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- You may have heard of someone having their car roll down a hill because they forgot to turn on their parking brake. However, have you ever heard of someone’s car rolling uphill? Well, at Spook Hill in Central Florida, you can put your car in neutral and have it roll up a hill while you sit in it.
- According to legend, this strange phenomenon is caused by the spirit of either a great Native American warrior chief or a massive alligator. However, scientists believe that this is actually an optical illusion.
- On top of that, this sort of optical illusion exists in many other places around the world and, most likely, somewhere in your home state. But, Spook Hill has become the most famous “gravity hill” in the United States because of its local community’s willingness to promote it.
Have you ever heard of someone forgetting to put on their parking brake and having their car roll downhill? While that may not have ever happened to you personally, you’ve probably heard a similar horror story from a friend or family member. However, have you ever heard of someone’s car rolling uphill? Well, if you live in central Florida, that could be a legitimate concern. In the town of Lake Wales, Florida, sits Spook Hill, a seemingly supernatural place where gravity is reversed and cars roll uphill.
Don’t believe me? Well, you can see for yourself. There are actual videos online that show this phenomenon very clearly. Feel free to debate the veracity of those videos all you like. Whether or not you believe, this phenomenon has been well-documented for years. In fact, there’s even a street sign on Spook Hill that tells you exactly how you can test it. According to the sign, all you have to do is pull your car up to the white line painted on the ground, put your car in neutral, and then watch roll up the hill.
However, that’s not all that this sign says. It also displays another story about a great warrior chief who defended the hill from a giant alligator. This is just one of several explanations that have been used to explain the strange psychics of Spook Hill. On top of that, it would seem that Spook Hill is also not the only hill of its kind.
Let’s take a look at the legends around Spook Hill and what possible scientific explanations there could be for this hill’s indifference to gravity.
The Legend Explained
As the legend goes, according to the sign that sits on Spook Hill, the site was created by an epic battle between a Native American chief and a magically large alligator. Apparently, the chief’s village sat atop Spook Hill. The gator would repeatedly raid the village, making life dangerous for the townspeople.
Eventually, things culminated in a grand battle that ended with the great warrior chief getting killed. In the midst of the battle, though, a massive swampy depression was formed in the surrounding land. The chief’s body was buried on the north side of the depression.
Many years later, a group of pioneers unknowingly came upon the burial site of the chief. Near the site, they noticed that their horses were huffing and puffing even though they appeared to be going downhill. They believed that a ghost was the reason for this. Thus, they decided to name the site Spook Hill.
In fact, in later years, people even claimed to have seen giant ghosts appear and start pulling their cars uphill. Was it the ghost of the great warrior chief trying to protect his land? Was it the gargantuan alligator trying to pull unsuspecting victims to their deaths? Well, in all likelihood, it was neither.
The Truth Behind Spook Hill
Fans of the paranormal will be disappointed to hear that there’s actually a pretty solid scientific explanation for the strange physics of Spook Hill. And, as it turns out, the physics of Spook Hill actually aren’t so strange at all.
Spook Hill is what’s known as a “gravity hill” or a “magnetic hill”. Basically, these are hills that appear to have an upward slope as a result of an optical illusion involving the surrounding terrain. In reality, these hills actually have downward slopes. So, while it may look like your car is rolling uphill on Spook Hill, it’s actually rolling downhill.
Without going into too much science, a gravity hill is basically a result of the human brain comparing the bottom of a slope to the horizon line, causing the slope to appear upward instead of downward. And, Spook Hill is far from the only gravity hill in the world. In fact, there are known gravity hills on six of the seven continents and in most of the fifty states of the United States. If you do a quick Google search, you can probably find a gravity hill that’s not far from your home.
Spook Hill, however, has become the most famous of all gravity hills because the citizens of Lake Wales have been happy to promote it. Yes, it was reported that the Spook Hill Beautification Committee was granted $32,000 for “new signs, a tourist information center, and a parking lot.” So, a great deal of Spook Hill’s fame is due to its neighbors’ willingness to promote it. There’s also the fact that Spook Hill is located in Florida. And, for some reason, it seems more believable that there’d be a gravity-defying hill in Florida than anywhere else in the world.
The Origin of Spook Hill
While the geographic conditions of a gravity hill have probably existed at Spook Hill for thousands of years, the optical illusion only became known nationwide around the 1950s. During this time, travel by car was a popular way to get across the country and a ton of roadside attractions were cropping up during this time. In an effort to bolster the local economy of Lake Wales, the local chamber first built Bok Tower Gardens, a 250-acre contemplative garden and bird sanctuary.
Realizing that there was also a gravity hill just a short drive from Bok Tower Gardens, they probably decided to advertise Spook Hill as an additional tourist attraction. In fact, they even ran with the paranormal angle so much that the mascot of the local elementary school, Spook Hill Elementary, was changed to Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Somewhere along the line, a sign was put up above Spook Hill, making it an official landmark. Today, people travel from all across the country to have the cars roll backward inexplicably uphill. And, despite the fact that this phenomenon has been explained by science, residents of Lake Wales will still tell you that they’ve seen ghosts tugging on the fenders of their cars.
Hi Joe! Fascinating. I checked the Atlas Link and found another gravity hill sport (or whatever) at Santa Cruz CA near where I grew up in Palo Alto. My family made frequent trips to Santa Cruz in summer and yes, I remember the Mystery Spot but don’t recall ever checking it out. I’m forwarding this to my nephew who lives in Santa Cruz to see if he has experienced this. Also, Joe, I meant to send you something from the WSJ (and believe I forgot and cannot find the article now) but it was about a museum in Portland featuring an exhibit of Japanese art that includes one of the original Great Waves. Since you have one in your home .,..might be of interest. With much love to you and Sam (hope I got the name right) from GrandJean (and Grandpa Dan)