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Found on the tops of balcony poles in New Orleans, and probably other Antebellum Southern cities, and always pointed out on the carriage tours, they are pointy iron hooks, sometimes even sharpened. They are barbed wire's ancestor. AFAIK they are not on the Amnesty International's list of naughty implements of destruction.

According to legend, these were put in place anywhere young marriageable women were to be found. They were meant to hinder suitors from climbing the 15-20 foot high poles and having clandestine visits, possibly putting the girls to shame. However, upon close inspection, it seems that it would make Romeo's indecent shimmy to the top that much easier, as the larger hooks could easily be used as a foothold

Personally, I think their real purpose was to injure and even maim any escaping suitor caught trespassing in a single woman's room, or any burglar for that matter. When a hurried escape down the pole is neccesary, a many pronged iron hook will act both as a speed bump and a dull knife.

Since these are a long standing tradition in New Orleans, the concept has evolved into people using real barbed wire, broken glass set in concrete, rusty nails set in concrete, and other outright booby-traps to secure their houses, usually on the tops of the walls to a courtyard or carriageway.

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