die. While it sounds like something from the novel Catch 22 – “all soldiers must be willing to die for their country, but the army forbids being killed” – it’s real in some places. Also known as a “prohibition of death,” it goes as far back as the 5th century BC, when it was forbidden to die on the Greek island of Delos.
The reason? The island was sacred, and those ancient Greeks didn’t want it contaminated with death. There are many reasons why it’s illegal to die in some places today, and that’s what we’ll look into, in this episode of the Infographics Show, Places on Earth Where You Aren’t Allowed to Die.
Biritiba Mirim, Brazil
An NBC news headline in 2005 read, “Death Outlawed in Brazil Town.” The town is called Biritiba Mirim and it lies about 45 miles outside of Sao Paulo. What happened? Well, the mayor of the town, Roberto Pereira da Silva, was trying to get the bill passed that made it illegal to die. He knew it sounded ridiculous, but he felt he had to make a statement to the Brazilian government, so some help would come to the town. You see, the cemeteries are full in the town, there’s literally no room to be buried, and the city can’t get planning permission to build another cemetery. The mayor also hopes it will make people take better care of themselves. The bill reads, “Take good care of your health in order not to die… infractors will be held responsible for their acts.”
Sellia and Falciano del Massico, Italy
Nope, you can’t die in Sellia, not without incurring a fine for those relatives you left behind. This tiny town only has a population of around 530 people, and it is quickly becoming depopulated. While the mayor realizes he can’t fight death, he made the law so people would try and live longer. “Those who don’t take good care of themselves, or who take on habits that are against their health, will be punished with more taxes.” He said the bill is no joke as the town is literally running out of people.
Also in Italy, is the small town of Falciano del Massico, near Naples. People are not allowed to die here also because there is no room for bodies. “It is forbidden, with immediate effect, to all citizens resident in the municipality of Falciano del Massico, and to whoever passes by its territory, to cross the border of earthly life and to enter the afterlife,” reads the edict. “Here people cannot even die, because there is no room in the cemetery,” said one old resident of the town when interviewed by Reuters in 2012.
The pensioner said you have to die and get buried in the nearby town of Mondragone. Perhaps amusing to some – though not the old man it seems – he added, “And if you go to Mondragone you have to pay more, because the Camorra mafia wants money to get you a place in Mondragone.” Apparently, the mayor there has been asking people to try their hardest to hold off death, at least until they can build a new cemetery.
Again, we have the problem of there being no room in the cemetery. This village only has around 260 people living in it, but if residents die, there is nowhere to put them. Mayor Gerard Lalanne wrote the bill around a decade ago. It read: “All persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish… Offenders will be severely punished.” Again, the town was refused permission to build another cemetery. But while the law is a political statement, it’s also real. Still, it’s not clear what the punishment is if you do end up dying in Sarpourenx.
Over in Spain, in the small town of Lanjarón, they have the same law for exactly the same reason: There is no space for those damned dead bodies. The good news is that because of all the press these towns are getting, governments in these countries are moving in a positive direction to make space for the dead. Still, as we research this, we can not find any articles that tell us the problem has been solved.
You can always trust the Japanese to be eccentric. Unlike the laws we have so far discussed, this rule about not being able to die is closer to the ancient Greeks banning death on Delos. The Japanese believe this island is sacred as it holds the Itsukushima Shrine, so in 1878, they banned death. They also banned life, in a way. Pregnant women are not allowed to give birth on the island, and the elderly – if they have any health issues – are also not allowed to die on the island. The girls must go to the mainland to have a kid and the elderly must get off the island when their time is up. This supposedly keeps the place pure. It goes without saying that people cannot be buried on this island.
Looking at photos of this place, you might want to die if you lived here. Situated in the icy climes of Norway, this is one of the northernmost towns in the world that has a population of over 1,000 people. It’s kinda famous for being right next to where the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is, a futuristic vault that will survive if everything else on Earth dies. Well, if a few folks survive, they know where they can get seeds…we wonder who has the keys, though? With a yearly temperature of cold, cold and cold, the reason you can’t die here is because bodies cannot decompose. As one media report explains, “Dying has been banned on the island since 1950, when it was discovered that bodies in the local cemetery were not decomposing because of the chilly temperatures.”
It goes further than just having a small town full of intact buried people. Scientists found that the dead bodies still carried a deadly flu virus, which aint good for the living. A news report explains, “In a bleak prospect, those who are terminally ill are shipped off the island and flown hundreds of miles to the mainland city of Oslo, where they will spend the remainder of their days until death.” You can’t even have a kid there as there is no hospital. This is one grim town, seeing as for months people live without any sunlight and the place is surrounded by hungry polar bears.
Well, we think these are the only place where it is currently illegal to die, but if you know of anywhere else, please tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to watch our other video called Places no human has ever visited. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time!