Santa Cruz Mystery Spot
July 17, 2003 8:29 AM   Subscribe

The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California is one of many places in the US that challenge the theory of relativity. Berkeley psychologists have a theory about these mystery spots. Another Berkeleyan visited the spot and documented his tour. Some have done their own comprehensive tests and came to a different conclusion. A book was written to describe these gravitational anomalies, skeptics and believers all have an opinion ... but where does the truth lie?
posted by jasonspaceman (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"The world isn't yet ready for what goes on here," he warned.

Ok, that pisses me off. [If you dig into the links, you'll find some guy studied these for 40 years, conversed with Einstein and then burned all his research before his death.] Sumbitch.
posted by PigAlien at 8:37 AM on July 17, 2003

How exactly does a place where visual clues throw off a person's perspective challenge any of the laws of physics?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:41 AM on July 17, 2003

Piggy, that would be John Litster. He studied the Oregon Vortex.
posted by jasonspaceman at 8:47 AM on July 17, 2003

And even if people took such places as challenges to the laws of physics, they wouldn't really be challenging the theory of relativity. That would be Newton they'd be jabbing at.
posted by argybarg at 8:49 AM on July 17, 2003

they wouldn't really be challenging the theory of relativity

Exactly -- although we are talking about perception here, so there may be an argument to get Albert involved.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:57 AM on July 17, 2003

there are some explanations for how this stuff really works.

i used to have a page with lots of pictures describing exactly how the certain illusions were created but can't seem to find it. when i do, i'll post it.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:57 AM on July 17, 2003

here is some information on how the house works.
some information on the ames room. and a little something about the plank illusion.
for lots of illusion explanations, see this site
posted by chrisroberts at 9:05 AM on July 17, 2003

The sadest part of the articles within is this quote:

According to the tale, the last words heard on the tape retrieved from a crashed airliner was the navigator shouting, "Look at your artificial horizon!" and the pilot responding, "I can't. It's broken!"

Sometimes you just can't trust your eyes.
posted by tomplus2 at 9:24 AM on July 17, 2003

I've been to the Mystery Spot, and I have to say, it was just odd. Yes, I know all the rational explinations for the weird stuff, but it's still strange to see balls rolling up hill and to stand at an extreme angle. It just seemed a little too odd to be explained rationally. However, I am not a scientist in any way shape, or form, so I'm sure their explinations are correct.

But that said, it's very strange. Disquieting.
posted by aacheson at 10:09 AM on July 17, 2003

I've been coming to this circle for about five years, and measuring it. The diameter and the circumference are constantly changing, but the radius stays the same. Which brings me to the number 5. There are five letters in the word Blaine. Now, if you mix up the letters in the word Blaine, mix 'em around, eventually, you'll come up with Nebali. Nebali. The name of a planet in a galaxy way, way, way... way far away. And another thing. Once you go into that circle, the weather never changes. It is always 67 degrees with a 40% chance of rain.
posted by namespan at 10:13 AM on July 17, 2003

We had a mystery exit ramp in my hometown. Due to the hills in the area, you thought you were going downhill. Then you put the car in neutral and roll back uphill. I figured it was a common enough thing, and since you weren't in a house (like the mystery spot) you could see the horizon line and figure out why your perception was wrong. Still a fun trick to do at 1 in the morning after a party.
posted by jmackin at 10:18 AM on July 17, 2003

jmackin: I wish I lived where people put their cars in neutral on the exit ramp. Would make life more interesting, but potentially shorter.
posted by jmcmurry at 10:40 AM on July 17, 2003

Looks a lot like the Mystery Hole in WV. or Gravity Hill In PA.
posted by whirlwind29 at 10:48 AM on July 17, 2003

hey, we have one of these in michigan! i wonder if it's a franchise?
posted by quonsar at 10:52 AM on July 17, 2003

Did they find Ozzie Smith yet?
posted by nath at 10:55 AM on July 17, 2003

There is (or was) a postcard available for the Mystery Spot located at St. Ignace, Michigan, that featured a pigtailed woman pumping water for the uphill water gimmick. Her pigtails could be used as a plumb bob to derive the true gravitational vector, thus revealing that the water was actually flowing downhill. Oops.
posted by user92371 at 10:56 AM on July 17, 2003

I love the Mystery Spot! I purposefully avoid reading descriptions of how it works because I think it's more fun to enjoy the mystery!
posted by ukamikanasi at 10:58 AM on July 17, 2003

You had me until Blaine, namespan! Rascal...
posted by G_Ask at 11:06 AM on July 17, 2003

Been there done that. Simple illusions. Often hilarious, mystical presentations makes it campy, local yokel fun. Don't live nearby? Save the time,trouble & expense, try this recently posted Senses Challenge, it includes explanations for the er... mysterys.
posted by kodas at 11:11 AM on July 17, 2003

Brave Combo said it best.
posted by schmedeman at 11:15 AM on July 17, 2003

There is (or was) a postcard available for the Mystery Spot located at St. Ignace, Michigan

I used to summer in Curtis, MI as a kid (go UP!) -- my parents and grandparents had their fill of us kids begging to see what the glorius Mystery Spot was all about.

Later in life, I came to live in Madison, WI, near the infamous Mystery Spot at the Wisconsin Dells. That, and the signs for the House on the Rock, brought all those mystical childhood years back to me.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:19 AM on July 17, 2003

I went to one of these at Six Flags in Dallas when I was much younger. It was called Casa Magnetica. If the fact that these are used as theme park amusements doesn't tell you that these are NOT a mystery, you want to believe it, regardless of evidence.

Here are some revealing pictures and the script used at Casa Magnetica. If you want to visit one of these near your house, take a look at this list.
posted by urlnotfound at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2003

I really love Neil Gaiman's depiction of mystery spots / road side attractions in his book "American Gods". Aside from the imagery he uses to describe one he draws a rather cool parallel to ancient lay lines and sacred sites like Carnac and Stonehenge.

Basically someone comes to a location and says to himself, "There is something special about this spot, I think I'll stack some boulders or maybe start the worlds largest collection of pez" ala Wall Drug and Rock City.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 11:35 AM on July 17, 2003

Hey, where is that mountain that will pull your car to the top?
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 11:36 AM on July 17, 2003

Huzzah! A trip to the Wonder World Park is now in the works, as it's the closest "mystery spot" to good ol' Austin. I would have thought it'd be a bigger draw with us college kids, but maybe some have grown too sophisticated for simple optical illusions....pause No, it's probably the lack of cheap beer.
posted by lychee at 11:59 AM on July 17, 2003


Thanks for the links. These are the posts that make me come back here. :)
posted by velacroix at 12:19 PM on July 17, 2003

Just outside Moncton, New Brunswick is Magnetic Hill (scroll down to see it). There's a zoo there now as well...

There also used to be a Mystery Spot-type attraction just outside of Sussex, near Penobsquis, called Mystery Crater. (couldn't find any links, sorry -- guess it's gone out of business) I was about seven when my family visited it. They even had a really great back story about a meteorite, which they claimed was responsible for the odd phenomenon. As mystified as I was by it, the illusion was shattered the same day when my father parked the RV on a slope a few hours later, and we observed the same weirdness inside the camper as we did in the Crater.

Thanks for the links, jasonspaceman!
posted by Jughead at 1:06 PM on July 17, 2003

Electric brae, in Ayrshire too.
posted by the cuban at 1:22 PM on July 17, 2003

I've been to Spook Hill, in FL, and it's all about perception.

So the fact that it's on the list of "mystery spots" seriously makes me skeptical about the veracity of the rest of the spots.
posted by taumeson at 1:33 PM on July 17, 2003

My memory may be faulty, but I swear I remember going into one of these houses at Old Abilene Town, a tourist-y reconstruction of an Old West cattle town. The thing is, I don't remember anything mystical being attached to it. It was called the Wacky Shack, or something like that, and you got to it by going out the exit of the saloon.

Ahh, the good old days! "Hey kids, see how fun it is to get liquored up! Everything's Wacky!"
posted by donnagirl at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2003

hey, we have one of these in michigan! i wonder if it's a franchise?

No, quonsar, but there were lawsuits:
The House of Mystery in the Oregon Vortex, Gold Hill, Oregon was the first one built. It was first constructed during the 1930's, as an attraction during the Great Depression. The attraction proved popular enough to have imitators, and other anti-gravity houses started appearing, each identical in construction, appearance, and presentation of effects. This, of course, started lawsuits between the various owners.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:51 PM on July 17, 2003

Of course, how could I forget, right here in my adopted hometown of Ottawa, Canada, the ever-popular "Crazy Kitchen" at the Canada Science and Technology Museum?
posted by Jughead at 2:05 PM on July 17, 2003

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