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A gravity hill located near Leh in Ladakh, India.

Gravity Hills: Mystery and Confusion Rise

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Gravity hills are a type of slope where things seem to move against gravity on their own accord. For instance, if water is poured onto the surface of the hill, it would seem to move upwards, instead of in the opposite direction, as one might expect it to.

Gravity hills are also known as magnetic hills and mystery hills, and all three names say a little something about the attempt made to explain this strange phenomenon. Gravity hills occur in many parts of the world, with many being recorded in the United State. As these hills apparently defy the laws of nature, they have become tourist attractions.

What Happens on a Gravity Hill?

Gravity hills seem to defy the laws of physics. If an object, for example, a ball, is placed on a slope, it should naturally be pulled downwards by gravity. On gravity hills, the opposite appears to occur, i.e. the object appears to move upwards instead.

Numerous explanations have been suggested to account for the existence of these hills. Sometimes, these are reflected in the names of such hills.

The name ‘gravity hill,’ for instance, suggests that the gravitational pull of such hills is uneven, i.e. the force at its bottom is weaker than that higher up, therefore causing objects to move up its slope. It is true that gravity is not uniform everywhere on earth. For instance, areas closer to the earth’s equator experience a slightly weaker gravitational pull than those situated farther away from it.

Nevertheless, it has also been pointed out that “there are no known areas where it has been scientifically proven that gravity does not act the way it is supposed to act.” Thus, the explanation that gravity hills are the result of a difference of gravitational pull between the top and the bottom of the slope is perhaps not quite feasible after all.

Poured water running "uphill", this photo is of a cultural heritage site in Canada.

Poured water running "uphill", this photo is of a cultural heritage site in Canada. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Supernatural and Optical Illusion Explanations

Alternatively, some have turned to the supernatural in order to find an explanation for the occurrence of gravity hills. For example, there is a gravity hill in Lake Wales, Florida, where a local legend claims that there had once been a great battle between a giant alligator and a Native American chief. A lake was formed at the site by the ghost of one of them, which is said to be the cause of the gravity hill.

On other gravity hills, the supernatural are not directly involved in its formation, but are thrown into the mix nonetheless, perhaps to add flavor to the tale. For example, there is a gravity hill in Pennsylvania, “Just off Route 219 in Brandy Camp, Elk County”, which is supposedly haunted by the spirits of dead horses.

The sign at Spook Hill.

The sign at Spook Hill. (CC BY 3.0)

Another explanation, which is also perhaps the most plausible, attributes the existence of gravity hills to an optical illusion. According to this explanation, the lay of the land and the surrounding landscape create an optical illusion, thus making us think that the downward slope of a hill is in fact one that goes upwards. Gravity hills continue to be a source of wonder, as the effects of the optical illusion can be quite convincing, even when one is aware of how they are formed.

Apart from gravity hills, this optical illusion has been utilized in a number tourist attractions known generally as ‘mystery spots.’ In the United States, these attractions date back to the era of the Great Depression. Mystery spots normally charge a small admission fee, and usually involve a building in which the laws of gravity seem to be broken. In order to attract more tourists, many of these sites have fanciful tales attached to them.

The Story of the Chipalope Chester the First

In Piercy, California, for example, there is an attraction known as Confusion Hill. The proprietors’ claim that a creature known as the Chipalope (half-chipmunk, half-antelope) originated there. According to this tale, there were a pair of chipmunks and a pair of antelopes walking beside each other in the woods, when they were suddenly transformed into a pair of chipalopes following a sudden strange storm filled with thunder and lightning, earth trembling, and wind screaming.

Confusion Hill, California.

Confusion Hill, California. (Public Domain)

The story says that the male chipalope, which became known as ‘Chester the First,’ gained self-awareness, and decided that he and his mate Rose had to be careful and hide from human beings, only appearing on Confusion Hill during the dead of night or in the early hours of the morning.

Top Image: A gravity hill located near Leh in Ladakh, India. The hill is alleged to have magnetic properties strong enough to pull cars uphill. Source: navintar /Adobe Stock

By Wu Mingren


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Wagner, S., 2015. Mystery Spots and Gravity Hills - What's the Explanation?. [Online]
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Weird NJ inc, 2016. Gravity Roads. [Online]
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T1bbst3r's picture

Wow, got one near me just like in the water picture! Looks like it's dead flat, you stop, let the brakes off and you still travel along. About the same length too!
Didn't even know what it was because of my indoctrinated belief in the law of gravity! Are these the next big things they don't want you to know after the flat earth theory and chemtrails?

Although the "secret" is not revealed, the answer seems to be it's all an optical illusion.
That's fine, so why all the mock spookiness over something that can be proved with a spirit level on a long piece of wood?

dhwty's picture


Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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