Mysterious spots pockmark the tourist landscape, promising to show Nature and Physics gone berserk. Mystery Spots offer an amazingly similar menu of wall-walking, seat-balancing, body-shrinking and growing tricks; most are placed suspiciously near interstate interchanges and bloated tourist meccas.
The drama of the unexplained is best conveyed by an old codger, wise to government coverups and the shifty vagaries of science. Listening to the ravings of the expert at the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California, is half the fun.
Unfortunately, many mystery spots fail this crucial test, employing 14-year-olds to convince skeptical summer visitors of their spot's veracity. "Scientists think it's caused by the 'igmmeous' rock in the hill, I think..." offered one bored, gum-clicking expert.
For our money, America's premier mystery spot is the Oregon Vortex near Gold Hill, Oregon, open to the public since 1930. Tennis balls really do seem to roll uphill here, brooms really do stand on end.
After subjecting many spots to rigorous, very scientific tests, our Mystery Spot Test Kit indicates that the Oregon Vortex is the most disturbed.
What causes the mysterious goings-on here? No one knows.
One theory is that a great beam of "high velocity soft electrons" exits the earth through the vortex. Another claims that a giant underground device produces the weird effects.
Skeptics usually write off the effects observed in Mystery Spots as nothing more than optical illusions manipulated to mysteriously lighten the wallets of tourists. But when was the last time you enjoyed a vacation accompanied by a skeptic?
For the true believers, there's always a trendy scientific theory on the gift shop shelves, explaining how TIME speeds up and S-S-L-L-O-W-W-W-W-S-S-S down in a vortex, depending on where you stand and when.
One man who apparently knew the secret of the Oregon Vortex -- John Litster -- studied its effects first-hand for more than forty years. He even claims to have corresponded with Einstein on the subject. What he uncovered no one will ever know, for he burned all his notes before his death.
"The world isn't yet ready for what goes on here," he warned.
Gravity Hills, Magnetic Hills
Whether you accept the bent science of Mystery Spots or dismiss them as clever illusions, you might wish to explore these effects outside of the constraints of a guided tour. One way to do it, at no cost, is at a gravity hill. Gravity hills (aka magnetic hills, spook hills) can be found along back roads, highway off-ramps and other easily accessible places. These are seemingly magical zones on paved roads where a vehicle placed in neutral will roll uphill!
Gravity Hills are almost always unofficial, and may be unmarked or only indicated with a spray-painted line. (Warning: Always exercise caution and watch for other traffic. It's at your own risk.)