When I next take a trip to California, there’s somewhere I HAVE to go. It’s a place in the redwood forests of Santa Cruz that has been baffling and astonishing tourists for decades. A place where the laws of gravity and physics don’t apply…
Behold, the Mystery Spot. It was first discovered in 1939 by George Prather. When climbing a steep hill on the site, his compass started jittering and he felt dizzy, light-headed and top-heavy, as if something was trying to force him off the hill.
Realising he was onto something, Prather purchased the site and decided to build a house on it, which opened to the public in 1940 and was named a historical landmark in 2014.
What’s so weird about Prather’s enigmatic little cabin in the woods? Well, in it, balls roll uphill. Chairs cling to walls without support. Water flows in the wrong direction. People can hang off walls, lean backwards off stairs, or lean forwards so far they can’t see their toes — all without falling over. Even the trees around the house defy gravity, growing at bizarre angles.
The cabin is referred to a “gravity house” on a “gravity hill” or “magnetic hill” (of which there are a number of others). The website for the Mystery Spot calls it a “gravitational anomaly” with “puzzling variations of gravity, perspective and height”.
Insane. Insane, but very real. Question is, what’s causing it?
Just a visual trick?
For centuries gravity hills have bewildered scientists and their half-baked theories left considerable room for doubt and mystery. However, scientists now seem to agree that the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz (and others throughout the world) are optical illusions. Gravity and physics do not behave differently at the Mystery Spot. We just think they do. It’s all to do with the way our brains orient themselves, and the way they use horizontal and vertical cues to establish up and down. When we can’t see the earth’s horizon, we take those cues from our immediate context.