Thursday, October 01, 2009
A Trip to Gravity Hill
On a quiet country road west of Freeman, Mo., past railroad tracks and between two hills, almost throwing distance from the Kansas state line, sits a flat spot in the gravel.
Some locals, like Kylie Guier of Freeman, claim that if you stop on that spot and put your vehicle in neutral, the car will start moving, sometimes up to 25 miles per hour.
People say gravity doesn’t work there.
“Everybody calls it Gravity Hill,” Guier said. “It’s out on this gravel road in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know anyone who’s an expert on it. Everyone just knows it’s there.”
Guier’s been to Gravity Hill a number of times, as have most area people she knows, and, “I’ve never known anybody it hasn’t worked for.”
It didn’t work for Jake Koehn of nearby Adrian, Mo.
“(My friends and I) went there around 6 p.m. during the summer, so plenty of daylight,” he said. “We parked at the bottom of the hill, put the truck in neutral and did not see much for a result. After about 10 minutes, we gave up on it and left.”
He may have given up too soon.
Urban legend has it if you sprinkle flour or gravel dust on the trunk of the car, drivers will later find child-sized handprints in the dust.
I’m so there.
I pulled my minivan onto 299th Street (much too gravelly and rural to be called a street) from Route D in Cass County on a clear September afternoon. Sure I was in a minivan, not the Mystery Machine, but I think a minivan’s what the Scooby gang drove when they grew up.
The lane leading to Gravity Hill is surrounded by wavy pastureland, the occasional pond and patches of sunflowers breaking the swaths of green. Over the railroad tracks and up two hills – according to many listings on the Internet – you’re supposed to drive to the end of the lane, turn around and come to rest at the bottom. Then the magic happens.
Many people who’ve been to Gravity Hill claim the moving car phenomenon is an optical illusion and, as I parked the minivan at a spot between hills that looked flat, I found it wasn’t.
The level I brought to Gravity Hill showed where I’d parked was anything but level. So, when I put the vehicle in neutral, it moved.
I let the minivan coast farther down the hill and checked the road again. Not level.
But the next time I stopped, I found a spot in the road that was flat. I moved the level all around my vehicle and the ground was sufficiently flat enough the minivan shouldn’t move unless it became so embarrassed from being a minivan it collapsed.
OK. The ground was flat. I marked the spot, hopped into the driver’s seat and slid the gear into neutral.
The minivan moved immediately. Three mph, five mph, seven mph, the sound of gravel popping beneath the tires carried through the open windows of the minivan’s cab.
The van stopped halfway up the hill and I put my foot on the brake to keep it from rolling back down.
I took my foot off the brake and, yes, the van rolled back down.
After I placed the minivan back onto the flat spot, I ran the level around the van again. Yep. Still flat.
I did this six more times. Five times my vehicle seemed to move of its own volition. One time it just sat there and a bee flew through the cab.
Driving away from Gravity Hill, not one darned fingerprint on my bumper, I realized I’d been a part of something weird. Could Gravity Hill be an optical illusion? Sure. Even after I’d determined the ground was flat and my van shouldn’t have moved, I’m willing to consider that. It’s still a mystery.
Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.