Vacation in Hell...Michigan, That Is

Sometimes traveling can seem like hell, thanks to traffic jams, long lines and lost luggage. But for visitors to one Michigan town, vacation can seem like Hell -- literally.

It's not super-hot and there really isn't a sulfuric smell. But the small town about 20 miles away from Ann Arbor is unfortunate -- or, depending on your view, lucky -- enough to be named Hell.

"I've been told to come here my whole life," said John Colone, a former Chevrolet dealer who now runs an ice cream shop and gift shop in town.

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And yes, he said, in those cold Michigan winters, Hell does in fact freeze over.

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Colone has made a bit of a niche business out of his town's name.

His ice cream shop is known for its make-your-own sundaes. The toppings, which include bat droppings (think Hershey kisses) and toenail clippings (coconut dyed yellow), are served out of a coffin.

But Colone's marketing efforts go much further. There are t-shirts, shot glasses and hats. You can buy a diploma from Damnation University -- get it, DAM-U -- and even for $6.66, he'll even sell you a little bit of land.

"Own a square inch of Hell," Colone said, not missing a beat.

Colone even jokes about selling dehydrated water from Hell Creek.

"That's how we recycle all our water bottles here," he said.

But the ultimate prize might just be serving as mayor of Hell for a day.

On the designated day, the winner will get a wake-up call explaining some problem in Hell that requires the mayor's immediate attention. This will be the first of several calls during the day. You also get a set of devil's horns to wear, a badge, a proclamation and a key to the town of Hell. The cost: $100.

You can even get married in Hell.

"Our wedding chapel will bring you happiness in your marriage, as a marriage made in Hell has nowhere to go but up," Colone promises. "We offer a guarantee: if it doesn't work, we'll do it again for free."

America's Strangest Town Names

Hell, Michigan is just one of several towns across America that have wacky names.

Anne Banas, executive editor of the travel website SmarterTravel, recently decided to chronicle the best ones to visit. She and writer Christine Sarkis went through maps and guides and found some bizarre, outlandish names.

"To be honest, we had to whittle our list down because we really wanted to find places that had travel value -- places you could actually go, do and see something," Banas said. "Some of these towns have great names but they have a population of 300 and there's very little you can even say about them."

For instance, Boring, Oregon -- named after resident W.H. Boring -- might not offer tons. It has a great bike trail and the only blacksmith in the U.S. specializing in hand-forged garden tools. But it is also just 30 minutes from Portland and near Mount Hood, making it a perfect day trip.

Other towns found by Banas and Sarkis include Cool, California; Truth or Consequences, New Mexico; Normal, Illinois.; Accident, Maryland, and Last Chance, Idaho. Then there is Uncertain, Texas, rumored to have gotten its name when the state of Texas took too literally the word "uncertain" in the name box of the town's application to become a city back in the early 1960s.

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