For most of us, Halloween is about candy, costumes, and spooky stories. But at the roadside attraction known as the Oregon Vortex in Southern Oregon Halloween marks the end of a long season.
It’s Oregon’s so-called “mystery spot” — where water runs uphill, gravity seems off-kilter and short reporters like Harriet Baskas appear taller than they really are.
West Virginia has a mystery hole. Santa Cruz, California has a mystery spot. And Gold Hill, Oregon has a vortex. The stories behind them are all mysteriously alike. A UFO or strange magnetic force has pulled a wooden shack down a hill. And everything in the now-crooked building is topsy-turvy.
Justin Adamson: "I can’t get a grip on what’s right, what angle is right or straight up and down."
Justin Adamson, his daughter Katerina and Brennam Richardson are inside the House of Mystery at the Oregon Vortex.
Brennam Richardson: "I’m feeling dizzy. I’m just wobbling back and forth. I know I’m not but it just seems to be magnetic forces kind of fussing around with my body."
The Oregon Vortex is the original mystery spot. It opened to the public in 1930. That’s when scientist and mining engineer John Litster announced his discovery of a three-quarter-acre plot in the woods where he believed that the laws of gravity were somehow set askew by a confluence of magnetic fields.
Today, Maria Cooper and her son Mark run the place. And they say inside the vortex all sorts of strange phenomena occur. Even a short person can seem taller.
Mark Cooper: "I’d like you to take your right hand and touch your left shoulder. Reach up and touch Maria’s shoulder next to yours. Got that? Yeah. Now Maria is going to walk around to your other side. And I’d like you to take your left hand and try the same thing.
Harriet Baskas: "Now it feels three inches taller. Why do I keep getting taller and shorter?"
Mark Cooper: "We don’t know!"
Skeptics say it’s all an optical illusion, but Mark Cooper says it has something to do with the Theory of Mass Change that John Litster spent years trying to prove. He even reportedly shared his research with Albert Einstein.
Mark Cooper: "What we’re actually saying is that as you would walk towards north, you’re physically condensing and thereby getting smaller. No more or less of you, just sort of taking up less space, like if you were to squeeze a sponge or cool most materials. And as you walk back towards the south you’re physically expanding and thereby getting larger expanding. Again, no more or less of you, just taking up more space."
You won’t find that theory in your physics textbook. Dean Livelybrooks is a geophysics professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He says there are still plenty of mysteries in nature, but the Oregon Vortex probably isn’t one of them.
Dean Livelybrooks: "Are you going to be able to go to places in the earth and have a little light weight test magnet and have it suspended in the air because there’s so such huge magnetism emanating locally from your vortex spot. The answer is no."
But that’s not really the point, says Doug Kirby from Roadsideamerica.com, a website that celebrates offbeat attractions.
Doug Kirby: "Mystery spots are interesting in that you can go and be a total skeptic and get something out of it or go and be a total believer and get something out of it. And it allows you to make that transition and shed everything you ever learned in science class and get in there and have some fun."
Lots of fun — but not too many explanations — at the Oregon Vortex and a dozen or so other mystery spots around the country where water runs uphill inside shacks that have slid downhill and strange magnetic forces really do seem to make short people look taller.