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No. 73: Jan-Feb 1991

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Piney Pitstop Of The Paranormal

Evidently trying to inject some joy into our country's financial capital, the Wall Street Journal recently printed a story on Spook Hill, Lake Wales, Florida. Spook Hill is one of several spots in the U.S. where gravity seems to be defied.

"Sue Robertson motors her maroon Ford Tempo to the white line painted across Fifth Street, shifted into neutral and slowly rolls backward up Spook Hill.

"'Eerie, weird, and definitely strange," she says, finally easing to a stop near the top of the rise.

"Hers is the same amazed reaction expressed by most tourists who discover this piney pitstop of the paranormal, 50 miles south of Orlando. On a typical Saturday, up to 30 cars an hour line up at the top of the hill for their turn to drive down to the white line and drift back up."

Not only cars roll up the hill. Farmers had to stop planting oranges in the area because visitors pulled them off the trees so they could watch them roll uphill. Skateboarders and cyclists also feel the pull of gravity in the wrong direction.

Scientists who deign to investigate sites like Spook Hill usually end up by claiming them to be merely optical illusions.

"If it's an optical illusion at work here, it's an odd one; a reporter applying a carpenter's level at about the hill's halfway point finds a slope up in the direction the cars are rolling. Joggers report they expend more energy running that way too. 'Spook Hill is most definitely a hill,' says Paulette Bond, a geologist at the Florida Department of Natural Resources."

(Johnson, Robert; "Just Who, or What, Makes Cars Roll Up a Slope in Florida?" Wall Street Journal, October 25, 1990. Cr. J. Covey)

From Science Frontiers #73, JAN-FEB 1991. � 1991-2000 William R. Corliss