Skip to content
Starts With A Bang

Weekend Diversion: The Dumbest Sign in History

A sign that warns you about bumping your head… on the sign itself!

Image credit: Matt Groening, the Simpsons, Season 1.

“I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, ‘Hey, the sign says you’re open 24 hours.’ He said, ‘Yes, but not in a row.’” –Stephen Wright

There are all sorts of hazards out there in the world, and often the easiest and most expedients way to keep people from accidentally harming themselves is to put up a universally understandable sign warning them of the danger. Have a listen to the Kelly Bell Band perform their entertaining song, Must’ve Bumped Your Head,

while I share with you the greatest “danger warning sign” in internet history.

Image credit: flickr user Lush, via

In 2005, LiveJournal (remember that?) blogger lushlush recorded this image of a sign over an escalator from the Greenbelt 3 mall in Makati, Philippines. As you can see, the sign cautions you against bashing your head into an obstacle while riding an escalator. I’ll let the original photographer tell it in her own words:

This is one of the most bizarre signs I have ever encountered. The sign is comical in itself: stick figure rides up the escalator and bumps his head on a hanging sign, the impact causing VIOLENT RED RAYS OF PAIN. Beware! All is well and good until, armed with a newfound caution, you look around for the offending object and realize that IT’S A SIGN ABOUT THE SIGN ITSELF.

Image credit: flickr user Lush, via

That’s right, there’s a big, hanging plexiglass sign over an escalator that is there to warn you about hitting your head on the sign. Sounds like the dumbest sign ever, but it’s no photoshop; even though it’s from back in 2005, there is other internet documentation of this sign out there in the wild.

Image credit: LiveJournal user fullview, via

Is it the most ridiculous thing ever? Probably.

But there is a method behind this madness. You see that big metal girder next to the escalator? The plexiglass barrier is there to discourage people from decapitating/maiming themselves on account of dangling a limb (or worse) in the space where the girder meets the escalator railing. These barriers are actually quite common.

Image credit: Apichit Jinakul of the Bangkok Post, via

But the sign? Well, if you’re going to have a barrier there, then suddenly people are at risk from hitting the barrier itself, and so you need to warn them about that!

It’s a legendary case of recursion, and almost as good as this photoshopping of the sign to make it “truly” self-referential ad infinitum.

Image credit: LiveJournal user spelloodeedoo, via

Perhaps on account of all the attention this sign received in 2005, it was removed, and replaced by… a plain plexiglass blocker, with no sign at all! In other words, you can now go ahead and smash your head into the barrier without any warning at all.

Such is life, internet, such is life.

Leave your comments at the Starts With A Bang forum at Scienceblogs, and don’t forget to head there to check out our Comments of the Week if you missed them!


Up Next