How The Great Depression Gave Birth To Gravity-Defying Mystery Sites

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The Mystery Spot is a colloquial name given to a peculiar location where the laws and forces of nature, more specifically physics, do not seem to apply. However, it’s important to note that these bizarre occurrences are not the result of magic but rather optical illusions.

In 1929, the Great Depression had a devastating impact on the United States and many other countries. Thousands of industries and businesses were forced to close due to a huge gap between the supply and demand of goods and services.

However, the entertainment industry managed to stay afloat during this time. Many new forms of entertainment emerged, including mystery spots. Although only a few people were familiar with these places, some of them still remain popular today.

In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at a well-known mystery spot, officially known as “The Mystery Spot,” located near Santa Cruz, California.

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The Mystery Spot

This spot artificially creates a fantastic optical illusion, creating a place where the universal laws and forces of nature (physics, specifically) don’t seem to hold up.

mystery spot
Mystery Spot: The name itself inspires suspense and anticipation, and it sufficiently does justice to the strange nature of the place. (Image Source:

While visiting the mystery spot, you will witness various scientifically impossible phenomena, mostly related to defying gravity. These include people standing perfectly upright on a tilted floor, at impossible angles on flat ground, and a ball rolling up a slanted plank.

Of course, it is not magic. These bizarre scenes are carefully crafted optical illusions designed to make things appear the way they do.

Also Read: 5 Amazing Magic Tricks That You Can Perform Using Science

Science Behind The Mystery Spot

Your own misjudgments of the height and orientation of objects cause the illusions you experience in a gravity-defying house. The house or any place where you see such events is built on an inclination, which may seem absurd at first, but think about it: standing up in a tilted house gives the impression that everything else is wrong.

The inclination of the house is well camouflaged, making it look like a typical, upright house. Constructing such a house on a slope is an ideal step towards creating a mysterious place. Part of the floor can be concealed by burying or covering it with regular household objects. Most things that provide a vertical reference point are removed or placed at an angle.

To make the Mystery House seem even more convincing, they deliberately place physically distorted objects throughout it to reinforce your perception of normality or make you believe you are standing on perfectly flat ground.

Look at the images below: from your vantage point, it is easy to see the person standing at an angle to the horizontal.

But for the people in the house, the components of the environment that would help them perceive their spatial position correctly are the precise details that prevent them from doing so.

Here’s another example of how water from a regular tap seems to flow against the force of gravity:

The basic idea is to make landscape alterations with the help of ingenious architectural tweaks to distort viewers’ perception of their own orientation.

Although it’s disappointing to hear that there’s no wizard behind The Mystery Spot at work. On second thought… there kind of is. Aren’t human intelligence and creativity rather magical in themselves?

Also Read: These 10 Amazing Facts About The Universe Will Blow Your Mind

Last Updated By: Ashish Tiwari

References (click to expand)
  1. Shimamura, A. P., & Prinzmetal, W. (1999, November). The Mystery spot Illusion and Its Relation to Other Visual Illusions. Psychological Science. SAGE Publications.
  2. Bridgeman, B. (2005, June). Influence of visually induced expectation on perceived motor effort: A visual-proprioceptive interaction at the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Springer Science and Business Media LLC.
  3. Hill, Sharon A. "Gravity Roads, Magnetic Hills, and Mystery Spots."
About the Author

Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spearheads the content and editorial wing of ScienceABC and manages its official Youtube channel. He’s a Harry Potter fan and tries, in vain, to use spells and charms (Accio! [insert object name]) in real life to get things done. He totally gets why JRR Tolkien would create, from scratch, a language spoken by elves, and tries to bring the same passion in everything he does. A big admirer of Richard Feynman and Nikola Tesla, he obsesses over how thoroughly science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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