The ice cream store in Hell is owned by John Colone, and is hosting a big party today because today’s date, June 6, 2006, can be written as “6-6-6.” The store is selling ice cream cones all day Tuesday for 66 cents, and
[S]ome of his neighbors will offer similar specials. Hell Creek Ranch, 10866 Cedar Lake Road in Putnam Township, for example, will offer $6.66 grounds, kayaking and canoeing rates. Colone’s business neighbor, Hell Country Store & Spirits, will offer $6.66 large pizzas, and the nearby Dam Site Inn will offer meals for $6.66.
Theory One goes like this: A pair of German travelers slid out of a curtained stagecoach one sunny summer afternoon, and one said to the other, “So schoene hell.” ‘Hell,’ in the German language, means bright and beautiful. Those who overheard the visitors’ comments had a bit of a laugh and shared the story with the other locals.
Sometime later, George Reeves, who, more than anyone else, was responsible for the origin of Hell, was asked just what he thought the town should be named. George reportedly replied, “I don’t care, you can name it Hell if you want to.” As the story goes, the name stuck and stuck fast. After some attempts to soften the effect of the name by suggesting they change it to Reevesville or Reeve’s Mills, he gave up on the whole thing and simply lived with it.
Theory Two [sic -- three, by my count --DR]. The area in which Hell exists is pretty low and swampy. And because it was a part of the Dexter Trail, which traced along the higher ground between Lansing and Dexter, Michigan, a formerly busy farm market and early railhead, traveling through the Hell area would have been wetter, darker, more convoluted, and certainly denser with mosquitoes than other legs of the journey. Further, river traders of old would have had to portage between the Huron and the Grand River systems somewhere around the present location of Hell. You can picture them pulling their canoes, heavy with provisions and beaver pelts, through the underbrush, muttering and swatting bugs as they fought to get to the banks of the next river.
For the record: The name is unofficial. The “town” is unincorporated, and from the point of view of the it’s part of the town of Pickney, MI 48169. (Here’s a Google Map of the ice cream store.) A history of Hell is at the Hell website, hell2u.com. Of course, since they are trying to attract tourists, it would be more appropriately named u2hell.com. Oh, well. (Or should that be, “Oh, Hell”?)
Apparently, tourists go there so they can say they’ve been to Hell and back — and of course, buy T-shirts and similar items attesting to that fact. Personally, I hope that if I ever happen to be there, it’s in the winter — so I can say, given the whether in Michigan, that I’ve experienced a cold day in Hell.
Seriously, though: In these times of conflict, it is worth noting that despite the role “Hell” plays in Christian theology, Christians seem to be taking this all in good humor. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if there residents of a small, unincorporated town in Saudi Arabia called their town by the name of a similar concept in Islam, and started selling souveniers to tourists mocking the name?
(Hint: Remember the cartoons. And of course, Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses.)