Far beyond the reaches of our limited three-dimensional space lies a torrent of unimaginable pain, fury and, reportedly, fire and brimstone. So mind-bogglingly, horribly, swelteringly combustible is this place that it's a relatively safe bet to say you will never do anything that is followed by the phrase 'When Hell freezes over.' However, don’t be surprised if in the winter months a witty friend takes you up on that bet and then points you to a quaint little town in the state of Michigan, USA, called Hell.
In the early 1830s, a chubby little man by the name of George Reeves, who lived, at the time, in Sullivan County, New York, decided that the place was getting a bit crowded - what with all the immigrants and whatnot. So one day he gave New York the finger, turned to his brothers and said, 'Let's go to Michigan!' Ironically, this holds a keen similarity to the story of how Lucifer fell from Heaven1.
Crossing into Michigan, Reeves found himself in a small village by the name of Pinckney. Taking a liking to the place, he opened a store and thought he would settle down. But he didn't. Instead, in 1841, he procured both a sawmill and 1,000 acres of land on which he built a wheat mill. These were both a few miles west of Pinckney, near what is now Hell Creek.
And this is where George Reeves built his town, Hell: there are a couple of theories regarding the conception of the name. George opened a few shops and hired a few employees, a few farmers moved in and raised a few barns, and sang a farming tune as they sweated the farming day away.
Looking for an outlet for his surplus wheat, George then built a distillery. His homegrown whisky became an instant success with the hard-working farmers in his new bar opened specifically to serve the beverage.
After the American Civil War, taxes on alcohol soon grew to a point where Reeves could no longer sell his whisky at a profit. Unfazed, however, he still sold it for as little as ten cents a gallon and never shared the proceeds.
Though it's not mentioned in the US Constitution, Reeves felt that the choice to get completely sloshed was an inalienable, God-given right. One day the government came along to check up on Hell's whisky flow, so all the townsfolk pitched in to hide their whiskey in barrels at the bottom of the local pond. When the government officials finally left, they brought it back up and made merry the rest of the day.
In 1877 the founder of Hell found out there was another place of the same name2.
There are two theories associated with the conception of this town's peculiar name.
One is that one day some German visitors came and said that the area was 'bright and beautiful.' This, which explains an awful lot about Germany as a whole, is rightfully translated into the German tongue as 'hell'. The townsfolk got a kick out of this and when they asked Mr Reeves what they should name the place he reportedly said, 'I don't care, you can call it Hell, if you want to.' This was a mistake that Reeves regretted for about two days. Then he had a couple of whiskies and everything was okay.
The other theory suggests that the name evolved from the fact that the area is very swampy. This, of course, attracts mosquitoes. The area is also cut through by a trade route. This, subsequently, attracts traders. Traders, in turn, attract mosquitoes and as well as continuously swatting, they had to drag their heavy canoes full of trading goods and supplies from Lake Huron to the Grand River systems all the while muttering many expletives that could very well have also described the place.
Today the town of Hell, Michigan, is relatively untouched by the sands of time. The quaint little place still houses George Reeves's tavern, over which he also built a ballroom. There is still the racetrack he built nearby. The mill burned down and the distillery closed. More houses were built and electricity was added. But aside from that it still enables its visitors to laughingly announce 'I've been to Hell and back.'
Perhaps more important nowadays however, is the town's predisposition to take advantage of its own name. Around every corner there are Halloween-themed shops and restaurants. It is, indeed, Hell's stated mission to be The Year Round Halloween Theme Area in the United States. From the Screams Ice Cream Parlour, which offers such flavours as Shock-a-lot, Ghost Poop, and Scooby-Doo-Doo, to the 'Taxes from Hell' tax day event, to their month-long all-out celebration of Halloween (which is, of course, on top of their year-round all-out theme of Halloween), Hell has attracted many visitors who either want to send their loved ones a postcard from Hell's post office or simply find the idea of it all to be facinating.
Also, if anyone happens to need a degree in something, Hell has opened Damnation University where you can buy 'Dam U' paraphernalia including a diploma for whatever area of study you wish you could have graduated from. (An invaluable asset to a hitchhiker who wishes to gain a few extra bucks.)
The Road to Hell
Finally, for those who wish to visit the beautiful rolling hills, the flowing streams and chipper cultural atmosphere of Hell, take a look at the palm of your right hand. This represents Michigan. Take your left index finger and place it on your right thumb's lower knuckle. Now, rest the next two left fingers next to the left index and the location of the tip of your left ring finger is the approximate location of Hell.
For those who wish to be more precise, to Hell with you! And here's how: take exit 54 off Route 23 West. Follow M-36, turn left on Howell Street, right on Patterson Lake Road and you will shortly find yourself in beautiful downtown Hell.