Located a ways north of Detroit, Hell, Michigan is a city well-known, if only through its bumper stickers, gleefully proclaiming to all that each tagged car has "Been to Hell and back". Ain't they original?

Actually, Hell has made quite the industry and way of life out of what started as --duh-- a lost bet, resulting in the town's unusual name. Go check out their website (with a name like "Hell" you have to have a website) at http://www.hell2u.com. They sell every stupid amusing thing you could possibly imagine that incorporates a Hell pun. And I, I respect that.
Population 266
83o 59' W, 42o 26' N -- southwest Michigan, near the border between Livingston County and Washtenaw County

For several hundred years, the low, swampy area was occupied mostly by the Potawatomi tribe. Later, in the early 19th century, it was the most unpleasant part of a trail between Lansing and Dexter (which at the time contained a major farmers market) and a point on the route taken by traders portaging between the Huron River and the Grand River.

In the late 1830s, George Reeves, a New York farmer, started several businesses in the area -- a general store, and a mill, and a distillery -- which became the core of a minor population center; by the 1840s, enough people had immigrated to make a 70-person school viable (assuming 19th century birth rates, this pegs the population somewhere close to its current level).

In 1841, as the story goes, Reeves was asked what he wanted the town to be called and responded, "I don't care, you can name it Hell if you want to." His later attempts to rechristen it Reevesville or Reeve's Mills proved futile.

Hell's main export is, appropriately, kitsch. Among other things, it has a "fully non-accredited" college, Damnation University -- DamU to alumni -- that sells half-singed diplomas, and a small post office in the back of the general store popular with irate taxpayers and recent divorcees. Also a motorcycle dealership and an ice cream parlor, which bear mentioning by virtue of being the only other businesses in town.

For the numerologists out there, the zip code is 48169.

Directions (mostly verbatim from http://www.hellu.com)

From the east, take M-36 west (accessible from US-23) twelve miles to the village of Pinckney. Turn left (south) on Howell Street. Continue to the first stop sign, turn right (Patterson Lake Road). Head west three miles.

From the north, take D-19 south (accessible from I-96) to Pinckney. Turn right at M-36, turn left at Howell Street, and continue as directed above.

From Ann Arbor (which is to say, from the south; Ann Arbor is the closest major city), take I-94 west to the Baker Road exit, and turn right. Follow Baker Road into Dexter. Turn left at the stop light, go past the stone bridge, and turn right on Dexter Pinckney Road (there's a stop light there, too). Continue past Portage Lake and turn left on Darwin Road. Head west four miles.

From the west, take Doyle Road east from 106. Follow Doyle Road (D-32), and it becomes Patterson Lake Road. Hell is two and one-half miles farther.

(I've been there, incidentally, on a road trip with my dad. I was about five at the time and remember nothing of the town itself, but I bragged about going there for several days afterward.)

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