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Always wanted to experience what it would be like to live in a gravity-free world? Then you may want to check out the 'Mystery Spot' - a nondescript barn located in the redwood forests that lie on the outskirts of the picturesque city of Santa Cruz in California. That's because short of flying, you will be able to experience almost everything astronauts do, without ever leaving earth.
Discovered in 1939, the area where Mystery Spot is located, was originally marked for a summer cabin. However according to local folklore, when the surveyors tried to chart the plot, their instruments started going haywire. Investigators that were sent to look into the bizarre phenomenon reported feeling light-headed and as though some invisible force was trying to knock them off balance. Not surprisingly, the decision to build the summer cabin was abandoned. Instead, the owners decided to build a barn-like structure that they called the Mystery Spot and open it to the public so that everyone could experience the strange phenomena.
Over the years, thousands of tourists have flocked to the 150-square-foot area to see water and balls rolling uphill, short people appear the same height as tall ones and experience leaning at impossible angles without toppling over.
Some unfortunate visitors have also reported losing their balance and feeling disoriented and sick, when they are inside the barn's four walls. So what causes these strange things to happen? Depends on who you ask.
Some believe that it is because the area is an electromagnetic hotspot, while others are convinced that there are some unknown geological forces at work. Then there is the UFO theory which is listed on the official Mystery Spot website that asserts that the land underneath the shack is under a powerful guidance system that bends and distorts the law of gravity.
Rational scientists have thrown cold water over all these theories. In 1981, Ray Hyman, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, conducted a study on this and other similar mystery spots that have been 'discovered' in various parts of the country. His conclusion? It's a visual illusion caused by the way the cabins that sit over the 'mystery spots' have been constructed.
Though they appear to be normal structures, they are like carnival funhouses, filled with floors that are not level, corners that are not squared and walls, that are not vertical.
University of California, Berkeley, psychologists William Prinzmetal and Arthur Shimamura who conducted a similar study in 1998, reached the same conclusion.
Some experts believe that mystery spots such as the one in Santa Cruz are a product of the Great Depression, when the only industry that was growing in America, was entertainment. Apparently, even during the most austere times, people were willing to spend the small fee to see these magical illusions.
While the scientific explanation is probably true, even Berkeley's Prinzmetal admits that despite knowing fully well that the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz is tilted at a 20% incline, he experiences and enjoys all the illusions, whenever he visits.