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The Laws of Gravity Do Not Apply at Strange ‘Mystery Spot’ in the Woods in California—Here’s Why

The Laws of Gravity Do Not Apply at Strange ‘Mystery Spot’ in the Woods in California—Here’s Why

If you stumble on a certain neck of the woods around Santa Cruz, you might think you had wound up in Alice’s Wonderland. But it’s no children’s fiction novel you’re in, for there is a real place called the “Mystery Spot,” where things are not as they seem, where the law of gravity appears to not apply. It’s a real place. No yarn.

Visitors come from all over the world to experience the strange topsy-turviness of this supernatural-seeming wonder, though logic and science have yet to fully explain it. Once inside the circular twilight zone, spanning 150 feet (46 meters) across, one will observe a wonky wooden cabin with people feeling lightheaded, nauseous, or woozy inside; or struggling to walk and stand up straight. Balls appear to roll uphill; chairs stand up straight on the walls; and bodies lean to impossible angles without falling down. Indeed, in places, small persons appear large and large small, depending on where they stand.

And the curiosities continue, while fascinating theories abound as to the reasons behind all this madness. Some have claimed extraterrestrial interference, with unidentified craft causing an anti-gravitational pull. Others say it’s simply a natural magnetic anomaly, perhaps a quantum wrinkle that can’t be explained. Then there are those who cite supernatural forces haunting the surrounding forest.

Left: The entrance to the Mystery Spot, located in the redwood mountains outside Santa Cruz (Sanjay ach/CC BY 3.0); Right: Not all things are as they seem at the Mystery Spot in the woods outside Santa Cruz. (Briellecfarmer/CC BY 4.0)

Speculation is part of the fun at this roadside attraction, and scientists are not exempt. In 1998, a group of psychologists from the University of California, Berkeley conducted a study explaining the Mystery Spot as a visual illusion. When a person enters the cabin, sited on a steep hill, he or she is unable to fix their sight on the horizon, meaning their perception is distorted.

Furthermore, according to the researchers, when that person’s body is positioned at an angle, their perceptual distortion more than doubles. Psychology professor Bruce Bridgeman agrees. The University of California, Santa Cruz academic hung a pendulum from the ceiling of the cabin and observed study participants attempting to push it in two directions. While the weight hung vertically, the tilt of the building made it seem “off.” Comically, participants exerted much more effort than needed to push the pendulum toward what they perceived to be vertical, a behavior Mr. Bridgeman calls the “effort illusion.”

A guide at the Mystery Spot outside Santa Cruz appears to lean at an impossible angle while standing on a wonky table. (Briellecfarmer/CC BY 4.0)
Epoch Times Photo Visitors stand sideways on walls and hang at precarious angles on sloped floors at the Mystery Spot outside Santa Cruz. (Left: Katharina Volkers/The Epoch Times; Right: Lawrence Lansing/CC BY 3.0)

“The visual context strongly influences what you perceive, and you can’t escape it, even if you know better,” he said. “We think of our perceptions as being pretty much accurate, but they seldom are.”

Some may argue that such rational explanations spoil the fun of the Mystery Spot. Bridgeman disagrees, stating that “the real fun is that you can learn about how your mind works in an interesting setting.”

But, staff who work at the site say science still can’t explain how the house came to be in the first place.

“A lot of people will say, ‘Oh, the cabin is tilted; that’s the mystery,’” says tour guide Aidan Lucero. “But why is it like that? Why didn’t it slide down the hill? Every single time we try to debunk it, it makes us ask even more questions.”

Epoch Times Photo Smaller people seem larger, and larger smaller, when standing in certain places at the Mystery Spot, located in the woods outside Santa Cruz. (Katharina Volkers/The Epoch Times)
Epoch Times Photo Visitors of different sizes seem to change size depending on where they stand. (Katharina Volkers/The Epoch Times)

In 1939, a man named George Prather purchased the hillside on which the cabin now sits and the surrounding land. The original owners agreed to sell him the plot on the condition he buy the hillside too. He was warned by a local lumber company not to build on the hill, adding that everything they’d tried to stand on it ended up sliding down to the bottom.

But in 1940, Mr. Prather did build a cabin. He stood it around 10 feet (approx. 3 meters) higher up the hill than its current position and just as the lumber workers had said, it began to slide. Over the course of three months, it traveled several feet before stopping. There is a tree, says Mr. Lucero, which appears as though it may have stopped the house from going any further. But strangely, when he said this, the tree was only around 55 years old.

“It stopped when it reached equilibrium at the center of the Mystery Spot,” he says, going on to assert that the attraction has six different demonstrations that aim to prove to visitors the site is indeed a gravitational anomaly. One involves a spirit level placed on a plank of wood, proving that the board is level. Placing a snooker ball on the plank, without fail it slowly rolls in what appears to be an upward direction.

Epoch Times Photo A sign at the Mystery Spot reveals the history behind the strange and wonderful place. (Tshrinivasan/CC BY 3.0)

Mr. Prather himself hired a team of surveyors to investigate the land. They reported that they were getting incorrect compass readings all the time, up to 180 degrees off.

“A lot of people come up here to try to disprove,” says Mr. Lucero. “I had a NASA scientist, and a Tesla engineer [come here]. I was sitting there answering questions; I didn’t have any answers to give them. They couldn’t come up with anything.”

The Mystery Spot attracts over 600,000 visitors a year, helped by its infamous yellow Mystery Spot bumper stickers. Whatever the reason behind its strangeness, those who stumble on this spot in the redwoods around Santa Cruz continue to be inspired by its wonder.

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