It’s a gravitational anomaly that has mystified visitors since 1940, has been featured in Life magazine, and scores of other publications, television shows, and everyone and their mother’s Instagram feeds. So what exactly is this “mystery” spot and why are people flocking here from all over the world? The small of it is, it’s a 150-foot circle of land in which everything seems to lean, people are alleged to feel sick, and gravity likes to play tricks on you, in a sector of the woods just outside of Santa Cruz, California.

According to the Mystery Spot, the location was discovered in 1939 by a group of surveyors working on a summer cabin for George Prather. After unexpectedly feeling lightheaded, and some peculiar misworkings of a compass, they shifted their focus from vacation to tourist destination. In 1940, the location was opened to the public. The surveyors had built a small two-room cabin on the slope of the property that, unsurprisingly, slide down the hill until it was flush against a tree. The cabin is crooked and leans up the hill, creating an odd selection of angles inside. It’s around this area that the circus show begins. On straight levels, people will appear to shrink, or grow in height, and in slanted areas, the “leaning” effect takes over, circular objects will seem to roll up instead of down and appear to be “pushed away” from the center of the “gravity anomaly”.

Mystery Spot sign

Theories abound as to what exactly is causing the strange behavior at the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot. Some speculate it’s a location where the laws of physics and gravity have gone completely haywire, and others have blamed supernatural forces. It’s been suggested that this is a site of paranormal activity, the location where an extraterrestrial civilization crashed their spaceship into the hill, covered it up, and left the motors or tracking beams operational.

“Some speculate that cones of metal were secretly brought here and buried in our earth as guidance systems for their spacecraft. Some think that it is, in fact, the spacecraft itself buried deep within the ground. Other theories include carbon dioxide permeating from the earth, a hole in the ozone layer, a magma vortex, the highest dielectric biocosmic radiation known anywhere in the world, and radiesthesia. Whatever the cause is, it remains a mystery.”

Sadly, the likely reality of the situation is far more drab. The Mystery Spot is one of a series of “gravity hills” in which, due to a blockage in the horizon, downhill slopes appear to be uphill and result in a bizarre series of optical illusions. Boring, I know. It’s totally okay if you still want to think it was aliens.

You can view this video of Weird US visiting the spot with a seemingly drunk guide, though, she might just be quirky.

Rogue Planet visits:

The road leading to the Mystery Spot seemed empty enough, but turning into the redwood-shrouded drive and up the hill revealed the sheer magnitude of the Mystery Spot. It’s a tourist mecca where throngs of people of all nationalities flock to view a crooked cabin in the hills.

It was a weekend, and since I did not buy tickets in advance, it was a good thing I was solo. They were able to squeeze me in, but I had to wait an hour. They offer plenty to do in your downtime, however. There is a 30-minute nature hike, a snack shack with a surprisingly large selection of vegetarian items, and a gift shop full of t-shirts, Bigfoot gag gifts, and redwoods trinkets.

It will come as a real shock to those that know me, but I skipped the nature hike and opted for some food instead. I ordered a veggie chili cheese dog for $4.50. It’s true that you get what you pay for, but this was the cheapest food I’ve ever found in California. The “chili” was comprised of seasoned pinto beans that they layered over a veggie dog and slathered it with a congealing nacho cheese type of Velveeta. It hit the spot at the time, no pun intended.

The area by the gift shop is full of all sorts of mystery paraphernalia including temporary tattoo machines and a multitude of penny smashing kiosks. Yes, I opted to destroy some American currency. And yes, I quickly managed to burn an hour eating, smashing pennies, and taking pictures.

Rogue Planet at the Mystery Spot

My tour group consisted of around 20 people including some overly obnoxious identical twin who took turns interrupting our tour guide and his experiments every five seconds. To be fair, they were curious little seven-year-old girls, so I shouldn’t have expected a different outcome. I have to commend the tour guide Drew for his tried but untried patience. Clearly this wasn’t his first kid-rodeo. In fact, he also gets a shout-out for offering to take my picture before I had to resort to asking him or a stranger for assistance. It was a gesture that was greatly appreciated. Gold star Drew.

I won’t say too much about the “mystery” here, but I will say that as someone with over a decade of UFO-related work experience, the “alien” theory is amusing, but also highly doubtful. It’s only $6.00 for the tour and $5.00 for the parking, so, if you find yourself in the area, take the short detour and a gander at a slanted cabin in the woods – no zombies included. It’s an entertaining experience for adults and probably fascinating for the younger population, just try and keep them quiet when the tour guide is trying to talk.

Travel Tips: Take advantage of their online reservations if you have that luxury, it will save you time in the long run. You can book tour reservations at Mysteryspot.org. The other suggestion I would give visitors is to make sure you’re wearing footwear with a solid grip system. The non-traction sandals I happened to be wearing sent me careening down the slope of the cabin on more than one occasion. Mildly amusing to everyone else, I’m sure.

How to get there: From Santa Cruz take the CA-1 to Branciforte Road and continue until you reach Mystery Spot Road on the left, your destination is at 465 Mystery Spot Road Santa Cruz, CA 95065