The house that makes broomsticks stand on end

Posted by | August 18, 2017

GO to Mystery Hill at Blowing Rock, NC! SEE people stand on 45-degree angles! WATCH water roll uphill! Mystery after mystery!

America loves Mystery Spots. Irish Hills, MI, also has a Mystery Hill. Lake Wales, FL, has Spook Hill. California has the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. Mystery spots of land, often known as gravity hills —they seemingly pull objects uphill— are found throughout the United States. The story behind each one is similar. Gravity doesn’t work in them. People grow smaller, can’t stand up straight and can barely walk.

House of Mystery, Gold Hill ORPromotions may boast that strange forces in the spots trump the laws of physics. In reality, however, the Mystery Spot is an example of clever optical illusions paired with good old fashioned capitalism. Mystery spots sprang up throughout the country during the Great Depression, a period when the American public was anxious for a little sensationalism to distract them from their daily reality.

The House of Mystery in the Oregon Vortex, Gold Hill, OR was the first one built, in 1930. The attraction proved popular enough to spur imitators, and other anti-gravity houses started appearing, each identical in construction, appearance, and presentation of effects. In 1948, North Carolinian William Hudson encountered an article in LIFE magazine about the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. He and his wife traveled out to research it, and in 1949 opened Mystery House at Blowing Rock, NC.

“Broomsticks appear to stand on end with no means of support,” gushed his brochures. “Balls seem to roll uphill. The museum contains the Hall of Mystery — an ample collection of well-known and obscure optical illusion displays including the Spooky Spigot, Magic Light bulb, holograms and the Flying Mirror.”

And just how does the Mystery Spot illusion work? First of all, notice the strange tilt when you enter a Mystery Spot house. All references to the true horizontal are removed from your sight. This is always true whether you are just outside the house or inside it. For example, there is always an opaque fence around the house to remove any significant comparisons to the true horizontal.

The Mystery Spot house is actually built at an angle of 25° off the true horizontal. This will explain every effect seen. Once in the area of a Mystery Spot house you are always comparing the effects to what you are used to — normal-level floors and walls that are perpendicular to the ground.

diagram explaining a Mystery Spot house illusionOn the diagram you see the actual tilt of the house to the true horizontal.

Both people are perpendicular to the true horizontal. On the bottom, you see the situation as it is perceived by the people inside the room.

They have no access to the true horizontal, and are judging their surroundings by a horizontal that is created by the room. This causes one to have an internal change of reference frames, which causes the people to appear as they are actually leaning off the walls.

Secondary cues to horizontal orientation, such as inner ear and other bodily sensations of gravity, appear to become less functional in the tilted condition, leaving visual context as the dominant cue.

We like to tease reality, to lose the security of familiar spatial references for a brief time. No wonder so many people still consider mystery spots to be a premium ticket.

A Guide for Spiritual Travelers in North Carolina, by Timothy Whittaker, 2005, Dueces Wild


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