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.

"A lot of these towns are so tiny. You might be driving by on the interstate and they just fly by. There's nothing there but a gas station," Banas said. "They're still fun to read about and know there is a town named whatever it is."

So what is there to do in these towns?

"The first thing I would do is take a picture of the sign of the name of the town," Banas said.

Would she pose in front of it?

"I might. I might make somebody else do that," she said. "It depends on what type of mood I'm in."

Beyond that … well, some places just don't have that much to do.

America's Strangest Town Names

Sometimes, just collecting sign photographs is worth the trip.

While not on the SmarterTravel list, there a number of towns that could lead to a breakfast-related field trip. Start out in Bacons, Delaware, and then pop into Hot Coffee, Mississippi, before hopping over to Two Egg, Florida, on your way to Oatmeal, Texas and finally White Bread, Oklahoma.

Then there were some names that were not fit to repeat.

"A lot of them were names that we thought were a little bit too dirty for our readership," Banas said.

For something a bit more relaxing, consider Carefree, Arizona. It's a very laid-back place and if you need proof of that, look no further than the sign posts. There's an Easy Street, Nonchalant Avenue, Linger Lane, Dream Street, Pleasant Place, Rocking Chair Road, Serene Street and Peaceful Place.

SmarterTravel readers weighed in with their own suggestions but the favorite spot, Banas said, remains Intercourse, Pennsylvania. It's in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country and there is plenty to do there, from shopping to great meals out to a number of bed and breakfasts. Of all the spots listed, Banas said it had the most organized tourism.

"The thing about Intercourse, Pennsylvania that's really funny is that it's basically Amish country," Banas said. "So it couldn't be more innocent. Everybody, of course, has very dirty thoughts."