Mystery Spots and Gravity Hills

01
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The Mystery Spot

The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz, California. The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, California

There are dozens of mystery spots to be found around the U.S., and many more gravity hills - places where gravity itself seems to be warped. Our perceptions of up, down, straight and crooked are confused by what some say are powerful gravitational anomalies and dizzying magnetic vortexes. Is that the case, or are our senses being fooled by clever man-made and natural optical illusions?

Here are just some of the more well-known locations:

Discovered in the 1940s, this site on Branciforte Drive in Santa Cruz just might be the most well-known "mystery spot" in the U.S. Tour guides walk visitors through the "Mystery Shack" that stands on this spot and demonstrate the many weird effects that seem to take place there. Balls roll uphill, brooms stand on end at odd angles, people's heights seem to change as they walk about, among other weird effects of perspective and gravity. Even the trees in the area do not stand straight. Some visitors actually feel faint within the shack.

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Spook Hill

Spook Hill
Lake Wales, Florida. Roadside America

Located between Orlando and Tampa, this stretch of road off Hwy. 27 is said to have gravity-defying effects on cars. The phenomenon on the sloping road is so well known that there is a sign on the roadside explaining its legend:

"Many years ago, an Indian village on Lake Wales was plagued by raids of a huge gator. The chief, a great warrior, killed the gator in a battle... The chief war buried on the north side. Pioneer mail riders first discovered their horses laboring down hill, thus naming it 'Spook Hill.' When the road was paved, cars coasted uphill. Is this the gator seeking revenge, or the chief still trying to protect his land."

The story is local folklore, obviously, but drivers do attest that when they stop their cars at a certain spot and shift their transmissions into neutral, the cars do seem to roll up the incline of the road.

03
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Mystery Spot

Mystery Spot - St. Ignace
St. Ignace, Michigan. Mystery Spot - St. Ignace

Like the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot, this one in Michigan's upper peninsula also features an old shack situated on a sharply sloped landscape. Balls and water appear to defy gravity by moving uphill. People seem to be able to stand at impossible angles.

04
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Mystery Hill

Mystery Hill, Marblehead, Ohio
Marblehead, Ohio Mystery Hill, Marblehead, Ohio. TravelPod

"See Mystery Hill defy the laws of nature and gravity..." declares the promotional material for this anomaly-plagued site in Ohio. Visitors to this place say that you can feel perfectly okay standing in one spot, then just a few inches away feel totally strange. Here, too, water seemingly flows uphill, a pendulum swings only to the south and people appear to change height right before your eyes.

Note: According to their website, this place is now "permanently closed."

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The Oregon Vortex

The Oregon Vortex
Gold Hill, Oregon The Oregon Vortex.

Some kind of magnetic vortex - a spherical field of force, half above the ground and half below - is said to be responsible for the peculiar effects experienced at this site's House of Mystery. Those who visit the spot, it is claimed, cannot stand erect anywhere within the vortex, but are always inclined toward magnetic north. Distortions in perceived perspective are also affected, giving the impression, in some spots, that as a person approaches you he or she becomes shorter. There are other weird effects as well.

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Gravity Hill

Gravity Hill, Bedford County
Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Gravity Hill, Bedford County

It's a place where gravity goes haywire, says one article about this hill near New Paris, Pa. A "GH" spray-painted on the road tells you when you've found the spot where you can stop your car, shift it into neutral, then sit in amazement as it seems to slowly begin to roll uphill. If you're still in doubt, you can do as other experimenters have done and pour water on the road - and watch as it flows uphill.

07
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Gravity Hill

Gravity Hill, Franklin Lakes, NJ
Franklin Lakes, New Jersey Gravity Hill, Franklin Lakes, NJ.

This gravity hill on the Ewing Avenue exit of Rt. 208 South has one of those "ghost child" stories attached to it. The reason cars appear to roll uphill in defiance of gravity is because the ghost of a little girl pushes them that way. The little girl, the story goes, was killed by a passing car when she dashed into the road to fetch a ball. It's either that or some kind of anomalous magnetic field, they say, which also causes balls to roll up the hill instead of down.

08
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Mystery Hill

Blowing Rock Mystery Hill
Blowing Rock, North Carolina Blowing Rock Mystery Hill.

The Mystery House in this N.C. attraction is said to have a stronger-than-normal gravitational pull to the north. A person can apparently stand at a 45-degree angle, they say, and balls can be shown to roll up an incline. The site also features some other optical illusions and puzzles.

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Cosmos Mystery Area

Cosmos Mystery Area
Rapid City, South Dakota Cosmos Mystery Area.

Situated just six miles from the Mount Rushmore National Monument, the Cosmos Mystery Area on Hwy. 16 features a house where no one appears to be able stand up straight. A ball placed on a plank will appear to roll up it. "You can even stand on the wall!" says the promotional literature.

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Gravity Hill

Gravity Hill, Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City, Utah Gravity Hill, Salt Lake City. Geocaching

This gravity hill is located a few blocks northwest of the Capitol building in Salt Lake City. On a road that leads down into a canyon, supposedly, gravity works against known physics. If you stop at the bottom of the hill here, they say, and put your car in neutral, the car will coast back uphill out of the canyon. There's a legend behind this one, too. Someone named Elmo is buried in the area, so the story goes, and his gravestone glows blue at midnight. It's the force of this ghostly presence that warps gravity.

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Mystery Spots and Gravity Hills - What's the Explanation?

Is something paranormal taking place at all these mystery spots and gravity hills? Are there strange magnetic vortexes and bizarre gravity anomalies to account for the apparent phenomena reported by hundreds and hundreds of visitors? Or are these simply optical illusions?

Although it is well known that gravity is not uniform everywhere on Earth, there are no known areas where it has been scientifically proven that gravity does not act the way it is supposed to act. Of course this does not prove that such areas can exist or do exist, but the mystery spot attractions around the country and the hundreds of "gravity hills" are probably not among them.

As fun, entertaining, even baffling as these spots can be, it's unlikely that the cause is paranormal in any way - no vortexes, gravity anomalies or even ghost children.

As made clear at "Mystery Spots Explained," they are "cleverly engineered tourist attractions" designed to create convincing optical illusions. The "mystery houses," always constructed on steep inclines, take advantage of the fact that the human eye and brain can be easily fooled by deliberate distortions in perspective and odd angles. In this way, people can appear to always be standing at impossible angles, even on walls; balls and water only seem to move uphill; and pendulums just look as though they don't work quite right.

Similar illusions are at work on the so-called "gravity hills." Cars and tennis balls that look as though they are rolling uphill are actually being pulled downhill by gravity. Optical illusions created by the lay of the land and surrounding landscape fool the eye into thinking that the laws of physics are being defied. (If you want to check out these places for yourself, roadsideamerica.com offers a "Mystery Spot Test Kit".)

Despite these scientific explanations, mystery spots and gravity hills can be a source of wonder, curiosity and fun. Just don't expect anything paranormal to occur.