Tripping out at the Mystery Spot

Laura A. H. Elliot

November 2, 2018

Off the beaten path, way off.

Perception is reality, but at the Mystery Spot, everything seems unreal. One minute the person next to you is shorter, and the next they’ve grown taller––balls roll uphill, and chairs stand on walls. Even the rumored reasons why the laws of physics don’t seem to apply here are suspect––like spacecraft buried deep beneath the redwood forest or metal cones entombed in the hills providing galactic, alien GPS. Even highly scientific explanations like the existence of an electromagnetic hotspot, radiesthesia, and a magma vortex sound out of this world.

Mystery Spot Sign in the Santa Cruz Mountains

You’ll have to Google those because I have no clue what they are, all I know is that the Mystery Spot is a good time for the whole family. Mostly because you get to do weird things together and laugh a lot under the canopy of ancient redwoods. But beyond the good times, there’s something priceless that happens when you turn reality on its head or use yours in ways you never have.

When our ideas about the possible and impossible are challenged, we begin to shift our perspective about what is and isn’t possible in our own life. Have fun hanging at 17-degree angles and walk on walls when you’re here, but also know the best part of the experience happens when you leave with a sense of discovery, inquiry and pure fun.

Mystery Spot history sign in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Put yourself in the shoes of the people who first happened upon the place.

A bunch of lumberjacks? No. A little over 75 years ago, car mechanic and inventor George Prather wanted to build a summer home on this acre-ish piece of land. Only none of the surveyors’ equipment worked. When their compasses faced north instead of south, Prather decided to forgo the summer home on the property and share The Spot with the world, opening in June of 1941––the heyday of roadside attractions. The Mystery Spot would turn out to be North America’s most notable and oldest vortexes, seeming to suspend the laws of gravity, perspective, and even physics.

I guess it’s just human nature to be drawn to the things we can’t explain like the Bermuda Triangle, why cows only face north or south when they eat, and Bigfoot.

Mystery Spot walkway in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Indeed there is more than meets the eye here. So many have tried to explain the mysterious phenomena including Berkeley scientists. But it appears there are no easy answers, leaving one researcher to conclude that the spot is an “ineffable, natural phenomenon that cannot be described or explained.” People who have visited over the years also speak about feeling light-headed, dizzy and off-balance.

So, what is real?

Experience certainly is a reality of a kind. No one can question our own experience, however, what is behind the experience is worth another look. We rely on our own perceptions to tell us what is true in any situation.

And as we all know, our perceptions can be influenced. At the Mystery Spot, our sensibilities are trying to understand the concept of true horizontal and true vertical in tilted spaces with no access to the horizon line. Scientists explain the phenomena at the Mystery Spot saying that our brains tell us all kinds of stories in environments like these, that might not necessarily be true because we can’t make sense of what we see. Humans get very disoriented in angular environments.

Inside the cabin

When pilots get similarly confused, they are told to ignore what they see and look at something called a leveler, an artificial horizon. When they forget to do so, illusions can cause them to crash because they think they are flying level. Similar illusions occur at sea where Fata Morganas appear at the horizon distorting the shape of the land during certain weather conditions, and calling many sailors to their death.

So are illusions real? Only if we think they are. With billiard balls rolling uphill, and people walking on walls, half the fun is coming back, again and again, to simply enjoy the phenomena and stop trying to understand it all. The best part? You get to leave with their signature “Mystery Spot” bumper sticker, seen far and wide on cars all over America. But you also get to leave with a trippy combination of speculation, fun and the weird in the land of the hippie.

Laura A. H. Elliot
Laura A. H. Elliot

Laura writes to encourage with a focus on life-changing, planet-healing stories featuring self-discovery, pilgrimages, ecotravel and journeys of the heart. Besides traveling to 24 countries on 6 continents and counting, her passions also include sailing, very dry champagnes, red shoes, humanitarian work, learning new languages, family, and playing guitar. Website

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