“How the hell are you?” asks Ivan Farrington. “Fine,” we respond. “How are you?” With a toss of his red cape, he replies, “I’m having one hell of a day!”
Farrington ought to know. Red horns sprout from his head. He carries a black and red pitchfork. A sign outside his Post Office–Gift Shop reads: “Welcome to Hell — The Devil’s Hangout Gift Shop.”
There’s a painting of a devil on a sheet of plywood, in front of the red building, with a circular hole where his face should be. It’s a popular photo stop. Hell is undoubtedly hokey. But tourists love it.
Located on Grand Cayman, about 770 kilometres south of Miami and 290 kilometres northwest of Jamaica, Hell is home to only 60 people, a few lizards and some scattered hibiscus flowers (red, of course). Its name comes from a surreal field of jagged black limestone and dolomite rocks which visitors can view behind the Post Office. Over 24 million years, salt and lime deposits have solidified shells, coral and skeletons of sea life into this pitted, black rockscape.
Local legend claims that in the early 1930s, Commissioner Cardinall, an official from England, visited the West Bay region of Grand Cayman. He tried to shoot a bird that was resting on the pointed black rocks, but missed. “Oh Hell!” he exclaimed. The name stuck.
“It must be hot in that outfit,” we say to Farrington. “Hotter than hell!” he replies. He’s a man possessed. “I was born on July 17, 1934,” he says, showing us his birth certificate. He taps the numbers ’17, 7, and 34′ into his calculator, turns it upside-down and shows it to us. “HELL!” it reads.
We’re surrounded by satanic souvenirs: mugs, beach towels, hats and T-shirts proclaiming: “I’ve been to Hell and back!” “I survived Hell!” and “Hell Rock Café.” You can even buy a bottle of Hell Sauce, a tear-jerking blend of scotch bonnet peppers, tomatoes, vinegar and water that’s hot enough to melt the polar icecaps.
Most people come in just to mail a postcard with the Hell postmark. Farrington began selling stamps in Hell in 1962, then, in 1985, he built the gift shop. Since then, the Devil’s Hangout has received its fair share of publicity, from stories in USA Today to clips on the Inside Edition.
Besides the Post Office, Hell is home to a gas station, a restaurant and a bar called Club Inferno, where you can buy a cold beer.
But Hell is not all evil. You can go to church in town. And if you turn the radio on to 97.9 FM, you’ll find salvation close at hand on a contemporary Christian music radio station called Heaven.
When pressed, even Farrington admits he’s not a very good devil: “I’m allergic to smoke and I can’t stand the heat!”
Hell is only a pitchfork’s throw from George Town, the capital of Grand Cayman. From George Town, follow the West Bay Road to Water Course road to Hell Road (about a 20-minute drive). The road to hell is signposted with good directions.