Places With Names That Have Deeper Backstories Behind Them

It’s kind of like how you get a nickname: you do something strange and then your friends give you a nickname based on the story even though it makes no sense to outsiders.

The names of places are often pretty transparent, but others have backstories that make them a little more interesting (or extremely terrifying).

They Don’t Look Disappointing…

Outrigger Canoes On white sand Beach
Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Wolfgang Kaehler / LightRocket via Getty Images

This island pictured here as well as a few others located in French Polynesia are called the Disappointment Islands. They were first named “Unfortunate Islands” by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan while he was traveling toward the Philippines because he was disappointed to find that none of them had visible sources of fresh water.

In 1765, a British naval officer provided an even less positive moniker, declaring two of the coral islets in question—Napuka and Tepoto—to be the “Disappointment Islands,” because he deemed the inhabitants to have shown “a hostile disposition” towards him.

This Is Much Scarier Than An Empty Town

human sized dolls sitting on bench
Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images
Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

Photographed here are just a few of the handmade dolls that are placed in public spaces by local resident Tsukimi Ayano to replace the people who have left Nagoro village in Miyoshi, Japan. Often referred to as the “valley of dolls” or “Kakashi No Sato” (“Scarecrow Village”), there are likely more dolls than the number of human inhabitants located in Nagoro.

There Were Many Murders Here

aerial view of bran's castle nestled amongst trees in mountains
Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Located in the Transylvanian mountains of Romania, Bran’s Castle is more commonly referred to as “Dracula’s Castle” due to the infamously barbaric Vlad III of the ruling House of Draculesti, who later inspired the story of Dracula. Vlad III was nicknamed “Vlad the Impaler” because of his reputation for brutally impaling and torturing people.

What Came First: The Chicken Or Alaska?

chicken creek cafe and saloon on roadside
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Brianhiggs
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Brianhiggs

It’s real: there is a small town located in Alaska named “Chicken,” and the reason behind it is pretty hilarious. Originally a mining town, the people who lived and worked there weren’t particularly literate, so despite wanting to name the town Ptarmigan, they settled on the name Chicken because it was much easier to spell.

The Lord Of The Rings Inspired Some Canadian Mountain Names

Snow-capped mountain peak
Photo Credit: Flickr / Tim Gage
Photo Credit: Flickr / Tim Gage

There’s a peak in British Columbia, Canada named “Tolkien Peak” as well as nearby mountains that are named “Mount Aragorn,” “Mount Gandalf,” and “Mount Shadowfax” after the Lord of the Rings author and characters.

They were named in 1972 by those making the first ascents in the area who had read the books while waiting out stormy weather.

Aokigahara, Japan

GettyImages-931736160
Photo Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images

Commonly called “Sea of Trees” or “Suicide Forest,” Aokigahara is a large, dense forest located near to Mount Fuji in Japan’s Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. The forest is notorious for the high number of suicides that occur inside of its foliage, with about 50–100 happening each year.

What Did The Toads Do To You?

road sign says
Photo Credit: Reddit / Royal_Up
Photo Credit: Reddit / Royal_Up

Located in Arkansas, USA, there really is a small city called “Toad Suck.” The origins are believed to be that it got the name after the drunks who hung out in local taverns where they “sucked on the bottle until they swelled up like toads.”

Nice to know alcoholism was the basis of the town!

Beware Of This Beautiful Island

tropical island beach and water
Photo Credit: Marty Melville / AFP / GettyImages
Photo Credit: Marty Melville / AFP / GettyImages

Located in the Pacific as one of the 15 Cook Islands, Danger Island’s name stands out amongst the rest. It was named by explorer John Byron due to the fact that the jagged edges of the nearby coral reef made it too tricky to attempt a landing without destroying his ship.

It Was Almost Boston, Oregon

The
Photo Credit: George Rose / Getty Images
Photo Credit: George Rose / Getty Images

The city was founded by Boston-born lawyer Asa Lovejoy and Francis Pettygrove, from Portland, Maine. When it came time to name the city, each of them wanted to name the new city after their hometown. It came down to a coin toss, which Francis won two out of three times, causing the town to be named Portland.

You’ve Heard Of “Truth Or Dare,” Now Get Ready For…

A motorcylce rides past the post office in the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Photo Credit: Christina Horsten / picture alliance via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Christina Horsten / picture alliance via Getty Images

Truth Or Consequences is a town located in New Mexico, USA. While originally named Hot Springs, the spa town decided to change its name in 1950 to the popular gameshow’s name when the host, Ralph Edwards, promised to hold the show in the first town that changed its name to Truth or Consequences. Instead of changing their name back after, they kept it as Truth Or Consequences for the novelty.

Why’d We Let Old Dead Guys Name Stuff Again?

landscape photograph of Wet Jacket Arm Marine Reserve and the Dusky Sound in Fiordland National Park in the South Island, New Zealand
Photo Credit: Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

This inlet in Dusky Sound in Fiordland National Park in the South Island, New Zealand is called “Wet Jacket Arm.” Captain James Cook and his crew anchored in the area for six weeks during the winter in 1773 and experienced a series of heavy storms that left their uniforms a little on the damp side—thus, the name.

Sounds Super Safe And Not Dangerous!

A car travels thin road on mountain side with nothing protecting from edge
Photo Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The North Yungas Road is colloquially referred to as “Death Road.” This is the only road that connects La Paz to Coroico in Bolivia, and it is only 12 feet wide with no guard rails, but it accommodates two-way traffic.

Weaving along the sides of mountains in the Andes range, there are segments were the road drops off the edge of a cliff into a 2,000-foot abyss. Hundreds of people die traversing the route every year.

An Eternal Roast In His Honor…

road sign says
Photo Credit: Reddit / merlinrising
Photo Credit: Reddit / merlinrising

There’s a small town in Missouri named Tightwad—yeah, you read that right. According to the local lore, the name dates back to the early 1900s when the local mailman asked the grocer to set aside a watermelon for him. However, when he returned later, the grocer had sold the watermelon to someone else for $0.50 more.

The mailman called the grocer a “tightwad” and the name kind of stuck around until they made it official in the 1980s.

I’ve Heard That Looks Can Be Deceiving

View of a derelict hangar at Whalers Bay in Deception Island, in the western Antarctica peninsula
Photo Credit: EITAN ABRAMOVICH / AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: EITAN ABRAMOVICH / AFP via Getty Images

Deception Island, which is located in the western Antarctic peninsula, was frequently visited by whalers and seal hunters starting in 1820. The reason behind its name is that, despite looking like a regular island, it is actually is the rim of a gigantic submerged volcano.

Researchers from across the world used to inhabit the area until two volcanic eruptions in 1967 and 1969 forced them to leave.

Wow, These Town Founders Were Jerks…

bridge with sign pointing both left and right
Photo Credit: Reddit / jadeallencook
Photo Credit: Reddit / jadeallencook

There’s a place in Michigan named Zilwaukee, and if you’re thinking, “Wow that really sounds like Milwaukee,” you’re on the right track. When New York natives Daniel and Solomon Johnson tried to create a new settlement in what’s now Michigan, they needed more workers to help build the industries, so they named the town Zilwaukee in hopes that it would confuse travelers who were trying to move to Wisconsin.

The Whole Island Looks Like This

dolls nailed and hung from trees and other branches
Photo Credit: Sebastian Perez Lira / Barcroft / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Sebastian Perez Lira / Barcroft / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Isla de las Muñecas (translating to “Island of Dolls” in English) is located in Xochimilco, Mexico City, and is the city’s creepiest tourist attraction. The place became famous after the island’s sole occupant found a drowned girl with her doll in a canal and began hanging dolls from the trees to ward off evil.

The island now has millions of dolls and is only accessible by boat.

What A Way To Remember Collective Crime!

Close up of ceramic frog in fountain
Photo by: Geography Photos / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo by: Geography Photos / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

There’s a small town in Alabama named “Frog Eye” and, according to legend, it all started with a ceramic frog. During the Prohibition era, the owner of a local saloon kept the little frog sculpture in his shop window at all times; when police officers were in the bar, he’d close one of the frog’s eyes so that customers would know not to order illegal liquor.

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN!

Lesser short-nosed fruit bat hanging in cave
Photo Credit: DeAgostini / Getty Images
Photo Credit: DeAgostini / Getty Images

How big of a comic book fan are you? Interestingly enough, the town of Bat Cave, North Carolina, was not named for the dark, caped superhero we all know and love. It was actually named after a nearby cave that is inhabited by multiple species of bats, and it’s the largest known granite fissure cave in North America.

That’s One Way To Name A Town…

sign says: Exit 119 No Name
Photo Credit: Reddit / hockeydude0123
Photo Credit: Reddit / hockeydude0123

There’s a small town in Garfield County, Colorado, that’s officially called “No Name,” and it’s nestled close to No Name Canyon and No Name Creek. The prevailing story behind the bizarre name is that, when the state sent out questionnaires to the area, the majority of locals wrote “No Name” when told to specify the town, and it ended up in the official records.

Not Too Hot, Though, Right?

A customer carries a cup of coffee to her table
Photo Credit: Bryan Thomas / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Bryan Thomas / Getty Images

There’s a town in Mississippi named Hot Coffee, and their brew apparently lives up to the name. During the Great Depression, a Civil War veteran built a store and sold high-quality cups of coffee using spring water, New Orleans beans, and molasses instead of sugar.

Apparently, the name came from an incident where a traveling salesman burnt his mouth while taking a sip and yelled, “Mister, this is hot coffee!”