Welcome to Gravity Hill, Where Cars Roll Uphill

Simone Preuss
Simone Preuss
Scribol Staff
Science, January 27, 2009
  • Would you believe that a car can roll uphill when left in neutral? Or that pendulums, brooms and even people seem out of whack in certain places in the world? We’re taking a closer look at gravity hills and mystery spots to see what they are all about.

    A little research shows that gravity hills, also called magnetic mountains, mystery spots, mystery mountains or spooky hills, continue to fascinate people all over the world. Numerous newspaper articles have been written over the last few decades; a Google search using any of the keywords throws up hundreds of thousands of results; there is a Wikipedia entry about the phenomenon; and various videos can be found on You Tube.

    Pictured here is one such strange spot situated close to Hell’s Canyon, at the border of Oregon and Idaho. At the marked start line on a road that, as the picture above shows, goes slightly uphill, visitors leave their car in neutral, brake off, and soon witness the car moving uphill on its own, before stopping after a few metres.

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  • Thanks to distortions in perspective and odd angles, the gravity hill phenomenon seems to be nothing but an optical illusion that fools the human eye and brain into thinking the laws of physics have been defied. In most of these spots, an explanation is purposely not given as they become tourist attractions and, more often than not, money spinners.

    In this picture, we can see the phenomenon in Leh, which is part of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Advertised as a “magnetic hill”, even a respected national newspaper like The Hindu got fooled and ran an article on “A Wonder in Ladakh” on 7th June 2003, playing up the magnetic properties of the hills around Leh. The reporter even quoted the Indo-Tibetan Border Police as saying that their aircraft and helicopters had to fly at greater heights because of the hill’s magnetic force.

    In any case, this “magnetic hill” at the Leh-Kargil-Batalik national highway, plus the local Sikh temple, “Gurdwara Patthar Sahib” – where Guru Gobind Singh, the last guru of the Sikhs, is said to have meditated in the 17th century – guarantee a steady stream of believers.

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  • There are also so called “mystery spots” all over the world where gravity seems out of whack. These don’t involve cars but usually “spooky” houses or shacks where many weird effects seem to take place: balls roll uphill, the visitor’s height seems to change as he or she walks around, trees do not seem to grow straight, and objects stand at odd angles. Probably the best known in the United States is Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, CA. It attracts so many visitors, especially during peak times in summer, that the proprietors of the shack strongly advise booking tickets in advance.

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  • Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida, probably takes the cake. According to their sign, there’s a whole legend involving an alligator and an Indian chief who in one mighty battle created the strange forces that can be witnessed even today…

    Well, whether or not one chooses to believe in gravity hills, a few things are certain. They make great tourist attractions that can come in very handy when the kids ask, “Are we there yet?”. They create a great deal of interest worldwide (there’s even an International Directory of Magnetic and Gravity Hills). And they can certainly loosen the purse strings, too – not only because of entry tickets, but also the merchandising. You see, mystery hills memorabilia and many other businesses have jumped on the bandwagon – even wineries. But on second thoughts this last connection makes quite a lot of sense.

    Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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