We’re all fond of our expressions, our pop-culture references, and the little quirks that make us human. We also enjoy finding references to these in our travels – sometimes in the least likely of places.
There is perhaps no other place that has spawned more jokes, phrases, and cultural references than Hell.
You may think Hell is the last place you’d ever want to go, but trust me, there’s one trip that may just change your mind.
Have you ever been told by one of your friends, family, or spouse to “go to Hell?” We know you have.
Well, instead of giving them the gratification of offending you, you can tell them you’ve been there and it’s lovely, thanks to this unique little town.
After all, they’ve got the best “town motto” ever – “More people tell you to go to our town than anywhere else on Earth.” Can’t argue with that.
Looking to get the Hell out of Dodge?
Hell, Michigan is a small little town about an hour from Detroit whose population “varies daily.”
There you are, driving down a quiet Michigan road and it seems to come out of nowhere.
For non-locals, the most common reaction is, “What the Hell is this?”
What it is is a fun little stop, probably only a couple of acres or so, with an unimposing store, restaurant, and a bar. Seemingly typical – even normal – at first. Except this is Hell.
Many a woman will tell you that the road to Hell started with a man.
In this case, the little town of Hell was started by a budding businessman named George Reeves who opened a grist mill and local store. He often paid for local farmers’ grain by trading his homemade whiskey.
The proper ladies of the area knew about his little bartering scheme, so when George would go away for a time during harvest season, they’d explain his absence with, “He’s gone to Hell again.”
The name stuck and Hell became an official town in 1841.
It may look fairly normal until you notice the carnival-like outbuildings and business names. And you’ve just got to pull over and check it out. Curiosity is the best form of marketing for this little treasure.
A little place with a growing following…
Hell is well-known to the locals, but it also draws people from all over. There’s an official website, just like any small town – but take one look, and you’ll realize it’s far from ordinary.
It’s Halloween year-round here in Hell, of course. The spider webs and flames and demon signage are always up.
But you don’t just have to visit in October to have a great time.
When I visited recently, there was a wedding going on in Hell’s Chapel of Love. There are way too many jokes here, but if you think it would be weird to get married here, just remember, starting your marriage in Hell may put you a few steps ahead of the game.
The chapel is tiny, but perfect for intimate ceremonies. There’s a sadly appropriate question mark on the steeple and blue doors to ward off evil spirits – just so you have a chance in Hell of happily-ever-after.
And if you get married in Hell, there’s really no where to go but up. Think about it.
Weddings here can be as traditional as you like, but more often than not, there’s a mix of attendees in costumes – Gothic and Medieval and everything in between – or groups of bikers in their best leather ready to meet eternity head-on.
There’s even an old Paris-style Locks of Love bridge. Lock up your love and throw the key into Hell’s Creek. There’s no going back now.
If you’re not invited to a wedding, no worries – everyone is welcome in Hell.
The Hell Hole restaurant has fantastic food – from pub fare like burgers and pizza to really good seafood – and a couple of great beers on tap. Try a local favorite, a pastie (pass-tee) covered in gravy!
The restaurant is small, but comfy, and it’s dark of course. The black walls and flaming lights get you in the spirit. You can come in and stay a while or grab a drink from the convenience store-style refrigerators (even mini bottles of wine).
People come in and out – curious tourists, local regulars stopping in to say hello to other local regulars, and everyone in between.
And if you need something a little stronger on your trip through Hell, there’s the Hell Saloon. Yes, they’ve got booze (maybe a shot of Fireball?) because you get awfully thirsty in Hell, and there’s more great food.
You’ll often find events going on like live music, celebrations, and receptions for newly-married couples who walk over from the chapel. Hell really does bring the community together.
I Scream, You Scream
If you think it couldn’t get more fun, think again, because you can’t have a meal in Hell and not go to Screams.
Now, just like everything else this town has to offer, Screams is like no place you’ve ever been.
It’s part gift shop, part ice cream parlor, and part Halloween-themed hangout. It also contains the town post office where you can have your postcards (or even better, bills) postmarked from Hell. They’ll even singe the edges of your mail for authenticity.
While you’re in Screams, grab a scoop of ice cream or make a sundae with toppings from the ice cream bar – laid out in a coffin, of course – at the Creamatory.
Little ones can walk through a tiny door next to the entrance of Screams – their own little portal to the underworld.
Visitor tip: Finish the massive “Gravedigger” sundae at your own risk. If you do, there’s a reason they’ll issue you a flame-singed Death Certificate.
There’s no end to the variety of souvenirs here, and we’re pretty sure they’re the most unique ones you’ll find in your travels.
“I’ve been to Hell and back and all I got was this lousy t-shirt,” and just about every other Hell-related expression you can think of is on shirts, sweatshirts, drinkware, and more.
Hell doesn’t discriminate.
The great part about Hell is that it really is a family place.
Kids think it’s like a tiny amusement park with its ice cream and colorful decorations, but there’s lots of grown-up fun too – and it’s quiet and safe like any ordinary small center of town.
You may not know this, but Hell also has mini-golf.
On my most recent trip to Hell, it just happened to be Friday the 13th, and of course, there were some special festivities to celebrate the day.
Someone brilliant had set up a “Test Your Luck” area, calling passersby “auctioneer style” to walk under a ladder, break a mirror, rock an empty rocking chair – you name it.
My little one thoroughly enjoyed putting on safety goggles and breaking a mirror with a hammer. I have to tell you, it made me cringe a little.
I Survived Friday the 13th in Hell, and I got a little shot glass that says so.
And just like any good little town, there is a college of sorts. Damnation University offers several options for earning a certificate of higher education. Just inquire in Screams when you’re buying your Hell merchandise. And yes, you can get your DamnU spirit gear there too.
When we leave this world, we certainly all hope that we get to Heaven. The alternative is pretty scary, and Hell has been referenced in many forms since the beginning of the human story.
But this Hell is one place you don’t want to miss.
If you’re looking to visit, check out the “What the Hell is going on?” events calendar on their website. There’s plenty to do in the area – boating, hiking, and other charming little towns to visit nearby.
If you’re intrigued and you do go to Hell, call up my parents and buy them a beer. They live very close by. They’ve been to the real Hell and back – raising yours truly – and they deserve a cold one.