Gravity Hills: A Spooky Optical Illusion of the Roads

Lauren Smith
· 3 min read
Part of
driving safely
is being aware of your surroundings at all times. So what happens when the road plays tricks on you, or you stumble upon an area where the law of physics doesn't seem to work?
Places where a car in neutral at the bottom of a hill will head back up that hill, and you can even get out and watch it leave you behind, scratching your head wondering what happened?
It sounds like the start of a horror film, right?
You can find these roads called gravity hills all over the world under different names. Like the Mysterious Road, also known as Bugaboo or Dokkeabi (Goblin) road, on Jeju island.
People will put their car in neutral at the start sign and roll slowly uphill until the end, and bus tours will get out and pour water onto the road and show their guests that the water moves uphill rather than downhill.
Anyone with a water bottle or soju bottle will also set it down and watch it roll off in the wrong direction.
You can find these gravity hills in
29 out of the 50 states in the USA
Optical illusions like gravity hills work because you can’t see the horizon.

Different urban legends surrounding gravity hills

As with most things that have been unexplained for a long time, some locations have their own lore.
Such as a gravity hill near a church in Arcadia, Michigan. Here it's said that the church is "pulling sinners in" as a way to explain why cars seem to be drawn uphill towards the building. The local tourism board recommends trying it out on a skateboard or bike or putting your car in neutral at the "stop ahead" sign.
Another spooky spot with its own lore is South Bend, Indiana. The urban legend behind this mysterious phenomenon is that if you put your car in neutral, a ghost who died in the area will push your car up the hill.
This is a common myth surrounding gravity hills, though the accident or ghosts vary. In some cases, the story says that if you put baby powder on the back of your car, you'll find the handprints of your ghostly helper or helpers left behind.
Some of these stories are tragic and include the death of a school bus full of children who will help you get to the top of the hill.
You're probably wondering why there are friendly ghosts? The alternative is that the spirit might not help you and instead will
steal your gas
depending on their mood.
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How these optical illusions work

Let's talk science. Generally, gravity hills are considered optical illusions due to perspective. Your view of the horizon is obscure, and this messes with your perception. So while it looks like you're going uphill, instead, it's a decline.
In the case of Jeju, it's about a three-degree decline.
The best way to see this is to stand on the side of the road (carefully) and look for something that would point straight at the sky. For the Mysterious Road, these are the trees.
So, in other words, what is up is down, and what is down is up.
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