To all the people who have told me to go to Hell, well, I’ve done just that.
I went to Hell. Counter to eternal torture and misery, I got out of there in just a few hours and had a hell of a time.
That would be Hell, Michigan, a tiny, unincorporated town of 72 “Hellions” and “Hellbillies” in Livingston County about 60 miles west of Detroit and three hours northwest of Cleveland. Visitors arrive by Darwin Road (seriously) to reach town. The stop was an item on my bucket list to be enjoyed before, not after, death.
The most fun part of taking a trip to Hell is the endless puns.
“Welcome to Hell!” a friendly cashier greets chuckling people as they enter Screams Ice Cream & Helloween.
Hell’s headquarters, Screams Ice Cream & Helloween, is considered Midtown Hell, where visitors can shop for souvenirs like funny T-shirts — “Going to Hell,” “Back666,” the fire department — along with quirky, cute items, like the squeezy-foam Bat out of Hell.
Filled with Halloween decorations, it’s Halloween every day year-round inside. Visitors can also find frozen treats at The Creamatory at Screams and get tickets to play putt-putt golf behind the store in the Hell-themed course, with hellish accents like flame signs.
“It’s so much fun just to see the people’s faces and laughing,” says John Colone, a town leader and owner of Screams, two out of Hell’s three businesses.
Colone’s current project is building a new tiny village called “Heck,” which will be three itty-bitty wooden buildings of about 10-by-10 feet behind the headquarters in Hell. (Well, sure. Why the heck not?)
Artisans will sell their crafts and farmers will sell their crops at these buildings, one of which probably will be open by this Halloween, Colone says.
Hell Saloon is considered Uptown Hell. The Downtown offers the laid back Hell Hole Bar and Diner, where I had a delicious Hell Hole Salad with greens, dried cranberries, orange slices and candied pecans.
These three buildings are about all there is to Hell, which encompasses roughly five acres, but the visit is entertaining and gives good fodder for social media posts, photos and storytelling.
Outside Screams, people can stick their heads into hellish cutouts and pose by the funny signs on the walls, like one that says “Get Ice Here Before Hell Freezes Over.”
Behind Screams is a tiny little chapel called Hell’s Chapel of Love. That’s right: Lovebirds can have the wedding from Hell.
Last year, 172 curious couples got hitched at the destination. (Editor's Note: Though we can not give legal advice, a prenup is strongly recommended for couples who choose to get married in Hell.)
For another funny memory to make, visitors can pay a fee to be mayor of Hell for a day or even just an hour. Hell fans also can buy their very own square inch of Hell and join the Hell Landowner’s Society.
Oh, and people who want to further their education without the student loans and all-night study sessions can purchase a degree from Damnation University at Screams, and get “Dam U” merchandise.
Everyone is in on the joke here. From referring inquiries to the fictional town secretary, Helen Waite (go to Hell and wait), to mailing postcards to friends and family from Screams, which serves as the town post office, for a Hell postmark. It makes residents, workers and visitors smile. If this is what Hell and damnation are really like, they are highly underrated.
Many spend a day in Hell as part of a larger regional visit, with plenty of hotels in nearby Ann Arbor and Chelsea. Colone says 14 area residents within a few miles of Hell headquarters advertise houses on Airbnb as places to spend the night in Hell. But these are just regular vacation houses and nothing haunted.
As for my visit, I drove to my hotel in Detroit like a bat out of… well, you know.
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