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The Place All the Hellion Tourists Go

GEORGETOWN, Grand Cayman — Heaven may have its doves of peace and birds of paradise, but did you know that Hell has birds, too? We saw them, one white and two black, flitting from the jagged tops of the blackened limestone that everybody visiting Grand Cayman is told: “This is Hell.”

And it is. In what might be the world’s most lucrative tourist attraction of its size, Hell is a post office, souvenir shops, and a field of petrified rock that, by Grand Cayman law, cannot be removed.

Duh, you think?

Three other cruise ships arrive here on the same day as the Navigator of the Seas that brings us to Georgetown for the first time, and every hawker on the dock entices first-time visitors to “go to Hell” and back. Every tour bus stops there. Every tourist, or almost every tourist, sticks his or her head through a silly cut-out board to pose as the devil.

We’re not geologists, so our description of Hell may be flawed, but it looks like a petrified rock formation sticking up in a swampy area the size of a couple of football fields. The rock looks charred…it couldn’t be any other way in Hell, could it? It was apparently once part of the ocean, and now it is the magnet that lures tourists into junky little shops to buy shirts, hats and trinkets with all the plays-on-Hell you can imagine…

“Get married in Hell. You’ll go thru it anyway.”

“What happens in Hell stays in Hell.”

“When in Rome, do as the Romans. When in Hell, do as the Hellions.”

The funniest thing about it all is that in Shop No. 2 of the three sitting next to the post office that really is the heart of Hell, the woman at the cashier’s desk, with church music playing in the background, says to us as we depart: “You have a good day, and God bless you.”

There are hats about Jesus for sale, and messages painted in large letters on the walls saying that Jesus is the way to Heaven.

For the people who really do live in Hell, it’s like they want to make sure they’re hedging their bets in case they are believed to be profiteering from a place associated with the devil.

We couldn’t find Hell on the map of tourist attractions on Grand Cayman, the biggest of the three Cayman Islands. There must be 100 places listed on the map, but no Hell. That’s because nobody wants to go there, but everybody does.

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