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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.

hell-cayman.jpgToday, 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.

screams-hell.jpgThrough 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

hell-norway.jpgIt'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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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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iStock

You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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Pop Culture
The Strange Hidden Link Between Silent Hill and Kindergarten Cop
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Universal Pictures

by Ryan Lambie

At first glance, Kindergarten Cop and Silent Hill don't seem to have much in common—aside from both being products of the 1990s. At the beginning of the decade came Kindergarten Cop, the hit comedy directed by Ivan Reitman and starring larger-than-life action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the decade’s end came Silent Hill, Konami’s best-selling survival horror game that sent shivers down PlayStation owners’ spines.

As pop culture artifacts go, they’re as different as oil and water. Yet eagle-eyed players may have noticed a strange hidden link between the video game and the goofy family comedy.

In Silent Hill, you control Harry Mason, a father hunting for his daughter Cheryl in the eerily deserted town of the title. Needless to say, the things Mason uncovers are strange and very, very gruesome. Early on in the game, Harry stumbles on a school—Midwich Elementary School, to be precise—which might spark a hint of déjà vu as soon as you approach its stone steps. The building’s double doors and distinctive archway appear to have been taken directly from Kindergarten Cop’s Astoria Elementary School.

Could it be a coincidence?

Well, further clues can be found as you venture inside. As well as encountering creepy gray children and other horrors, you’ll notice that its walls are decorated with numerous posters. Some of those posters—including a particularly distinctive one with a dog on it—also decorated the halls of the school in Kindergarten Cop.

Do a bit more hunting, and you’ll eventually find a medicine cabinet clearly modeled on one glimpsed in the movie. Most creepily of all, you’ll even encounter a yellow school bus that looks remarkably similar to the one in the film (though this one has clearly seen better days).

Silent Hill's references to the movie are subtle—certainly subtle enough for them to pass the majority of players by—but far too numerous to be a coincidence. When word of the link between game and film began to emerge in 2012, some even joked that Konami’s Silent Hill was a sequel to Kindergarten Cop. So what’s really going on?

When Silent Hill was in early development back in 1996, director Keiichiro Toyama set out to make a game that was infused with influences from some of his favorite American films and TV shows. “What I am a fan of is occult stuff and UFO stories and so on; that and I had watched a lot of David Lynch films," he told Polygon in 2013. "So it was really a matter of me taking what was on my shelves and taking the more horror-oriented aspects of what I found.”

A scene from 'Silent Hill'
Divine Tokyoska, Flickr

In an interview with IGN much further back, in 2001, a member of Silent Hill’s staff also stated, “We draw our influences from all over—fiction, movies, manga, new and old.”

So while Kindergarten Cop is perhaps the most outlandish movie reference in Silent Hill, it’s by no means the only one. Cafe5to2, another prominent location in the game, is taken straight from Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.

Elsewhere, you might spot a newspaper headline which references The Silence Of The Lambs (“Bill Skins Fifth”). Look carefully, and you'll also find nods to such films as The Shining, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and 12 Monkeys.

Similarly, the town’s streets are all named after respected sci-fi and horror novelists, with Robert Bloch, Dean Koontz, Ray Bradbury, and Richard Matheson among the most obvious. Oh, and Midwich, the name of the school? That’s taken from the classic 1957 novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, twice adapted for the screen as The Village Of The Damned in 1960 and 1995.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Kindergarten Cop'
Universal Pictures

The reference to Kindergarten Cop could, therefore, have been a sly joke on the part of Silent Hill’s creators—because what could be stranger than modeling something in a horror game on a family-friendly comedy? But there could be an even more innocent explanation: that Kindergarten Cop spends so long inside an ordinary American school simply gave Toyama and his team plenty of material to reference when building their game.

Whatever the reasons, the Kindergarten Cop reference ranks highly among the most strange and unexpected film connections in the history of the video game medium. Incidentally, the original movie's exteriors used a real school, John Jacob Astor Elementary in Astoria, Oregon. According to a 1991 article in People Magazine, the school's 400 fourth grade students were paid $35 per day to appear in Kindergarten Cop as extras.

It’s worth pointing out that the school is far less scary a place than the video game location it unwittingly inspired, and to the best of our knowledge, doesn't have an undercover cop named John Kimble serving as a teacher there, either.

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