We piled into the car and could already feel that this was going to be a hot day. My Grammie insisted on sitting in the backseat despite our numerous offers to sit up in front. She claimed she “wanted to sleep” in the back so we eventually gave in. Once we were all buckled in and pulling out of the driveway, Grammie says, “You know the real reason I wanted to sit back here?…So you would get to Hell before I did”. And thus, began our trip to Hell, Michigan.
How Hell got its name
There are two accounts that I could find online as to the origin of the name and both date back to the 1830s. One states that German tourists arrived in the area and said to one another, “so schoen hell”, meaning “so beautifully bright”. Someone overheard it and the name stuck. The other account mentions the awful conditions in the town during this same time period that included mosquitos (we can attest to that!), dense forest and wetlands.
This is the story, however, that they tell in Hell: it does indeed date back to the 1830s when a man named George Reeves arrived and purchased quite a bit of land as well as a couple of mills. Excess wheat from the mill led to opening and operating a distillery and the distillery led to opening and operating a tavern.
It became known in the greater area for whiskey and people would often flock to the tavern to get drunk. Due to this, wives would often say that their husbands were “going to Hell” and so, after Michigan gained statehood, when the census came around and asked what to name this town, Mr. Reeves answered by saying, “Call it Hell for all I care. Everyone else calls it that” and thus in 1841 the small mill town became officially known as Hell.
The three parts of Hell
There are three sections of Hell and each houses one building. Uptown boasts Hell in a Handbasket Store which houses the post office and Screams ice-cream, which has some of the most unusual toppings, such as toenail clippings. I asked about any vegan ice-cream options and the owner had never heard of it! I guess Hell is no place for vegans! He was interested in learning more about the various vegan options, however, so you never know, vegan ice-cream might be coming to Hell in the near future. 🙂
Midtown features a souvenir shop selling T-shirts, postcards, mugs and other fun souvenirs and downtown includes the Dam Site bar and restaurant, which, by the way, is currently up for sale if anyone is interested in owning a bar in Hell.
What to do if you find yourself in Hell
There is surprisingly lots to do in Hell! You can play a round or two of mini-golf, rent a kayak or canoe and paddle down the river (the water in Hell is dammed by the way), and go shopping. Be sure to document your trip by sending family and friends postcards from Hell’s tiny post office.
You can have a picnic in Hell, you can relax in Hell, you can even get married in Hell! Yup, that’s right, Hell’s tiny wedding chapel sees about 60 weddings per year with the idea that after a wedding in Hell, things can only get better. Hell does not discriminate either; we confirmed that they will happily marry lesbians!
And perhaps the best souvenir of all is taking a piece of Hell with you. Deeds for a square inch of Hell can be purchased for the very appropriate amount of $6.66.
And for those of you who were expecting Hell to have a big firey pit, not to worry, Hell has one of those too, although contrary to popular belief, it was not flaming 24/7.
How to get to Hell
Contrary to what some right-wing Christians have told us, you don’t have to be lesbian or gay to go to Hell. Everyone can go to Hell. In case you want to tell someone to go to Hell, you can give them the following directions:
Hell is a hour from Detroit and 30 minutes from Ann Arbor. To get there from Detroit (you will pass through Ann Arbor), get on Highway I-96 West to M-14 West to US 23 North. Take exit 49 for Territorial Rd, turn right on Dexter-Pickney Road, left on Darwin Road and then continue straight onto Patterson Lake Road which will take you to Hell.
So, the next time someone tells us we are going to Hell or that we should go to Hell, we can simply say that we’ve already been…and had a good time no less.