How Cars Roll Uphill – It’s Not That Exciting

The first time I saw a car seemingly roll uphill, I was just outside of Princeton, New Jersey in a place called Jackson Township.  Since I had just moved to the area, a friend of mine was showing me around the area and thought that I would like to see “Gravity Hill.”  She was right!  I drove the car to the bottom of the hill, stopped in the road, put the car in neutral and sure enough, the car slowly began to roll up the hill.  It was the craziest thing I had ever seen.  I was dumbfounded!  I’d never seen, nor heard about anything like this in my life.  It was so cool.  I must have done it five or six times, each time providing more evidence than the last that my car truly was rolling up a hill.  No matter how I tried to look at it, I could not deny that to my eyes, and clearly many before mine, this was a phenomena in and of itself.  According to my friend, the locals claim that many years ago, a man had murdered his entire family in the house at the top of the hill and the spirits of his family were pulling those who pass by back toward them.  Weird to say the least, but I just assumed it was their way of explaining this otherwise really cool phenomena.

Michael Jackson is the human equivalent of a “Gravity Hill” except I think his anti-gravity stuff was kinda real. Almost. But definitely cool.

Fast forward a decade and I’m in Baltimore, Maryland when lo and behold, a woman begins to tell me of a nearby hill where something crazy happened and that since that day, your car can roll uphill.  Much to my surprise, this hill was also called “Gravity Hill.”  At this point, I had to know if this was truly a reality or if people’s eyes and minds are just playing tricks on them.  So, after a little research and some research of the research, I came across this accurate and true explanation.

All of these instances are simply very unique visual illusions.  They happen in areas where the horizon is somewhat blocked from view by trees, a mountain, a house, blocked by something.  Other visual objects that tend to give us visual evidence of what true vertical is are often at a slight angle.  Together, the obstructed horizon and the angles at which typically vertical landmarks are leaning create a visual illusion that was are not able to recognize as false.  In the end, a slight downhill slope in fact looks to be an uphill slope.  Crazy isn’t it!  But it can be found in dozens of places around the world and every one of these places, when investigated, have the same common visual circumstances.  In the end, objects appear to be rolling uphill when in fact, they are rolling slightly downhill.  Very slightly at that which is why the objects roll so slowly.

You can see this with bodies of water quite commonly.  Many times a river will appear to be flowing uphill against gravity when in fact it is another example of a perfectly logical visual illusion.

One of the many “Gravity Hill” sites found worldwide

Of course these locations often become places of great interest to tourists and are a lot of fun for young people to show their out-of-town friends and such.  Some people will tell you that there is a shift in gravitational or magnetic forces in that area that allows gravity to be overcome in some way science cannot explain.  Of course, they are simply telling others what they have heard which is entirely false.  Time and again, unfortunately, these locations have been shown to be nothing more than visual illusions.

Human beings have a couple different ways to determine which direction is up.  We have a balancing mechanism in our inner ears that allow us to sense which direction is up or down and we have visual evidence that we rely on to tell us up from down as well.  The problem with using vision alone is that the things we typically use to visually determine up from down are not always exactly the same.  And, when one or more of these things are not in a position that we are used to seeing them, things appear to be abnormal as is the case when we think we see cars or objects rolling uphill.

It has also been concluded that most human beings are not very good at estimating the angle of a slope.  To be brief, we tend to estimate a slope we are standing on to be at a greater angle than it truly is.  Because of this misconception of slope angle, the anti-gravity illusion may seem much more real than it would if our ability to estimate slope angles were more accurate.

Even once you know the real cause of objects seemingly rolling uphill, you may still have a hard time believing it.  We use our vision to verify just about everything in our lives and we trust it greatly.  So, it is no surprise that when our vision does not accurately perceive something that we have a hard time believing that our eyes have in fact lied to us.

An anti-gravity cat. A quality example of yet another gravitational anomaly that baffles the mind.

Measuring anomalies in the magnetism of the earth requires highly sophisticated equipment that is very expensive.  But, if you truly want to know if a specific place has an abnormal magnetism, take a level board and tie two equal lengths of string from it.  The board must be perfectly level and the best way to ensure this is by using a carpenter’s level.  Once the strings are hanging from the board, tie a magnet or piece of metal onto one string and tie a rock onto the other.  If the magnetism of the ground is abnormal, the metal should move in a direction that is different from the direction the rock is hanging.  Of course the rock would be hanging straight down to the naked eye, but the metal would be drawn in a direction toward the magnetism in that area.  Of course no one is going to do this (probably), but it could be a simple way to see if there is indeed a magnetic shift of some kind in a particular area of the world.

When hearing about or seeing instances such as we are discussing here, it is important to mention that visual illusions tend to come from very small changes from what we perceive as normal.  This is why we think we see something rolling uphill when in fact the horizon may be obstructed or a fence or cluster of trees may be leaning slightly in a manner we are not accustomed to seeing.

If you do a web search for instances where people believe they can observe objects rolling uphill, you’ll find there are literally hundreds of these locations in the world.  Here I have compiled a list of some of the most common places in the United States that claim to posses this phenomena.

  • Gravity Hill – Jackson Township, New Jersey
  • Magnetic Hill – Ardmore, Oklahoma
  • Mystery Hill – Blowing Rock, North Carolina
  • Gravity Hill – New Paris, Pennsylvania
  • Confusion Hill – Idelwild, Pennsylvania
  • Spook Hill – Lake Wales, Florida
  • Mystery Spot – Baltimore County, Maryland
  • Gravity Road – Franklin Lakes/Wyckoff, New Jersey
  • Mystery Spot Road – Santa Cruz, California
  • Oregon Vortex – Gold Hill, Oregon
  • Gravity Hill – Benzie Country, Michigan
  • Gravity Hill – Mooresville, Indiana
  • Spook Hill – Burkittsville, Maryland
  • Spook Hill – Shullsburg, Wisconsin
  • Gravity Hill – Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Gravity Hill – Prosser, Washington

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Optical Illusion and the Magnetic Hills in Koya Region (Kurdistan, Iraq), Journal of Kirkuk University; Vol. 4, No. 1, 2009

Frazier, Kendrick, “Skeptical Inquirer”, Vol 16, No. 1, 1991

Banta, Chris, “Seeing Is Believing?  Haunted Shacks, Mystery Spots, and Other Delightful Phenomena”, 1996

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