How this “End of Earth: 2 miles” road sign became part of the Upper Peninsula lore

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HOUGHTON, MICH. –The sign sat by the side of the road for just a few hours, but for more than three decades it was remembered as one of the best pranks ever made by students at Michigan University of Technology.

As Michigan Tech Magazine recently reported, in 1984 longtime friends and MTU students, Tim Cocciolone and John Marchesi, created a fake road sign that embodied the wild and remote spirit of the location of their school in Houghton, on the Keweenaw Peninsula in UP.

With a few road signs made from trees found in nearby woods and $ 25 worth of supplies from the local hardware store, Cocciolone and Marchesi created a realistic roadside replica that read “End of Earth: 2 [miles]. Houghton: 4. ”They decided to place him alongside US-41 between Houghton and Chassell.

It was foggy that morning. After successfully erecting the sign, Cocciolone snapped some photos of the Pranksters creation next to the empty stretch of highway – which in the haze indeed seemed to disappear at Earth’s End.

Although law enforcement removed it within hours, the fake traffic sign was soon set to consolidate its place in local traditions. The journal run by MTU students, The vein, printed a photo of the sign on its front page, prompting students to grab any available copies of the paper so they could cut out the image and hang it on the walls of their dormitory.

A photo of the End of Earth sign was printed on the front page of Michigan Tech’s student newspaper, which helped cement the farce in local legend. | Photo courtesy of Michigan University of Technology Archives / Copyright John Marchesi

The popularity of the photo prompted Marchesi to have it printed as a postcard, the first batch of which quickly sold out. Thirty years later, several thousand copies of the postcard are still sold each year to The Campus Bookstore and University Images.

As for the legendary End of Earth sign itself? After being retrieved from the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office, the sign was hung in the home of the Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity (now Theta Kappa Psi), of which Marchesi was a member. According to Michigan Tech Magazine, the sign has remained there to this day – a point of pride for those who live there, just as the sign’s enduring image remains an emblem for many who have made this location their home.

Read the full story of the End of Earth sign online here at Michigan Tech Magazine.

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