Ansted, West Virginia
"Wow!" reads a zany sign atop a metal pole. "See the unbelievable. Mystery Hole."
The pole juts out of the top of a corrugated metal Quonset hut, along with several American flags. A rainbow of stars, teardrops, question marks, and hypno-swirls adorn the hut's exterior, along with another emphatic "Wow!" Protruding from its side is an old VW beetle, nose buried, brake lights almost to the road shoulder, its exterior embellished with painted daisies, bird poop, a "Love" license plate, and a loosely-rendered message: "Flower Power."
At the end of the hut, over its entrance, squats a large, black gorilla.
The Mystery Hole definitely knows how to catch the eyes of passing motorists. Its message may be confusing, but no one seems to mind.
Will and Sandra Morrison own The Mystery Hole. Original owner Donald Wilson "discovered" its mysterious powers in 1972, and did a good business from the tourists who flock to this part of the New River Gorge, which is a mecca for rafters. Time, however, was even more powerful than the Hole. Wilson closed his attraction in 1996 and died soon afterward. The Hole was left exposed to vandals and other chaotic forces.
The Morrisons have put in a lot of hard work to restore the Hole to its 1970s glory. This was especially hard for them, as they had moved here from Michigan in a risky career maneuver. Working from old photos and the memories of local folks, they have brought the much-beloved attraction back to life.
Visitors pay to tour the Hole in the Quonset hut gift shop, then walk outside and around the corner to the entrance. There is a stairway down into the unknown (or perhaps just the quonset hut basement).
Over it is a large clown painted on a piece of plywood, and a fresh set of declamatory signs.
"An experience that will intrigue you the rest of your life."
"Nature's gravity seems to have gone haywire and your sense of balance is extremely upset."
"If your heart can take it, see the laws of nature defied."
The biggest sign of all lists the "Rules of the Hole," which include "No cameras or cell phones," "People with heart ailment, vertigo, or high blood pressure do not enter," "Not responsible for accidents or after effects," and "Shoes recommended." The Hole must be powerful indeed to merit such caution!
It is difficult to describe what goes on within The Mystery Hole, since it is so mysterious that we are forbidden to reveal it. We can tell you (since it's in the brochure) that you will see a ball roll uphill and a person sitting in a chair somehow balanced on a strip of wood on a wall. Those who have visited other "Mystery" attractions can guess at some of the other freaky hoo-ha that goes on here -- and staging it in a sealed-in underground "hole" is a unique touch that improves its effect. The "Miss Mystery Spot," and "Miss New River Gorgeous" gags are also enjoyable -- but that's all that we can say.
Sandy and Will are nice people who perhaps are a little overprotective of their attraction. Maybe the mysterious forces that fill the hole have overflowed to entrance the minds of those who guard it. Will in particular hints that he has received many, many offers -- in the millions of dollars -- to reveal the secrets of his attraction. He has turned them all down.