A Little Town On It’s Way Up
“Eternity in Hell” is a sentence of suffering for most. But not for John Colone. Eternity is just about the length of time it would reasonably take to put in place the thousands of ideas that spew from the mind of this former top Chrysler dealer who has made a commitment to transform Hell – Michigan, that is – into a year round Halloween destination.
“We’ll be celebrating, and selling, Halloween 363 days a year,” says John Colone, the energetic owner of two of the three businesses in the tiny town. “Christmas and Easter, we’ll be closed. We don’t want to compete with Santa Claus or that crazy rabbit.”
Colone’s vision of Halloween in Hell is inclusive, family-friendly and decidedly original. Here you won’t find the gore that has become increasingly realistic in the Halloween trade. Despite the name, Hell is no haven for those who take their devils – or anything else for that matter – seriously. Instead, you’ll visit “Screams,” (The Scariest Ice Cream Parlor on Earth), for a build-your-own premium ice cream sundae, ladling toppings from a previously-owned European toe-pincher coffin (newly-lined in stainless steel, of course). And here in Hell, they don’t miss a trick: instead of calling the marshmallow sauce, well, Marshmallow Sauce, you’ll find it filed under Scary Ghost Poop. Chocolate chips are Hog Warts. The big portions of ice cream are Frankenscoops, and when you drink a frozen fruity drink, you’ll be getting a BrainFreeze.
“Screams” will also host a truly esoteric collection of Halloween decorations for inside and outside the home, candles and candle holders, and an entire wall of masks, ranging in price from under $10 to over $150.
Colone recognizes that he’s not really in the ice cream business. Nor is he in the Halloween business, per se. He’s in the entertainment business; his plans for Screams include an element that most customers at an ice cream shop, even one with a Halloween theme, will find extraordinary: a haunted chamber of commerce office. With a couple of high-end pneumatic effects from The Scare Factory in Columbus, Ohio, Colone intends on dishing up a few surprises for his guests.
“Every thirty minutes, the lights in the office area will flicker and go dim. We’ll pump in a little smoke, rev up some spooky audio, and trigger the first effect: a banging set of shutters that eventually fly open to allow a gruesome ghoul to fly out toward the visitors.” Colone starts to get warmed up when describing the action. It’s easy to see his enthusiasm for the project. “And just after the first scare, when they’re laughing and catching their breath, we’ll pop the top on our Deskolator – a normal-looking desk until the blotter swings up and out pops a masked head. It’s great,” says the head Hellion.
Colone owns another business in town: Hell Country Store and Spirits. The store serves the just shy of 300 (living, mortal) residents, who, like anyone else, need their daily groceries and newspapers. Inside the store, Hell’s Kitchen serves up outstanding pizzas, sandwiches, hot dinners, salads, and desserts, and is increasingly busy with catering. Another corner of the Hell Country Store and Spirits is occupied by the U. S. Post Office. A favorite for tourists, its specialty rubber stamp impressions adorn visitors’ envelopes all year, and in April, hundreds of taxpayers send their “Taxes from Hell.”
Folks who go to “Hell and Back” want souvenirs, and they’ll find them in the Country Store: bumper stickers, T-shirts, bandanas, mugs, shot glasses, ashtrays, key tags, watches, small wooden bats (‘Bat Out of Hell,’ of course), and much more.
Not surprisingly, Hell is on the internet, too. The main site for the town, with products, Hell history, and a Hellish take on the news of the day, is at www.hell2u.com. And Hell’s fully non-accredited institute of higher learning, Damnation University, can be found at www.damu.com. There, you can buy diploma packages, with Dam U apparel, which commemorate the foibles and follies of everyday life.
To say there’s a lot of angles to Halloween in Hell is, well, a helluva understatement. It would take a small army to develop the place to match the vision of Colone, but even without the army, Hell’s new owner is steadfast. “We’re in Hell for the duration,” vows Colone. “One eternity or two, I’ll be here.”