6 Perfectly Nice Places with Terrifying Names

Welcome to Transylvania, Louisiana.
Welcome to Transylvania, Louisiana. / Photo: david__jones via Flickr // CC BY 2.0; Background: Sergi Martin/iStock via Getty Images

Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge the people of a particular community by the place name. After all, when you live in a place called Hell, you have to have a sense of humor. And many of them would love for you to visit.

1. Hell, Michigan

Hell, Michigan, grew up around a grist mill on what is now named Hell Creek. The name Hell has a couple of legends associated with its origin. One attributes it to a resident overhearing a German conversation by travelers who said, "so schön hell!" which means "so beautifully bright!" Another quotes grist mill owner George Reeves as saying, about naming the town, "I don't care, you can name it Hell for all I care."

Hell is a tourist draw for its name, and takes advantage of it. The town allows visitors to pay to become Mayor of Hell for a day, and you can purchase 1 square inch of the town for just $9.99.

2. Shades Of Death Road // Warren County, New Jersey

Shades of Death is the name of a 7-mile road in Warren County, New Jersey. There are several theories as to why the road was named so. Nearby Ghost Lake was named for its ethereal fog, but there are also tales of murder and hauntings along the road and locations the road leads to. The highway department is constantly replacing signs that are stolen by souvenir-seekers.

3. Frankenstein, Missouri

Frankenstein is a tiny town of about 30 people just east of Jefferson City, Missouri. It was not named for Mary Shelley’s book nor the movie Frankenstein, but for an early citizen named Gottfried Franken, who donated land to erect a church in 1890. Frankenstein is a small but close-knit community that has its own Facebook page. It made national news in 1999 when Twentieth Century Fox staged an airdrop of 25 skydiving “Frankensteins” delivering VHS copies of the 25th anniversary edition of the movie Young Frankenstein.

4. Hell For Certain, Kentucky

Hell for Certain in Leslie County, Kentucky, is officially named Dryhill for those who are offended at the community’s common name, which was drawn from nearby Hell for Certain Creek. The popular story of how the name came about tells of two men who rode their horses down the mountain. One said, "This looks like hell. The other said, "Yeah, for certain."

The U.S. Postal Service will not use the name (sometimes spelled Hell-Fer-Sartin).

5. Satan’s Kingdom // New Hartford, Connecticut

Satan's Kingdom State Recreation Area is near the town of New Hartford, Connecticut. Just east of town is an area called Satan’s Kingdom, named for the rough and marginalized characters who lived there in the past. The signs designating the recreational area are often stolen because of the name.

6. Transylvania, Louisiana

Transylvania, Louisiana got its name from Dr. W. L. Richards, an early plantation owner in the area. He named the town after Transylvania University, the college he attended in Lexington, Kentucky. But not even an honest history of the name could stop legends of hauntings from popping up around the community. The town has a sense of humor about its name, even painting a bat on their water tower. And being near the Louisiana swamplands, bats are heroes, as they eat mosquitos. Many Transylvania gift shops sell Dracula figurines and merchandise as souvenirs.

A version of this story ran in 2014; it has been updated for 2022.