Hell is a small unincorporated community of 266 people (as of 2000) in Livingston County, in Southeast Michigan, best known for... well, its name. Despite its small size — the "main drag" of Hell is all of three buildings — the community has become a popular tourist destination for its irreverent name alone. The local businesses are given amusingly devilish titles, painted with licking flames, and stocked with gruesome and kitschy souvenirs of the sort you usually only see around Halloween. Every so often you'll hear of a nationwide promotional contest in which the prize is "a trip to Hell".
The area was first settled by Europeans in 1838 by George Reeves, who owned a mill and general store. No-one is quite sure how the community got its name; one theory is that a pair of German travellers, upon disembarking in the hilly area, amused the locals by proclaiming it to be "So schön und hell", meaning so bright and beautiful. Another is that the swampy area was a good breeding ground for mosquitoes, and the traders canoeing through the area had a few choice words for their attackers. The third, and most widely believed, is that when the local officials asked what his settlement should be called, Reeves (possibly having overheard those German visitors) replied, "I don't care, you can name it Hell if you want to." Evidently, the name stuck.
One popular photograph depicts a wintertime town sign draped in icicles ("when Hell freezes over", which is also "a cold day in Hell"), and of course the community was kept massively busy on June 6, 2006, when most items were sold for $6.66. Hell was also the inspiration for a comic book entitled Hell, Michigan — created by Tilman Goins from Morristown, Tennessee — which chronicles the fictional residents' attempts to fight the demonic evil of their town. As an added attraction, visitors to Hell can buy a pass to become mayor for a day at a rate of around $100-110, at this website[dead link]. Elijah Daniel, a popular comedian, rapper, and author, purchased this pass for August 30, 2017. He posted on Twitter about it and gained over 34,000 "likes". This spread lots of awareness about the town, with people from all over wanting to experience this extraordinary little town.
Aside from its fire-and-brimstone appeal, Hell is situated in the middle of the lovely Pinckney State Recreation Area. A short drive away from the village will bring you to lakes, rivers and forests for hiking, horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
Hell is on a two-lane county road D-32 (Patterson Lake Road), about 5 minutes southwest of Pinckney; despite the saying, the road is paved with asphalt. The nearest major road is US-23 between Flint and Ann Arbor; from US-23, take MI-36 west to Pinckney, make a left on Dexter-Pinckney Rd., and then a right on Patterson Lake Road.
Given that downtown Hell is so small, you won't need anything more than your own two legs to get around. There's ample free parking by the general store and the ice cream parlor.
- The non-denominational wedding chapel, enabling couples to tie the knot in Hell, for $66. Clergy not included; BYO or arrangements can be made with a local pastor. (Apparently, April Fool's Day is a popular time of year, and one couple opted for a cold day in Hell to finally make their vows.)
- 1 Pinckney State Recreation Area, 8555 Silver Hill Road, ☏ +1 734-426-4913. Hunting, swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, metal detecting, wildlife watching and camping. Contains dozens of lakes, Silver Lake and Bruin Lake being two of the largest.
- Hell Canoe and Kayak Rental, 4045 Patterson Lake Road, ☏ +1 734-878-2233. May-Oct. Canoe, kayak and fishing boat rental for visitors to the surrounding Pinckney Recreation Area. Tours available.
- Motorcycle runs and car cruises are popular in Hell during the warm months; late September features the Last Rides Reunion, in which over 40 hearses drive through town.
- Vista Cruise to Hell and Back. Held every Father's Day weekend by the GM Skywagon Club. Hell Creek Ranch, 10866 Cedar Lake Rd.
- Run Thru Hell, ☏ +1 734-878-3632. Hell Creek Ranch. Held in mid-August. 5- and 10-mile races sponsored by the Pinckney Running Club; participants receive a free T-shirt that says "I Ran Thru Hell".
- Terrorfied Forest & Manor, 7365 Pinckney Road (on D-19 three miles north of Pinckney), ☏ +1 734-878-0018, +1 734-878-3737. Open seasonally (October) from dark (around 8 pm) to midnight Friday and Saturday, and dark to 11 pm otherwise, when open. Recommended only for those over 12 years of age. Admission $15 (forest), $7 (manor), $20 (combo).
- Hell Country Store & Spirits, 4025 Patterson Lake Road, ☏ +1 734-878-3129. A convenience store with groceries, sundry supplies, and the local post office, if you want to send your friends and relatives a postcard from Hell. They do a lot of business forwarding tax returns on April 15th (really!).
- Screams Ice Cream Parlor, 4045 Patterson Lake, ☏ +1 734-878-1099. T-shirts, souvenirs (of the mundane and frightening varieties), Department 56, motorcycle paraphernalia, and copies of the Hell, Michigan comic books. You can also purchase both bats (to take out of Hell) and confectionery snowballs (which don't stand a chance). The ice-cream parlor offers cones, shakes, malts, floats and sundaes, with a coffin buffet laden with oddly-named ice-cream toppings including ghost poop (actually marshmallows), toenail clippings (shredded coconut), bat droppings (chocolate chips) and dark ooze (hot fudge). The children's play area outside Screams Ice Cream Parlor features the Gates of Hell, and painted plywood cutouts for you to stick your head through and get your photo taken.
- Hell Hole Restaurant & Bar, 4025 Patterson Lake Rd, ☏ +1 734 648-0456.
- [dead link] Dam Site Inn, 4095 Patterson Lake Road, ☏ +1 734-878-9300. Located by the dam on Hell Creek, of course. Country tavern featuring pub food, weekend entertainment and a pool table in the back. Soups, salads, appetizers, burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, subs, and pizzas; dinner also features steak, pork, chicken, seafood, and frog's legs. Bar specialties include beer-in-a-can (a holdover from the rowdy earlier days of bar brawls) and cocktails including the Bloody Devil. Lunch $3-8, dinner $8-16.
- [dead link] Hell Creek Ranch and Campground, 10866 Cedar Lake Road, ☏ +1 734-878-3632. 100 primitive and electrical sites. Horseback riding, fishing, kayaking and canoeing available. Horseback riding is $22 (1 hour) or $40 (2 hours); canoe rental is $30 (3-4 hours). Nightly camping rate is $7 (rustic) or $16 (RV).
- Bruin Lake Modern Campground, 21237 Kaiser Rd, Gregory MI. In Pinckney Recreation Area
- Paradise is only about 5.5 hours north on I-75, in the Upper Peninsula. Hell is usually hotter.