3 Hells on Earth

What do San Jose, Applebee's, Wyoming, Chuck E. Cheese, and the Apple Store have in common? They all appear on the first page of a Google search for "Hell on Earth is" "“ along with war, alcohol withdrawal and Long Island. Having lived in Wyoming for two years, I'll respectfully disagree with the Cowboy State being compared to Hell, despite the fact that it's home to Devils Tower National Monument. But if you'd like to take a trip to a Hell on Earth, forget Cheyenne and book a ticket to one of these three destinations instead.

1. Hell, Grand Cayman

Located just north of Seven Mile Beach, the main attraction in Grand Cayman's tiny Hell community is a jagged black rock formation called phytokarst "“ formed by the biological erosion of limestone and dolomite by algae "“ surrounded by tropical flora. According to legend, an Englishman visiting Grand Cayman in the 1930s attempted to shoot a bird over the rock formation, missed, and cried, "Oh, hell!" The name stuck.

Around the same time that the misfiring Englishman christened Hell, Ivan Farrington was born there. Farrington was raised in Hell, joined the Merchant Marine and traveled the world for 19 years, and then returned to his native Cayman. After working construction for a few years on the island, the enterprising Farrington opened a gift shop in the old Hell post office and named it Paradise. Business was slow "“ "it went straight to Hell" is how Farrington described it to me when I visited Hell last week "“ so he dropped the Paradise name in favor of Devil's Hangout. Farrington's shop and the new post office next door has been a hot spot for Cayman tourists ever since.

Today, Farrington is the face of Hell. He wears a devil costume and greets visitors in his shop with an endless arsenal of devilish phrases. "How the hell are you?" "Hell of a nice day, isn't it?" When I asked if I could take a photo of Farrington, he replied, "What the hell are you waiting for?" All sorts of Hell-themed souvenirs fill the room and the walls are adorned with photos of former visitors, including Kenny Rogers "“ the musician, not the baseball player "“ and a former Miss Universe. Farrington has been featured on Inside Edition and an episode of Blind Date, and the septuagenarian is happily married to a woman from West Virginia. The couple met in the Devil's Hangout, though Farrington ditched the devil garb for the wedding ceremony.

2. Hell, Michigan

Need directions to Hell? University of Michigan football fans could probably provide them, and not only because they just suffered through the worst season in school history. Hell, Mich., is located about 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, in Putnam Township. There are a couple of stories as to how the town got its name, but the most widely accepted version goes like this: Before his death in 1877, George Reeves, an early settler of the area who operated a flour mill and a whiskey distillery, was asked what he thought the town should be called. He responded, "Name it Hell for all I care." Done and done.

Through the years, Hell has attracted thousands of tourists with events and businesses that play off of the town's sinful name. On June 6, 2006 (6-6-06), about 100,000 people flocked to the community of less than 300 for a party that was promoted by the owner of the Screams Ice Cream and Halloween Store in town. The celebration drew the ire of Hell residents, some of whom complained to the police. Rick Beaudin, a local real estate agent, put it best: "If you live next to the University of Michigan stadium, you have to know you're going to have crowds on football weekends," he told a wire news service. "If you live in or near a town named Hell, you have to expect that things are going to happen once in awhile." Annual events in Hell include a road race (Run Thru Hell), a motorcycle rally (Blessing of the Bikes), and a classic car gathering (Helluva Cruise).

3. Hell, Norway

It's actually quite common for Hell to freeze over in this small village in central Norway, about 200 miles north of Oslo. Temperatures in the Stjordal municipality occasionally dip below zero during the winter. The name Hell comes from the old Norwegian word hellir, which means a cave hidden by an overhanging cliff. In modern Norwegian, hellir means good luck. A post office is one of this Hell's main attractions, with tourists stopping in to mail postcards and letters bearing the unusual four-letter postmark. The sign on a wooden building next to the Hell railroad station, where passengers have been known to purchase tickets to Hell and back, presents another photo opportunity. "Hell "“ Gods Expedition," the sign reads, which translates to freight office.

If you think nothing good has ever come out of Hell, think again. Nineteen-year-old Mona Grudt entered the 1990 Miss Universe pageant and referred to herself as the "beauty queen from Hell." Grudt, who was born in Hell, became the first Norwegian to win the competition by edging out first runner-up Carole Gist, the first African-American woman to win the Miss USA title. While it would've been one hell of a story, Grudt was not the Miss Universe winner who visited Ivan Farrington and the Devil's Hangout in Cayman.

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10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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22 Creepy Cryptids From Around the World

Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.
Belgian painter Pieter Dirkx's interpretation of the Mongolian death worm.

According to Merriam-Webster, a cryptid is an animal "that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist." But as Bigfoot believers and Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts are often quick to point out, it’s pretty difficult to prove that something doesn’t exist. Plus, it’s much more fun to indulge in the idea that giant sea monsters and hairy humanoids are roaming the uncharted corners of the planet.

On this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is taking viewers across time and space to unearth legends about lesser-known monsters that, again, haven’t been proven to not exist. Take the Mongolian death worm, a lamprey-like nightmare that supposedly lives in the Gobi Desert and radiates a poison so strong that you could die just by standing near it. If you’re an ill-behaved child or a Catholic who scarfs down steak every Friday during Lent, watch out for the Rougarou, a Louisiana-based werewolf that sniffs out those two demographics.

Learn about more fearsome, fascinating cryptids of all kinds in the video below, and subscribe to the Mental Floss YouTube channel for future episodes of The List Show.