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Hobo Signs And Code Symbols You Didn't Know Existed

Updated March 27, 2020 9.0m views15 items

Traveling from city to city, hobos developed a visual code to help keep each other safe, often marking buildings with chalk or coal. Hobo symbols would indicate, for example, that it's safe to camp nearby, or that nice, generous people live inside. These hobo codes helped migrant workers deal with the often dangerous uncertainties they would face on the road.

So, what do these mysterious symbols mean? Here's a look at some symbols hobos would have encountered during their travels.

Photo:
  • Photo: Henry Dreyfuss / bLog-oMotives

    A Top Hat And A Triangle

    "Rich people live here" is the meaning behind this dapper little glyph of a top hat and a triangle.

    A top hat on its own, on the other hand, meant the house in question belongs to a gentleman (who may or may not be rich).

  • Photo: Henry Dreyfuss / bLog-oMotives

    A Spearhead

    Encountering this glyph meant hobos had better be prepared to defend themselves.

    Meant to indicate a spearhead, this symbol let people know to not enter the area without protection of some sort.

  • Photo: Henry Dreyfuss / bLog-oMotives

    A Circle With Two Arrows

    This life-saving bit of hobo code meant, essentially, "Hobo-Free Zone." It advised hobos to leave the area quickly to avoid trouble.

    If it looks oddly familiar to you, add one more arrow and you have the logo for Pitchfork (insert hobo hipster joke here).

  • Photo: Henry Dreyfuss / bLog-oMotives

    Two Interlocked Circles

    Is a hobo wedding in the works? Not even close. Meant to signify a pair of handcuffs, this glyph meant that hobos in the area will likely be hauled off to jail. The NSA's interpretation is simply, "Police frown on hobos."

    According to the National Hobo Museum, similar warnings included "Police officer lives here" or the more specific "Policewoman lives here."