Is your New Year’s resolution to get out of the house more? It’s time to hop in the car for a road trip (but try not to get too excited, you don’t want to earn any speeding ticket points along the way). Sure, you can post a selfie in Times Square or next to the Grand Canyon … just like a million other people. Instead, track down some of the USA’s hidden gems and take a photo of yourself in front of some names almost too strange to be believed.
This unincorporated community was probably not named after the infamous fictional doctor who could reanimate the dead. Instead, it likely comes from the name of one of their first pioneer founders, Godfried Franken. However, locals are good sports about the name. In fact, many residents took part in the reality-blurring movie ‘Frankenstein, Missouri,’ which was filmed there.
Located along the northern edge of the state in the Cascade foothills, Boring, Oregon is anything but its namesake. It was built on the site of Union Army veteran William Boring’s homestead when he and his family settled there in 1856. If you visit the area, check out the Boring Lava Field north of town, get some fresh air on nearby Mount Hood, and keep an eye out for film crews. Jack Black is supposedly producing a ‘serial killer comedy’ set in colorful Boring, Oregon.
Paw Paw, West Virginia
This town is located in a bend of the Potomac River bordering the Green Ridge State Forest. The town’s founders named the site after, not a beloved grandpa, but the Pawpaw Tree. The fruits of this tree, which look like mangoes, were prized by American settlers who loved its banana custard-like flavor. If you’d like to experience the taste yourself, you can find pawpaw preserves in local markets.
This town, located about 15 miles outside of Ann Arbor, certainly has an unfortunate-sounding name. There are two theories about how it came about. Some say a pair of visiting Germans came by one sunny day and declared the place was ‘hell,’ the German word for ‘bright.’ Others say the name came from hellish levels of mosquitoes that greeted early settlers. While you’re there, play something from town native Michael Katon and The Helltown Bluesband.
Red Shirt, South Dakota
Fans of Star Trek may want their photos taken by this town in the Pine Ridge Reservation on their way to Badlands National Park. However, this Ogala village wasn’t named after the ill-fated extras on that beloved sci-fi TV series. Instead, it was named in honor of Chief Red Shirt, who led the Ogala and Lakota to settle in the region in the 1870s.
If you’ve ever been to Louisiana, you understand what a bold claim the name makes. This village, on the banks of the Mississippi, was ironically struck by drought in 2008. Despite it’s small population (currently just over 600), Waterproof has been the birthplace of several celebrities including 1961’s Miss USA Sharon Renee Brown and football player John Henry Johnson. And the name? In the 1830s, wagons struggled to cross the flooded river. Waterproof was built on a small hillock of land that never submerged.
Do you ever feel like you’re living in Crazytown? You may be! There are actually four in the USA, three of them located in Texas, West Virginia, and New York and named after various settlers with ‘Looney’ as a last name. The fourth is, naturally, in Florida. While visiting, keep your eyes peeled for real-life examples of Floridaman.