Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida

Spook Hill Sign

Spook Hill Sign

Several years ago, before my three teenagers were, well, teenagers, we took a trip to what was then called The Bok Tower(now called the Bok Tower Gardens or Historic Bok Sanctuary) in Lake Wales. It a wonderful place and worthy of a post all by itself. However, as I said, I had three little kids–Not teenagers–So we HAD to take a side trip just down the road to Spook Hill.

Since Halloween is just around the corner, it seems appropriate to mention this piffle anomaly.

Spook Hill is a “gravity hill” also sometimes known as a “magnetic hill,” “mystery hill,” or “gravity road.” Simply put, it is an optical illusion that can make it appear as though objects are rolling uphill. Wikipedia states that there are hundreds of such locations throughout the world and that they are caused by an obstructed horizon with a combination of factors that can make it appear as though a downward slope is an upward slope. Tour guides at these places may try to convince you that surreal or paranormal activity is at work. Not to be a killjoy–but don’t believe them. Give them a good tip only if they spin an amusing yarn.

We had seen a TV special about Spook Hill on some national TV show. It even appears on some maps of the area and was once mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. When searching for it in Lake Wales, we relied on small signs, definitely off-the-beaten-path, that pointed out where to make turns. If memory serves, we went off on several wild goose chases before finding Spook Hill. While researching this post, I found several other blogs indicating that, indeed, one of the signs for Spook Hill has gone missing. Once there, however, the large white sign left no doubt we were in the right place.

The sign gave specific instructions. You pull up to a white line in the road, place your car in neutral, and viola–Your car appears to drift backward “up” the hill. My young daughter got to sit in my lap in the driver’s seat and steer the car. What a thrill for her. My two boys found it amusing–For about a minute. As for me, I kept looking at the ordinary homes on both sides of the road and wondered how they felt about this peculiar tourist destination, literally, in their front yard. The entrepreneur in me wondered why the neighborhood kids didn’t have lemonade stands by the side of the road.

To me, however, the most fascinating aspect of this “attraction” is the significance of it within the community. The Elementary School nearby is named “Spook Hill Elementary” and they have even adopted “Casper, the Friendly Ghost” as their mascot. In addition, the sign by the attraction speaks of a legendary Indian chief, a battle with an alligator, and a belief by the early pioneers that this place was haunted.  Unfortunately, the “illusion” never quite worked for me.

After reviewing this post, my wife chided me.  She said that she remember that the kids loved Spook Hill.  For her, the illusion worked perfectly and she found it fascinating.  She was worried that this post sounded like it was belittling the experience.  She found Spook Hill to be simple, but special.  She would encourage you to go, especially if you have small kids.

Should you visit Spook Hill. Sure, why not. But not for the attraction. Visit it for the unique experience of how so minor a thing can garner such attention. Visit it for no more than five minutes. But, most importantly, visit it on your way to or from the Bok Tower Gardens.

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