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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Sep 2014

Messing with mystery spot

Ashwini Bhatnagar  Mystery Spot, January 17, 2012
First Published: 14:41 IST(17/1/2012) | Last Updated: 14:41 IST(17/1/2012)
It's an interesting diversion away from the famed Santa Cruz beach and the legendary surf that builds up on the coastline.    The Surf City of the US of A is best known globally for the waves that create the most sought after surfing sites. It is also the city that gave the world what is known as 'wet suits'--the body hugging apparel  which is now a must for swimmers or divers or surfers.


Indeed, Santa Cruz, just 116 km away from San Francisco, is an ideal getaway for a weekend or for an entire year. It is warm and nice through the 12 months and it has all the attractions which a peace -lover or an avid party-goer may aspire for. The beach is a peach and the windswept landscape along the shoreline a treat for the weary eyed. And, don't forget the sheer pleasure for strolling through the Redwood forests, a stone throw's distance away from the town with a permanent population of just over 60,000.

The Santa Cruz area is blessed in many ways. It has several interesting diversions. The university is one such place with its idyllic charm and intellectual fierceness. A tour of the university as a tourist is a must; for those who can manage an interaction with the dons, its pure delight. There is something in the air here which provokes innate curiosity and intellectual rigor.

But if you wish to leave all this behind and enjoy an experience, go to the Mystery Spot. It is a 150 feet circular area near the town which has been labeled as a "gravitational anomaly." In simpler worlds, it is here that you stand upright and you appear to be bending forward. It is here that water doesn't flow downwards. It's here that a seemingly flat surface propels objects to slide in a particular way.

Popular perception is that The Mystery Spot is a gravity hill. It is a tilt-induced visual illusion. The illusion experienced by visitors results from the oddly tilted environment as well as standing on a tilted floor. Inside the tilted room of the Mystery Spot, misperceptions of the height and orientation of objects occur. Even when people are standing outside on a level ground, the slant of the building in the background causes misperceptions as we judge the height of people using the slant of the roof rather than the true horizon. It is said to be a trick, a trick devised by a smart Alec to fleece the gullible.

But the story doesn't quite end here for you are more preoccupied by the stuff dished out by the guide, who is a must if you visit the Spot. The guide will tell you that the Mystery Spot was discovered by a group of surveyors in 1939 and its unique properties were opened for public experience in 1940. Since then millions have visited the site and heard stories about why this 'tilt' happens on the hill.

Theories abound. Forget science and logic, listen in to the fantastic. There is one about aliens who buried special metal in the bowels of the hill so that it can serve as a guidance system to their spacecrafts. A special ozone layer is also said to be the reason for the gravitational anomaly as is the belief that carbon dioxide is permeating through earth's layers or a magma vortex is behind the visual mayhem. Ever heard of dielectric biocosmic radiation? Or radiesthesia? They too have been held responsible for the Mystery Hill mystery.

Whatever the cause, or the fraud as some believe, Mystery Hill is an interesting one- hour long diversion. It tickles you a bit and the guided tour makes you hungry enough to sit down and have your lunch or evening tea on the benches in the garden. And, if you still have enough sunlight or energy left for the day, try the half hour hike amongst the Redwood flora and fauna. It's an afternoon well spent away from the beach or the merry-go-round on it.

Ashwini is a Lucknow-based media professional who culls out travel experiences while on mundane assignments

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