“People have discovered that they can fool the devil; but they can’t fool the neighbors” – Francis Bacon

You guys want to come back to my place?

The real estate market can be hell.  The real estate market in hell, well, let’s just say the resale value of your condo in the City of Dis is bound to be low.  The weather is atrocious, the neighbors are loud, and you can bet that even if you manage to sell, the capital gains taxes are, to put it mildly, diabolical.  Dante’s First Circle of Hell (Limbo) is a gated community populated by virtuous non-Christians and unbaptized pagans (a sort of sub-standard heaven).  They don’t like your kind.  The Second Circle (Lust) is Hell’s trailer park, continuously buffeted by strong winds and in a truly infernal business strategy, no tornado insurance is available.  The Third Circle (Gluttony) is a vile slush produced by never-ending icy-rain.  Think Buffalo, New York.  In the Fourth Circle (Greed), the neighbors are continuously being filmed by Hoarders. The Fifth Circle (Anger) is a bad neighborhood, all fighting and road rage.  The Sixth Circle (Heresy) is mostly small, flaming tombs (like Alphabet City).  The Seventh Circle (Violence) has a ridiculously high murder and suicide rate, and their aversion to “sodomites” means gentrification is unlikely to happen.  The Eighth Circle (Fraud)…let’s face it, you’re out of your league when it comes to tort law there.  The Ninth Circle (Treachery) is a frozen lake.  None of these are especially appealing places for a summer home.  That’s why Satan takes his vacations near Helsinki, Finland.

Now, we can’t credit Satan with a keen eye for real estate.  He can’t really get over the whole fire and brimstone oeuvre.  It’s his brand.  Thus he’s always putting down bids on volcanoes, deserts, and occasionally other dubious investments (like caves and bridges).  You see, not only is his credit bad and his references infernal, but he got evicted from heaven and his former landlord has nothing nice to say about him.  And since he keeps getting cheated out of his pacts, his business acumen is questionable.  What’s a demon to do?   I mean, “Prince of Darkness” seems like a tony gig, but what good is it being landed gentry when your lands are overrun by folks of questionable character.  Every once in a while you just need to get away.  Sadly, those self-righteous celestial bigwigs enacted some pretty harsh and overtly discriminatory neighborhood covenants when it comes to Earth.  Maybe you just want a little summer home where you’re free from all that furnace-like heat, eternal screaming, and pleas of “I’m not supposed to be here”.  Lucky for Satan, a certain Lars Huolarinen of Pielisjivri, Finland (a few miles away from Helsinki) thoughtfully took this into consideration when he wrote his last will and testament in 1888.

Finnish businessman Lars Huolarinen was not a popular fellow.  He had long been uncharitably suspected by his neighbors of dealings with the devil, given his apparent commercial success and the nice little nest egg he had amassed for himself through no means anyone could identify, including an adorable little estate about four miles south of Helsinki (Finnish “Helsingfors”).  While normally, such accusations of diabolical pacts for worldly gain must be viewed with incredulity, at the reading of Huolarinen’s will upon his death in 1888, it turns out him and the Father of Lies were pretty tight.  Huolarinen’s estate, much to the chagrin of his family, was willed to Satan.

A correspondent at Helsingfors wrote to the Daily News some time ago: “The following singular case is troubling.  The heads of the Finnish lawyers at present: A man died a week or two ago in Pielisjirvi, in the interior of the country, who was said to have led a bad and ungodly life. He had always been known to be well off, but nobody knew how he had gained his possessions. There were many strange stories afloat, but the one which was more credited than all the rest was to the effect that Huolarinen, as was his name, had, in his early days, been on an intimate footing with “Wihtahausu” (the “evil one”), with whom he had had several transactions of a commercial character. When Hoularinen’s will was opened it was found that he had bequeathed all his landed property to the Devil. The family naturally protest against the will, and the question now arises how this ticklish matter is to be settled. Everybody seems anxious not to offend any of the parties concerned. There can be no doubt that the Devil is thus a landowner, by legal right, in Finland.” On this the Star commented: “The Father of Evil has found his level at last…’. It is said that the will is likely to be disputed. It will be a pity if it should be upset, for the world will then lose a most interesting opportunity of seeing whether the Devil himself can be a worse landlord than –. Irish tenants please finish the sentence.” Whereto we add that there are English ones to be heard from also (Morris, 1888).

Like most estates bequeathed to someone other than one’s ungrateful relatives, the family contested the will, but Finnish law is quite respectful of dying wishes, even when they involve bequeathing a considerable fortune and property to the devil.

The family has repeatedly tried to break the will, but so far has boon unsuccessful. Thus the records plainly show that his sulphuric majesty has a legal right and title to some excellent grounds in the near vicinity of both Helsingfors and Pielisjivri. The simple people of the neighborhood have changed the course of a road which formerly skirted the Huolarinen homestead, and declare that they would not enter upon the possessions of Satan and Co., for all the money that these such estates would bring. Although no living person has passed the threshold since the old man died, the mansion is said to lie brilliantly lighted every night, and many curious stories are told of the unearthly frolics the devils have on this, their only known landed possessions (The Conshohocken Recorder, July 29, 1892).

While the neighbors are no doubt piqued by such an unsavory fellow taking up residence in the vicinity, the law is the law. Huolarinen was no doubt concerned that Satan didn’t have anywhere to put his feet up and party with his favorite imps, free from harassment.  The local changes to the roads only afforded him more privacy.  Sometimes a demon just needs his space.

By their having changed the course of the public road, Satan has obtained a most desirable privacy. He can take his holiday in his Finnish retreat when he can be spared from the council table of Pandemonium. He can sit there under his own vine and fig-tree, with the cool breeze gratefully fanning his hell-scorched brow; and the cool soil left him by old Lars Huolarinen will be a blessed relief to the blistered feet, weary from walking on “the burning marl.” (Ross, 1890, p37-38).

Lars Huolarinen may have done us all a service.  By ensuring that the devil has a summer home in Finland, Satan probably decided to count his blessings and get out of the real estate speculation business, for which he obviously had little talent.  I hear he’s thinking of going into something more lucrative.  Like politics.

Ross, William Stewart, 1844-1906. The Bottomless Pit: a Discursive Treatise On Eternal Torment. London: W. Stewart, 1890.
Morris, William, 1834-1896.  “The Devil as Landlord”.  University of Michigan. Digital Library Production Service, London Socialist League, and Socialist League (Great Britain : 1885). The Commonweal. London: Socialist League Office, September 8, 1888.
“The Devil’s Real Estate”.  The Conshohocken Recorder, July 29, 1892.