The Mystery Spot, located in Santa Cruz, California, is sort of like a house of illusions. Here, water flows upwards, cars and balls roll uphill, short people appear to be the same height as taller ones, and people can lean forward up to 45 degrees without falling flat on their faces. It seems as though the normal laws of gravity just don’t work here.
The Spot is actually a large barn located on a 150 square-foot patch of hillside land. Visitors are permitted to enter the shack after paying the owners an entry fee. They are shown a variety of unbelievable sights, like plumb bobs hanging almost parallel to the floors, billiards balls rolling uphill and people standing at impossible angles. The shack itself appears to be falling over, pulled down by strange forces. Adding to the mystery is the fact that people sometimes lose their balance, become disoriented and even feel ill within its four walls.
Discovered in 1939, the area around the Mystery Spot was originally supposed be the building ground for a summer cabin, but rumor has it that when surveyors tried to chart the plot, they found that their instruments acted crazy over one particular patch of land. The people who stood on this spot claimed that a mysterious force seemed to be trying to push them off balance, making them feel light-headed. The owners eventually abandoned their plan to develop the site and a year later, they opened the Mystery Spot as a tourist attraction.
Photo: Richard Masoner
Over the years, several theories have been floating around, attempting to explain the strange happenings at the Mystery Spot. One of the most bizarre explanations involves UFOs – some believe that buried beneath the land is powerful guidance system for UFOs that bends and distorts the laws of gravity. Surprisingly, that rumor is actually acknowledged on the official Mystery Spot website.
Photo: Richard Masoner
Some people believe that the shack is sitting on an electromagnetic hot spot, while others say that there are unknown geological forces at work. But the most rational explanation of all attributes the phenomenon to pure science, and the way the cabin was built. In 1981, psychologist Ray Hyman studied the ‘vortices’ where such places existed. He came to the conclusion that these cabins are actually ‘architectural funhouses’, filled with horizons that weren’t level, corners that weren’t squared, and walls that weren’t vertical.
Photo: Michael Gray
These structures distort the normal frames of visual reference, and create a series of optical illusions that make gravity look like a joke. And the Mystery Spot is believed to be one such structure. When humans spend a considerable amount of time in such spaces, our brains try to reorient, using horizontal and vertical clues to establish what’s up and what’s down. When there is no horizontal line to use as a reference, our brains make mistakes. And when our bodies are put at an angle, like in the hillside Mystery Spot cabin, the odd illusions are further enhanced.
Photo: Jay Banvouloir
I found a blog that further explains the ‘mystery’ behind the Mystery Spot. At the beginning of the tour, visitors are presented with two beams. The tour guide will place a carpenter’s level on the beams to show that they are completely level. Then, when shorter people stand on the right side of the beams, they appear to be the same height as taller people. That sounds incredible, but here’s what you need to know – the guide misleads people from the very beginning. The carpenter’s level would actually indicate a slope, but most people just take the guide’s word for it, and they’re fooled. However, there were also many comments from people claiming they saw the level bubble very clearly and even brought their own levels, but they also showed the beams were level.
Well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if they’re fooling visitors, as long as the experience proves to be a thrilling one. So maybe there are scientific explanations for everything, but it isn’t everyday that you get to see such phenomena!