Have You Ever Climbed a Pole in Philadelphia?

Today an article about the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game between Villanova and Michigan caught my eye. The headline read, “Villanova greases poles ahead of title game.”

I thought that sounded odd, but I also had a sense of deja vu. It hit me: Authorities in Philadelphia also greased poles before the most recent Super Bowl, as they were worried about people getting injured by climbing streetlamps and electric poles.

I wondered if there was a connection, so I Googled, “Where is Villanova?” Sure enough, the school is just outside Philadelphia.

This begs the question: What the heck is up with people from Philadelphia climbing poles?

I’m sure it’s one of those things where a few people make the entire city look bad, and they’re not representative of the overall population. But if it wasn’t a legitimate issue, police wouldn’t bother greasing the poles. I’ve visited Philly a few times, and I was never compelled to climb a pole.

It’s fascinating that the issue is so specific to Philadelphia. Other cities have poles too, but I’ve never heard of celebratory pole climbing becoming such a big issue elsewhere that large numbers of people climbed and fell off poles.

This is such an odd phenomenon that there must be some kind of an explanation. Do you know?

8 Responses to “Have You Ever Climbed a Pole in Philadelphia?”

  1. Charles Dionne says:

    I’m not even going to attempt to explain why people feel the need to make their way up poles, but I’m afraid Philadelphia is not the only city with a pole-climbing problem…. Of course New Orleans finds a way to turn it into an event! 🙂


  2. Bez Shahriari says:

    I’ll admit I once climbed to the top of a lamppost in London, UK. Partially as an act of bravado, to show I could. Spirits were running high.

    Is it really to stop people hurting themselves, or is it to prevent damage to poles?

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I can see how bravado might play a role in ending up on top of a pole. 🙂

      As for the reason for the greasing, maybe a combination of the two?

  3. I have no idea why people climb poles in Philly, but my association is to people climbing trees outside the Hollywood Bowl to watch a Harry Bellafonte concert I once attended. This must have been to some extent an accepted practice, at least by the singer, because he began his performance with, “Welcome ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to all you treesies.” Next came loud cheers from the trees!

  4. Joe Pilkus says:


    I’m a born-and-raised Philadelphian, and maybe I’m simply showing my age, but in my youth, I climbed trees and never once in now five decades, have I felt compelled to climb a pole. Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t step-up on the wide base of a pole to get a better look at a concert (I’m 5′ 9″ and even I need a boost every now and then), but to physically climb a pole…not a chance. Thus, I cannot explain the phenomenon.


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