5 Towns & Other Places of the World – All Called Hell

Hell Michigan (Image: Sswonk, cc-sa-3.0)

The thought of going to hell is enough the frighten many a good person walking the earth, and whatever the afterlife may bring, horrific visions of fire and brimstone are something that most of us want to avoid whatever our belief. So for that reason, you may want to avoid Slovenia, Michigan and the Cayman Islands – even California and Norway! Why? All are home to villages, towns and natural formations called Hell. Explanations for their naming range from the mysterious and the foreboding to the amusing and silly. But unlike phantom settlements – which appear on maps but not in real life – these various hells are all real!

Hell, California

visit-to-hell (Image: Mauricio García Vega, cc-sa-3.0 – above: ‘Visit to Hell’ )

Despite its ominous name, the history of Hell, in Riverside County, California, seems rather mundane. Located about 29 miles west of Blythe, the town was founded in 1954 by Charles Carr, the only member of its Chamber of Commerce. But since people clearly had no intention of going to Hell, the town failed to take off and within four years its occupants had fallen to just three – Carr, his wife and their 10-year-old son. By the early 1960s, Hell, which once featured a tavern and service station, was officially a ghost town (and arguably always was!). Its remains were demolished in 1964 to make way for Interstate 10.

As is often the case, however, Hell’s place in pop culture far outweighed its real world importance. In 1958 the LA Times published an article titled ‘LA’s Hotter Than Hell – Only 97 There, When Los Angeles reached 104 degrees the same day.’ Conversely, a rare snowfall triggered the line from another news source: ‘It was a cold day in Hell’. A signpost near Indio, CA, meanwhile, warned of ‘100 miles of desert ahead – right through hell’.

Hell, Michigan

Hell Michigan - Hell Country Store (Image: David Ball, public domain)

Located in Livingston County, Michigan, Hell lies about 15 miles northwest of the popular college town of Ann Arbor and originally grew around a collection of mills alongside a distillery and tavern. After the creation of Hiland Lake, the town of Hell, Michigan became a thriving resort popular with swimming and fishing – and, of course, several theories abound as to how it got its name. One involves two German travellers who commented, after alighting at the town, “So schön hell!” (“So beautifully bright!”). Another holds that Hell’s founder George Reeves, when asked what the town should be called, remarked: “You can name it Hell for all I care.” Whatever the true explanation, the town’s place in pop culture has been cemented, having featured, among other things, in the movie Santa’s Slay, the video game Twisted Metal III, and The Travel Channel’s Extreme Towns.

Hell, Norway

hell-norway (Image: Punkmorten, public domain)

This village in the Lånke area, less than two miles from the municipal center of Stjørdalshalsen, has a population of around 1,400 and its old peoples’ home enables elderly locals to officially retire to Hell. Otherwise little more than a collection of houses supported by a gas station and grocery store, Hell’s name has proved a draw for tourists looking to have their photos taken beneath a sign saying ‘Godsexpedition’ (or Gods – Expedition), which actually means ‘cargo handling’. Ironically, the name Hell in Norway derives from ‘hellir’, which means ‘overhang’ in Old Norse, while its better known homonym suggests ‘luck’ in the modern tongue.

Hell, Grand Cayman

hell-grand-cayman (Image: Burtonpe, cc-sa-3.0)

Those wishing to go to hell can even do so in the Caribbean, thanks to a group of small, black limestone rock formations in Grand Cayman. Located in the island’s West Bay, visitors may be relieved to know that they’re not actually allowed into (or on to) Hell, but can observe the rocks, which cover roughly half a football pitch, from purpose-built viewing platforms. And then, of course, comes the question of how the striking strata got its name? Well, there are several variations, but the prevailing wisdom suggests that, at one point or another, more pious visitors remarked that “this is what hell must look like.”

hell-grand-cayman-2 (Image: Maxws2, cc-3.0)

Either way, the name stuck, the rock formation became a tourist attraction and visitors can now send ‘postcards from hell’ from the hell-themed post office where a chap dressed as Satan will ask “How the hell are you?”, and things that effect.

Hell Cave, Slovenia

hell-cave-slovenia (Image: Sl-Ziga, public domain)

Clearly, Peak Cavern in the Derbyshire village of Castleton – known as the Devil’s Arse – isn’t the only cave with unholy connotations. The same goes for Hell Cave near the settlement of Zalog pri Šempetru in Slovenia. There are several ideas behind the name of the 3,802 foot cavern, which lies on two levels, but the most well known relates back to a time when geography and local folkore intertwined to associated the names ‘hell’ and ‘devil’ with caves, chasms and other dark places in the landscape. Similar connections with the diabolical abound in rural locations across the world. But Slovenia’s Hell Cave, with its narrow creek disappearing beyond the bleak, foreboding entrance, certainly evokes an eerie atmosphere.

Keep reading – 4 Towns & Villages that Never Existed (aka Phantom Settlements)

 
 


 
 
 

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