Scholarly article on topic 'Mystery Spots'

Mystery Spots Academic research paper on "Art (arts, history of arts, performing arts, music)"

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Perception
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Academic research paper on topic "Mystery Spots"

Perception, 1998, volume 27, pages 503-504

Editorial

Mystery Spots

Just think of an Ames Room and multiply the effect by a thousand. This is what a Mystery Spot is like. A dozen in America are described in Douglas B Vogt's book Gravitational Mystery Spots: Explained Using the Theory of Multidimensional Reality; all being very similar, I have visited the one at Santa Cruz in California. Others are in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee (not open), Wisconsin, and Wyoming. There are also Magnetic Hills, especially in Canada, near Moncton in New Brunswick, the Electric Bray in Ayrshire, Scotland, and there are many others around the world. But these are only roads on which cars seem to run upwards against gravity. They are not the Full Monty. The Full Monty Mystery Spot has a lopsided two-roomed wooden cabin perched on the side of a steep forested hill. The first probably happened by accident — a cabin sliding down a hill, ending up twisted though intact before reaching the bottom. The other American Mystery Spots seem to be straight copies of the first. They are tourist attractions owned and run as businesses by families. They are deservedly popular and well worth a visit.

As the cabins have crazy shapes they have misleading — because not true — horizontals and verticals. They are confusing to the extent of producing vertigo and even nausea which lasts for quite a time. One hangs on to anything available to keep one's balance. There are several associated phenomena — especially the shrink-and-grow effect. People standing on an apparently horizontal plank outside the cabin appear taller when at one end and shorter standing on the other end of the plank. This can be shown in a photograph, though it is somewhat hard to know where to place the camera on the steep slope of the hill. Also, it feels harder to push a heavy suspended bob in one direction than in others. If confirmed, this is a particularly interesting effect.

One needs a complement of measuring instruments to be sure of just what is going on. But thorough investigation of a Mystery Spot is not easy, as one is dissuaded from lingering, or indeed questioning the received philosophy: multidimensional gravity and local anomaly of spacetime. For the dramatic phenomena are not presented as perceptual illusions but as anomalies of a future physics. In fact the notion of illusions is seen as illusory!

The situation is very different from an Ames Room, which uses 'negative perspective' to give the same retinal image as a normal rectangular room, though it is a strange shape; so, if properly made, it must look like a normal room. It becomes interesting when objects (especially people) are added, for they look too tall or too short when they are at different distances though apparently at the same distance. These twisted cabins evidently violate our assumptions of normal horizontal and vertical, which is a very different matter. They raise many questions, such as what deviations from horizontal and vertical work best? Do the effects occur if it is not a realistic cabin, or room? Do they disappear with familiarity? Does long-term adaptation make a normal room appear strange? Do people unfamiliar with rectangular rooms experience similar effects in the Mystery Spots? These are kinds of questions we might ask, and I simply don't know the answers; but Douglas Vogt views the situation very differently.

Investigating the Oregon Vortex (at 4303 Sardine Creek Road, Gold Hill, OR 97525), Vogt found that time slowed down in the vortex. This Mystery Spot is the oldest known, and quite likely the first. Apparently it was owned and investigated by a John Lister in 1914, after being an assay office of a mining company, before sliding down the hill

Editorial

and coming to rest near a large tree. Vogt thinks that Lister built the cabin crooked, to accentuate the effect of the vortex. This is in the hill itself, causing trees to grow crooked and spiralled, with magnetic and time-warping effects in this small special region. It seems that Lister described the vortex as circular, but with 'terralines' some 57 inches apart, oriented to the four compass points and intersecting at 90°. He describes the circular area as expanding and contracting periodically, and saw the phenomena as electromagnetic.

Yogt does not believe this electromagnetic account, and he carried out a series of experiments in this and some other Mystery Spots, following a different theory, entirely opposed to perceptual illusions, writing: "My experimental approach was that if there was a time shift associated with the size change, then it would rule out any possibility of visual illusions or trickery" (page 10).

From time measurements with a 25 MHz 'freely oscillating crystal', powered by a 9 V battery, Vogt gives several graphs relating the oscillator frequency to position across the vortex, compared with measurements made "in normal time and space". Though standard deviations or statistical significances are not given, the 'mystery' and the 'normal' curves do look very different. The oscillator frequency stays almost constant, over several hours, in the normal conditions; but rises when moved towards the centre of the anomaly — as "time was affected".

The guide to the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot that I visited produced the same kind of explanation for the visual phenomena. Any illusions that there might be were dismissed as masking the true phenomena. Changes of gravity and time in the anomaly were expounded, in apparent good faith, to children and adults alike.

Just why don't I believe a word of it? It is presented as science, with measurements including controls. But the more it looks like science the more disturbing it is that the public are given this account as though acceptably true. If there were no measurements, no graphs, one might simply dismiss it as unjustified belief But here there are powerful phenomena, which are surely significant if considered appropriately. For us they demonstrate basic perceptual principles, and they may raise some questions we can only partly answer. Just why is an iron bob harder to push "towards the vortex" than away? Is there a hidden magnet, or is this a perceptual phenomenon? It is foolish to be dogmatic, yet I am absolutely certain that it is a Bad Idea to tell children that they are suffering local anomalies of spacetime, when they are experiencing dramatic phenomena created by their eyes and brains.

Richard Gregory Reference

Yogt D B, 1996 Gravitational Mystery Spots: Explained Using the Theory of Multidimensional Reality

(Bellevue, WA: Vector Associates)

1998 a Pion publication printed in Great Britain