14 of the Most Depressing Place Names in North America

A view of Point No Point
A view of Point No Point
I Bird 2, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped)

Usually, town founders opt to name a place after something pleasant—two of the most common place names in America are Springfield and Fairview, and sites named for the founding fathers are also pretty common. However, some settlers and explorers called it like they saw it, naming places either for their gloomy topography or the disturbing events that took place there. Below are some of the place names most likely to get a shoutout in a Morrissey song.

1. Point No Point, Washington 

Named in the 1840s by Commander Charles Wilkes, who led the famed U.S. Exploring Expedition (a.k.a. the U.S. Ex. Ex.), the first major voyage of exploration sponsored by the U.S. government. Wilkes either named the place after a Point No Point on the Hudson River, or because it looked like a much less impressive point up close than it did out at sea. The local Native Americans called the area Hahd-skus, or long nose. 

2. Dismal, North Carolina 

The story behind this toponym is unclear, but it may have something to do with the Great Dismal Swamp a few hours to the northeast. More than just William Gibson’s Twitter handle, the Great Dismal is an extensive marshland named by Colonel William Byrd of Virginia, who surveyed the region in 1728. Byrd called the swamp a “vast body of mire and nastiness … very unwholesome for the Bordering inhabitants.” Settlers avoided the area (rumor had it the swamp’s mists carried diseases, and predators such as panthers lurked in its depths), but colonies of escaped slaves, possibly as many as 50,000, made their homes in the swamp in the years before the Civil War. 

3. Boring, Maryland 

romana klee, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

An incorporated community of only about 40 houses in Baltimore County, Boring is best known for its name (frankly, there’s not much else going on). The town can thank 19th-century postmaster David Boring for its moniker; before that, it was named Fairview, which in itself is pretty boring.

By contrast, Boring, Oregon, has a little bit more happening within its borders. The town boasts approximately 8000 residents and has an annual celebration with its sister city, Dull, Scotland.

4. Misery Bay, Michigan 

Fed by the Misery River, the reasons behind both the river’s and bay’s names are unclear, although one version says that the settlers there were miserable because they had trouble receiving supplies. Another origin story says the place is named for the Misery Indians, a branch of the Chippewa or Ojibway tribe. Incidentally, Nine Men's Misery is a site in Rhode Island where a group of soldiers are said to have been tortured and killed by Native Americans during King Philip’s War in 1676. Cheery!

5. Tombstone, Arizona 

In the 1870s, soldiers told prospector Edward Schieffelin that the only thing he would find in this part of southeast Arizona was his own tombstone (plus some Indians). They were wrong—Schieffelin discovered rich veins of silver in the area, which became one of the frontier's wealthiest and most lawless. (It was the later the site of the gunfight at the OK Corral.) Schieffelin named his first mining claim "The Tombstone."

6. Cape Disappointment, Washington 

cmh2315fl, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

At the extreme southwest corner of Washington state, this cape may have been named after John Meares, an English fur trader who was, well, disappointed after he narrowly missed the entrance to the Columbia River. Poor guy. 

7. Skull Island, Washington 

There are several Skull Islands in the country, but only the one in Washington is located inside Massacre Bay. The place was named for the skulls and bones left after the 1858 massacre of local Native Americans by the Haidah tribe out of northwest British Columbia. 

8. Little Hope, Texas 

There’s a Little Hope in Texas and in Wisconsin, and the reasons behind both place names are obscure. The Texas town may have been named for an early local church called Little Hope, whose own name expresses the opinion settlers held about its survival. 

9. Dead Horse Bay, New York 

Named in the mid-19th century for the dozens of horse-rendering plants that surrounded the beach, where the carcasses of New York City carriage horses and other animals were manufactured into glue. Today chopped-up chunks of weathered horse bones still wash up on the beach, which is also covered in shards of glass bottles and china, cosmetics containers, and children’s toys, all dating back to when the area also served as a garbage dump.

10. Shades of Death Road, New Jersey

No one knows how this road in Warren County got its name, although accounts seem to agree it was once called "The Shades" until things around there got gruesome. The "Death" portion may have been tacked on as a tribute to a band of murderous outlaws who hid in the area, or after a malaria outbreak caused by local mosquitoes (although the first option is way more dramatic). 

11. Leg-in-Boot Square, Vancouver, British Columbia 

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. This place was named for an actual severed leg in a boot that washed up in Vancouver’s False Creek in 1887. The police stuck the leg on a pole in front of their headquarters, hoping someone would claim it, but surprise: no one ever did. 

12. Murder Island, Nova Scotia 

Legend has it that French explorers discovered this island strewn with human bones, the remnants of a massacre of two Native American tribes who fought each other while looking for purported buried treasure. Another story has it that the island received its name in 1735 after the brig Baltimore was discovered spattered in blood and deserted except for a single woman, who babbled confusing stories of a convict revolt or other uprising, none of which were ever substantiated. 

13. Funeral Range 

It's not clear why Funeral Range, in the Nahanni National Park Reserve, in the Northwest Territories, Canada, got its name, but it’s far from the only sinister-sounding tag in the region—there's also Hell's Gate, Deadman Valley, Broken Skull River and Headless Creek (named after several prospectors who were found, with their heads nearby, in 1908). These bizarre names abound possibly because of a preponderance of Native American legends about strange happenings in the area. 

14. Death Valley 

This place received its ominous designation from a group of pioneers lost there in the winter of 1849-1850. (Only one of the “Lost ’49ers” actually died there, but they all assumed they would.) According to the National Park Service, the naming happened like this: "As the party climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains, one of the men turned, looked back, and said 'goodbye, Death Valley.'" 

The name inspired other local labels: the valley also contains the Funeral Mountains (its highest point is Skeleton Peak), Coffin Canyon, and Devil's Golf Course, so named because “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.” Not ones to be left behind, Nevada's nearby Specter Range, Skeleton Hills, and Skull Mountain are also thought to have been named to complement the Death Valley tags.

Game On: Atari Is Opening Themed Hotels in Eight U.S. Cities

Atari
Atari

Before Nintendo and Sega conquered the home video game market, Atari was king. The company, which was started by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1972, brought the arcade experience to living rooms with systems like the Atari 2600 and games like Breakout and Centipede. A video game market crash in 1983 led to the company being splintered off, sold and resold over the years.

All of this has led to the unlikeliest of places—a new Atari-themed hotel.

According to The Verge, the company has licensed its name to real estate developer True North Studio and GSD Group to construct eight hotels in Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; San Francisco, California; San Jose, California; and Seattle, Washington.

What would an Atari hotel feature? Probably not Pong in every room. The plan is to offer virtual reality and augmented reality playing hubs as well as space in select hotels for e-sports gaming competitions. Guest rooms will have themes based on specific games. Typical hotel amenities like a restaurant, bar, and gym are expected, as well as movie theaters.

In exchange for licensing their brand, Atari will receive 5 percent of revenue. The Verge reports the company also received a $600,000 advance for the deal.

Whether the name and familiar logo will resonate with travelers in the 21st century remains to be seen, but we’ll find out soon enough. Construction on the Phoenix location is scheduled to begin in the middle of the year.

[h/t The Verge]

10 Fascinating Facts About Chinese New Year

iStock.com/aluxum
iStock.com/aluxum

Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning January 25 in 2020, China will welcome the Year of the Rat, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. Chinese New Year was originally meant to scare off a monster.

Nian at Chinese New Year
iStock.com/jjMiller11

As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A lot of families use Chinese New Year as motivation to clean the house.

woman ready to clean a home
iStock.com/PRImageFactory

While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. Chinese New Year will prompt billions of trips.

Man waiting for a train.
iStock.com/MongkolChuewong

Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. Chinese New Year involves a lot of superstitions.

Colorful pills and medications
iStock.com/FotografiaBasica

While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. Some people rent boyfriends or girlfriends for Chinese New Year to soothe their parents.

Young Asian couple smiling
iStock.com/RichVintage

In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. Red envelopes are everywhere during Chinese New Year.

a person accepting a red envelope
iStock.com/Creative-Family

An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. Chinese New Year can create record levels of smog.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
iStock.com/lusea

Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. Black clothes are a bad omen during Chinese New Year.

toddler dressed up for Chinese New Year
iStock.com/lusea

So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. Chinese New Year leads to planes being stuffed full of cherries.

Bowl of cherries
iStock.com/CatLane

Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand. In 2017, Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. Panda Express is hoping Chinese New Year will catch on in America.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
domandtrey, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

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