You don’t have to be religious to believe in Satan, because the devil is all around us. Literally. He’s in our canyons, mountains, harbors, waterfalls, orchards, and streets. He is the very landscape of America.
See for yourself on The United States Devil Map, a creation by Jonathan Hull that highlights the many U.S. landmarks named after the Devil and Hell. Hull was inspired to build the map while hiking across the Utah landscape, where he encountered places like Valley of the Gods and Devil’s Garden. So he began collecting names to construct a map.
Originally, he was attracted to a broad swath of generally dark and demonic names, like Death Valley and Goblin Valley. “But that was making for a very long list,” he tells Co.Design, “so I kept to ‘Devil’ and ‘Hell’ and a few close permutations.” Evidently, there was plenty of fodder, because the resulting U.S. map’s squeezed print is just barely legible on a computer screen.
Permutations include Devil’s Cornfield, Devil’s Rocking Chair, and, my personal favorite, Devil’s Postpile. Interestingly, Hull found that geographical locations with evil-sounding anatomy abound. “There are an awful lot of Devil’s Elbows around. Backbones made sense, but so many other features, such as Devil’s Nose–I didn’t expect so many,” he writes. “One also has to wonder how you end up with residential street names such as Beelzebub Road in Connecticut or Evil Lane in Illinois.”
Regionally, some curious themes emerge. Populated areas of the midwest are fairly devoid of demonic imagery, while sparsely populated western states are bursting with the nomenclature. No doubt, mountain ranges and rock outcroppings lend themselves to dark imagery more than endless plains. But what about the strong representation in the northeast? Hull theorizes that Puritan roots may account for all of that evil terminology.
“Religious or not, I think we have a perception of hell and the devil as at least a concept–one can have a hellish day with or without believing in an afterlife,” Hull explains. “Thus, applying those to names, I think that the concept of something treacherous, extreme, or remote still conjures up the names ‘Devil’ and ‘Hell’ regardless of religious specifics.”
Indeed, even if you don’t believe in Hell, it’s somewhere we’d all rather not visit.