Do cars really roll up  "Spook Hill"?

by Gary P. Posner

Spook Hill, where cars seem to drift uphill, received national press in a front-page Wall Street Journal  article on October 25, 1990, and in a November 5 segment on the CBS Morning News with Charles Osgood. This "piney pitstop of the paranormal," as it is referred to in the WSJ  piece, lies 50 miles to the south of Orlando, in the town of Lake Wales.

The WSJ  reported that the Spook Hill Beautification Committee has convinced state and local legislators to provide $32,000 for "new signs, a tourist information center and a parking lot." Arch Abernathy, City Editor of the Lake Wales Daily Highlander  and a member of the Committee, tells TBS Report  that, in his opinion, the hill is simply "an optical illusion." Says Abernathy, "It's a free attraction. We have a lot of fun with the [ghost] legends, and just enjoy people coming over."

Addressing the concern that Spook Hill might become a profit-making venture, Abernathy assured TBS Report  that, "There will be nothing of that sort in our lifetime." The money, he says, is for necessary improvements so that hundreds of cars per weekend will not continue to clog the narrow roadway.

TBS member Guss Wilder reports that the contours of the approach road and surrounding land create the illusion  of a small dip that should cause cars to drift forward from the designated "stop point," but from which cars instead drift backward,  seemingly uphill (see Fig. 1). From other vantage points, however, it was apparent that the true low point is actually behind  the "stop point," adjacent to an appropriately placed storm drain, and that the cars do indeed drift downhill.  (see Fig. 2).

A version of this article appeared in the Winter 1990-91 Tampa Bay Skeptics Report .  Guss Wilder wrote an article on Spook Hill for the Fall 1991 Skeptical Inquirer,  and highlights from that article can be found in the Jan/Feb 1992 issue of Science Frontiers.

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