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Silly facts about Cape Girardeau

As you cross the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge into Cape Girardeau, you enter a charming community with a long, vibrant past. But hidden behind the historic homes and picturesque panoramas are some odd, slightly ridiculous facts and traditions. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

The town’s name is spelled wrong

Cape Girardeau is named after Jean Baptiste Girardot, who came from France and ran a trading post in what would become Cape. Over time, “Girardot” came to be spelled “Girardeau.” One theory questions if the town is actually named after Girardot’s son Jean Pierre, with the French suffix “eau” denoting “son of.” But no one knows for sure.

Cape’s got its share of weird laws

These laws are still on the books, but you probably won’t get nabbed for breaking them:

  • No spitting in public
  • No outside sports between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • You can’t offer live rabbits or birds as prizes or promotional items


A beloved local tradition involves sticking chewed gum to a tree

The Gum Tree is a Southeast Missouri State University icon. There are two origin stories for why students began putting their gum on that particular tree:

  • Mark Scully, Southeast’s president from the ’50s to the ’70s hated gum-chewing. So students stuck their chewed wads to the tree to avoid getting caught.
  • Students were so exhausted after walking up the steep Cardiac Hill that they didn’t have the energy to chew anymore, so they left their gum on the tree.

However the tradition started, it’s now on its third tree, with a new Gum Tree planted recently after a storm blew down the previous one.

An alleged alien encounter took place here

On the night of April 12, 1941, a flying saucer – complete with lights and odd symbols – is said to have crashed and burned in a field about 18 miles from town. Witnesses saw the bodies of three ETs, but everyone was sworn to secrecy. A minister who’d been called to the scene to perform last rites was the only eyewitness to share his story, and he waited until just before his death to do so.

Cape’s ZIP code can help you remember when ZIP codes started

It’s an odd trick, but turning the local ZIP code (63701) into a date tells you when the U.S. Post Office implemented the ZIP code system.

  • 63701
  • 63, 7, 01
  • Year, month, day
  • ’63, July 01
  • July 1, 1963


Learn more about this charming, slightly quirky town by following our Facebook page.

Comments 1 Rating: Be the first person to rate this post.
Kathryn Meyer APRIL 1 2019
Interesting facts.

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