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Woman seeks good family to take over mysterious vortex
salt lake tribune ^ | 3/14/04

Posted on 03/14/2004 2:40:22 PM PST by knak

Maria Cooper poses in the doorway of the House of Mystery at the Oregon Vortex outside Gold Hill, Ore. The Oregon Vortex has been astonishing tourists since 1930 with a presentation of mysterious forces. (Jeff Barnard/The Associated Press)

GOLD HILL, Ore. -- Looking for a career change? Interested in the paranormal? Always admired P.T. Barnum?

Step right up, because Maria Cooper has a deal for you.

For just $2 million, she will sell you the Oregon Vortex, a venerable roadside attraction off the beaten track where . . . Brooms stand on end! Balls roll uphill! And walking from one spot to another makes you shrink or grow!

Despite its remote location in the wooded hills behind this old Gold Rush town and little advertising, the Oregon Vortex has become so well-known that Mulder mentioned it on "The X Files," and it is widely considered the inspiration for a dozen similar attractions around the country.

Scottish mining engineer John Lister opened the Oregon Vortex as a tourist attraction in 1930 on the site of the Old Grey Eagle Gold Mine. He claimed the property was on the confluence of mysterious forces he called terralines. The story goes that he was so frightened by what he discovered, he burned his notes before his death.

After Lister died, Cooper's family left a service station and motel in town and bought the property in 1961, when Cooper was still in high school. When her father had heart trouble, she quit her job as a psychiatric social worker at a prison and took over the vortex in 1980.

Cooper, 60, now wants to retire. Her son is more interested in computers, so she is looking for someone -- a family perhaps -- to carry on.

"There is so much potential here," said Cooper. "There could be an espresso bar here. People are always asking about food. There could be a hotdog stand. There is nothing to the overhead. It's all natural setting."

She won't say how many visitors each year pay the $8 admission, beyond "thousands."

The deal includes 22 acres of wooded hillsides, and a three-bedroom house. Within the vortex is a gift shop, the twisted remains of an old mining assay office dubbed the House of Mystery, two sites for demonstrating the growing and shrinking effect, and the willingness of visitors to believe in something they don't understand.

"John Lister's definition was, it's an anti-gravitational electromagnetic field," of which there are many around the world, Cooper explained. "This is a repelling one. The Bermuda Triangle is an attracting one."

The primary demonstration puts a person between two posts about 8 feet apart in the shade of a madrone tree. The posts have rulers on facing sides. A certificate from a surveyor says they are both level. Anyone can grab the carpenter's level hanging from the tree to see that the posts are vertical and the plank on the ground between them is level.

A guide instructs a person standing at the north post to look straight across and find his or her eye level on the south post. Then walk to the post. There is an overwhelming feeling, verified by onlookers, that the walker is shrinking as he or she approaches the south. Turn around and head north, and it feels like the person is growing.

"You can't even measure the measures you measure with, because everything is affected," said Cooper. "It sounds like double-talk, but it's not. "I'm no scientist, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what happens here."

Ray Hyman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Oregon, spent three days here and presented his findings to the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal in 1997.

He concluded the shrinking and growing effect was an optical illusion known as the Ponzo Illusion, and can be duplicated on any sloping ground with trees to obscure the horizon.

Described by Mario Ponzo in 1913, the effect is caused by distorting perspective with a background of converging lines. When visual references are skewed enough, people can actually feel dizzy.

Russ Donnelly, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of Oregon, visited the Oregon Vortex in 1966, and came away "underwhelmed." "I work on vortices for a living," said Donnelly. "That's the name of my cat. I work on smoke-ring vortices, but in water. I work in quantum vortices in superheated helium. Vortices are definitely my trade."

A vortex is a fluid or gas circulating around a core, where the pressure is lower inside than out, explained Donnelly. A vortex forms when water swirls down the bathtub drain. Tornadoes are vortices. Vortices form when big airplanes pass through the air. What is happening at the Oregon Vortex is not a vortex, said Donnelly.

"I thought it was just a sort of optical illusion," he said. "That stuff on the Web about a circular magnetic web is just nonsense."

Cooper agrees that what people see in the House of Mystery -- balls appearing to roll uphill and a pendulum hanging askew -- is optical illusion distorted by the wacky angles of the twisted building. But she insists something else is going on outside the house to make people appear to grow and shrink, though what it is remains a mystery.

Doug Kirby, one of the editors of, has visited a dozen mystery spots around the country, and likes the Oregon Vortex best. "It's the classic," said Kirby.

Typically, these sites are in remote locations, adding to the sense that something strange is happening, said Kirby. There's the twisted house where balls appear to roll uphill, legends that American Indians and animals shunned the places, trees growing in weird shapes. The effect is enhanced by having a grizzled old-timer telling the story, rather than a gum-snapping teenager.

Kirby, who works on Web sites for a telephone company, loves visiting roadside attractions, and was once tempted to buy a Santa's Village in Vermont, but finds it hard enough to persuade his wife to visit these places, let alone buy one for $2 million.

"That's a little bit rich for us," he said. He noted that Mermaid Springs, a famous roadside attraction in Weeki Wachee, Fla., had to be given away to keep it alive.

Whatever it takes, Jennica Chudek of Bellingham, Wash., hopes the Oregon Vortex lives on. Based on a friend's rave review, she demanded her mother bring her here for a side trip while attending the nearby Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"It's crazy, but I believe," she said after taking the tour. "I hope someone buys it so I can bring my kids someday."

TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: illusion

1 posted on 03/14/2004 2:40:22 PM PST by knak
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To: knak
I happened to see that on TV not long ago.

It looks pretty amazing.

But I think $2M is still a bit steep.
2 posted on 03/14/2004 2:42:15 PM PST by FairOpinion ("America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country." --- G. W. Bush)
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To: FairOpinion
sounds like it would be an interesting stop to make
3 posted on 03/14/2004 2:44:19 PM PST by knak
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To: nuconvert; Pan_Yan; Excuse_My_Bellicosity
4 posted on 03/14/2004 2:44:34 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife (The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals. --- Kahlil Gibran)
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To: FairOpinion
A few years back I was at a place in Taiwan called "water flowing uphill." It really looks like the name. A small stream that appears to flow uphill. Clearly an optical illusion, however.
5 posted on 03/14/2004 2:45:16 PM PST by zook
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To: knak
2 million? she's crazy
6 posted on 03/14/2004 2:45:21 PM PST by Mr. K
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To: knak
Sounds like it would be the perfect place for Oregon's 1st Gay Wedding Chapel...
7 posted on 03/14/2004 2:48:54 PM PST by LRS
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To: Mr. K; Pan_Yans Wife
22 acres and a three bedroom house.
It's a little steep. But land is expensive out west.
I think I'd want to see the receipts for the thousands of paying visitors.
8 posted on 03/14/2004 2:59:56 PM PST by nuconvert (CAUTION: I'm an acquaintance of someone labelled :"an obstinate supporter of dangerous fantasies")
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To: zook
Theirs a place in Florida called spook hill the road looks like it goes downhill but you roll uphill went by motorcycle have to keep your feet down while you roll uphill.
9 posted on 03/14/2004 3:02:49 PM PST by bikerman
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To: FairOpinion
Living just up the road a bit, I have been there. Barnum would have loved this place. Why things look or happen there are beyond me.

Watch a bearing rolling up a obviously upward incline is one of the many features.

Two people, one tall, one short, can vary who is taller just by switching positions with each other just a few feet away from each other. This is with wood beams as set points of reference.

Floors at steep angles that make you walk at what feels and looks to be an opposing angle.

Worth the bucks for many who go there.

10 posted on 03/14/2004 3:04:44 PM PST by wanderin
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To: knak
I once knew a woman with a mysterious vortex.
11 posted on 03/14/2004 3:10:23 PM PST by zygoat
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To: knak
Had a place like this in the Black Hills of South Dakota--called Cosmos. A noted tourist trap from at least the 1940's. Don't think it's still in operation, but there's always Wall Drug--the ultimate tourist stop in the stste.
12 posted on 03/14/2004 3:17:40 PM PST by The Great RJ
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To: wanderin
Thanks for your eyewitness report.

If I am ever in the neighborhood, I'll make a point of going to see it.

Sounds fascinating.
13 posted on 03/14/2004 3:52:11 PM PST by FairOpinion ("America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country." --- G. W. Bush)
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To: knak
I'm pretty sure I was there as a kid, in summer 1966.

It was either this EXACT SAME PLACE, or another one EXACTLY like it, somewhere between Grant's Pass, Oregon, and Crescent City, California. We saw the sign, and stopped.

The place we stopped at was called: "Uncanny Canyon". We kids talked about it, for hours and hours, on our long car trip back home to Kansas.

Since then, I have seen other, very similar sites. All had one thing in common: they never did build the buildings with walls that were straight. Always, they were built at a slant. And the floors weren't level, either.

I will never forget my experience at "Uncanny Canyon".

HOWEVER, we were herded through like cattle, and not allowed to really examine the "evidence" closely, nor to go back through again, unless we paid again, for another one way guided tour, with a slick talking tour guide.

It was fascinating, though. Obviously, for me to have remembered it so well after all these years!

We took some pictures, but I am not sure where they are today.

I would have been much more convinced, if they had built the building we were herded through on the straight and level, instead of all at crazy angles.

But, it was fun to believe that something strange was going on. What we really were paying for, was for the fun and excitement of seeing something that we could not explain.

I could go on and on about it, but you know, the other places that have been built so as to closely resemble the "strange effects" at "Uncanny Canyon" have me CONVINCED that we were fooled, but I'm not sure how.

Gimme a break, I was only 12!
14 posted on 03/14/2004 4:26:54 PM PST by RonHolzwarth
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To: knak
OH! I just checked! Gold Hill, OR, is indeed - on the road between Grant's Pass, OR, and Crescent City, CA!

So, yup indeed, it was called "Uncanny Canyon", in 1966!

But now, they have changed the name to:

"House of Mystery, at the Oregon Vortex".

A fool is born every minute.

There was one built at "Worlds of Fun", in Kansas City, Missouri, in case you don't care to travel quite so far west,,,

Also, I believe there is another in Branson, Missouri, and I am sure there are many, many more,,,
15 posted on 03/14/2004 4:34:42 PM PST by RonHolzwarth
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To: nuconvert; FairOpinion; Pan_Yan; Excuse_My_Bellicosity; knak; Mr. K; LRS; zook; bikerman; ...
reply to: "receipts for the thousands of paying visitors."

They don't keep the receipts! Tax purposes, you know,,,

I was at the place, in 1966, check my comments,,,
16 posted on 03/14/2004 5:03:55 PM PST by RonHolzwarth
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To: knak
For those of you who want to visit a site such as this, but do not have the time or the money for an extended car trip, I have made a quick net search, to find one near you!

But, I may have made a mistake, and visited a DIFFERENT one in Oregon, as a kid! Like I said, gimme a break, I was only 12!

I am sure there are many, many more!

Notice how many "just happen" to be inside amusement parks!

Quite a coincidence, huh?

1. AZ / Coconino Co.
Rose Point
Sedona, AZ

2. CA / Mendocino Co.
Confusion Hill - Gravity House
75001 N. Hwy. 101
Piercy, CA 95587

3. CA / Los Angeles Co.
Gravity Grade
address ?
Pomona, CA ?

4. CA / Orange Co.
Haunted Shack - Knott's Berry Farm
8039 Beach Blvd.
Buena Park, CA 90620

5. CA / Sonoma Co.
Magnetic Hill
? Lichau Rd.
Petaluma, CA

6. CA / San Bernardino Co.
Mystery Shack - Calico Ghost Town
36600 Ghost Town Rd.
Yermo, CA 92398

7. CA / Santa Cruz Co.
Mystery Spot
465 Mystery Spot Rd., off 1953 Branciforte Dr.
Santa Cruz, CA 95063

8. CANADA / New Brunswick
Magnetic Hill
TCH Route 2
Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada E1C 532

9. FL / Polk Co.
Spook Hill
? N. Wales Dr.
Lake Wales, FL 33859

10. FL / Saint Johns Co.
Mystery Spot
address ?
St. Augustine, FL

11. MI / Lenawee Co.
Mystery Hill
7611 U.S. Hwy. 12
Irish Hill, MI 49265

12. MI / Mackinac Co.
Mystery Spot
150 Martin Lake Rd.
St. Ignace, MI 49781

13. MN / Crow Wing Co.
Magnetic Mine Shack - Paul Bunyan Amusement Center
1900 Fairview Rd.
Brainerd, MN 56401

14. MO / Taney Co.
Grandfather's Mansion - Silver Dollar City
1940 State Hwy. 248
Branson, MO 65616

15. NC / Watauga Co.
Mystery Hill
Route 1, Box 278
Blowing Rock, NC 28605

16. NC / Haywood Co.
Mystery Shack - Ghost Town of the Sky
Hwy. 19, Box 369
Maggie Valley, NC 28751

17. NH / Grafton Co.
Mysterious Tuttle House - Clark's Trading Post
Route 3, Box 1
North Woodstock, NH 03262

18. NJ / Bergen Co.
site name ?
address ?
Franklin Lakes, NJ 08105 ?

19. OH / Ottawa Co.
Mystery Hill
8232 Harbor Rd.
Marblehead, OH 43440

#20 IS FOR SALE!!!

20. OR / Jackson Co.
Vortex - House of Mystery
4303 Sardine Creek Rd.
Gold Hill, OR 97525

I may have made a MISTAKE!!!
#21 is perhaps the following is the one I saw as a kid!!!

21. OR / Klamath Co.
Uncanny Canyon
address ?
Crater Lake, OR 97604

22. OR / Coos Co.
site name ?
address ?
Coquille, OR 97423

23. PA / Westmoreland Co.
Confusion Hill - Idlewild Park
Route 30, Darlington Rd.
Ligonier, PA 15658

24. SD / Pennington Co.
Cosmos of the Black Hills
3616 W. Main St.
Rapid City, SD 57702

25. SD / ? Co.
site name ?
address ?
city/state/zip code ?

26. TX / Tarrant Co.
Casa Magnetica - Six Flags Over Texas (Park)
2201 Road to Six Flags
Arlington, TX 76014

27. TN / Sevier Co.
Mystery Hill
Dudley Creek Rd. and U.S. Hwy. 441
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

28. UT / Salt Lake Co.
site name ?
address ?
Salt Lake City, UT 84101 ?

29. WI / Sauk Co.
Wonder Spot
Hwy. 12, Exit 92
Lake Delton, WI 53940

30. WY / Teton Co.
Teton Mystery (Spot)
South Hwy. 89, Box 1412
Jackson, WY 83001

17 posted on 03/14/2004 5:29:36 PM PST by RonHolzwarth
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