Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Welcome to Hell...Michigan!

Where is Hell?  Interesting question.  For years I thought it was at work.  Recently, I up and went to one of those places that I know I've mentioned in this blog, just to see what it was really all about.  I was fascinated.  Hell was not what I imagined, but I do agree that they have great ice cream.

Hell is a real town established in 1841 on Patterson Lake Road in south central Michigan.  It's not much of a town, but it is one of the more interesting places I've ever been to.  It's not incorporated any more, so it's part of Putnam Township in Livingston County and unofficially is home to about 200 people.  The whole place got started around a sawmill in town that is on Hell Creek.  How the name Hell came to everything is unclear, but the world seems to know all about Hell, Michigan now.

Hell Michigan has become a tourist attraction in the middle of nowhere in south central Michigan, but it has some festivals that are legendary.  For one thing, they run through Hell.  It's a running race that is held every year around the middle of summer, and thousands of people come for the festivities, and to say that they ran through Hell.  I mean, who wouldn't go for that?  They also have a festival in September that brings out all the ghoulies.  The Hearse Festival has been going on for 14 years now and is in part sponsored by Hell's Hearse Club.  They have a parade every year that landed them in the Guiness Book of World Records.  They hold the record for the world's longest hearse parade right there in Hell, Michigan.  That's one I've never heard of, but there it is.  They also race coffins and a lot of other stuff during that festival, and  I hear it's a lot of fun.  My parents loved it.

So, what's with Hell?  After the sawmill went away, and people moved to more populated areas, it kind of went downhill.  It became a little sore spot in the road that drew a lot of undesirables.  It's the sad part of the story.  It was really sad for those who had grown up there, lived there, or did business there.  What's the solution to a thing like that?

Well, in the case of Hell, the solution was John Cologne.  He owns most of Hell now.  He grew up there, left to fight in Vietnam and run a Chrysler Dealership, but returned when he retired.  He said that there were only so many plants that he could plant in his garden, so he got bored and bought most of the town.  He decided to drive out the undesirables and turn the place into an attraction and put Hell on the map.  He declared himself mayor, got some grant money, cleaned up the town, and put on his funny bone to turn Hell into a whole lot of fun.  The fun culminated on 6/6/2006 when the day of 6/6/6 presented a joke that could not be resisted.  A local reporter asked John what they were doing for the special day of the beast and he said that they weren't doing anything, but they would like to invite the whole world to go to Hell.  They did.  12,000 people descended on Hell that day, thinking that it was the perfect way to celebrate a day that they would only see once in their lifetime.  They came from Japan, Germany, and two people even hitch hiked in from Spokane, Washington.  They came from everywhere. There was no official press, it just passed from publication to publication all around the world.  It was quite a day in Hell.  They ran out of water, food, and places to put people, but word was out that Hell, Michigan is here to stay.

But, seriously there is nothing too serious in Hell.  You can mail stuff from there, you can play mini golf, you can go kayaking in the creek, you can eat and get ice cream (the ice cream is really good), you can shop at the Halloween store, and you can get some great photo ops.  You can go to the Dam Site Inn, or come for a festival.  It's a really cute place to go and get your grins on.  You can even be the mayor for the day if you like.

Of course, you can get married.  What?  That's right, Hell is home to the world's smallest wedding chapel.  It seats 8 guests plus the minister, bride and groom.  It may sound silly to go all the way to Hell just to get married, but 70 couples came there last year just to say that they got married in Hell.  They came from all over.  There are a lot of people with a great sense of humor.  John said that he thinks there will be even more this year.  They even recently added an attraction for those in love, and it's called Locks of Love.  John inherited an old bridge that used to run along the top of the old dam in town.  It's not used anymore since they got a nice new dam, so he turned it into Locks of Love.  Here you can bring a lock, put you and your love's names on it, lock it to the old bridge and your love will last forever.  You can lock your love in Hell.

So, it all starts at the gates of Hell, and ends in the gift shop.  It's not your normal town, but it sure makes an impression on you.  Because it's so out of the way, I was surprised to see how many people were there on a Wednesday.  It's quite an accomplishment for John Cologne and his whole town of people who supported the venture.  I've never seen anything like it, and I probably will never find anything quite like Hell.  So, what's the adventure for anyone?  I think it's just the town.  It's something unique and fun.

Would I go there again?  You bet I would.  I'm thinking that maybe my husband and I should renew our vows.  Hell seems like the perfect spot.


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