The Mystery Spot and The Wrong Slant

The Mystery Spot

The Mystery Spot is a gravity hill, a major tourist attraction, located in Santa Cruz, California opened in 1939 by George Prather. Tour guides lead visitors with demonstrations that showcase the site's unusual effects. Prather was inspired to open the spot by the popularity of Oregon Vortex which consist of interesting effects like gravity hill, optical illusions, etc. The proprietors of both The Mystery Spot and The Oregon Vortex claim these properties are due to paranormal properties of the area. To add mystery to the attraction, Prather said to the newspapers that he was inspired to build it after dizziness he felt in the area. Upon further "investigation" of his own, he found the compass to be jittering, or at least that is what he led to believe. The place opened to the public in 1941.

The Wrong Slant Comic Strip

The Wrong Slant is a comic strip about Dennis and his family's visit to The Mystery Spot. The guide starts with the assertion that a powerful mysterious force is in the area. Then he proceeds to force this assertion to Dennis, Henry, the father and Alice, the mother, by making them stand on a Ames Room like configuration, he creates an optical illusion of shrinking and growing height.

Then they proceed to the seemingly weird road to the wooden building. The road seems like a plain road while it's an uphill. The guide suggests that a strange force is pulling everyone down. To add to the humor, Dennis is pulling Henry's trousers' straps. Henry asks to let go, Dennis does and the straps give a hard blow on his body making him almost faint.

When they reach the house, they all seem to be tippy when we look with respect to the house. When we look with respect to the fences, the house is tippy. The house is tilted (by 20 degrees to be exact) and as the blind spots in our cognitive processing, we measure the height of people based on the slant of the roof instead of horizon. The guide explains that the house is tilted but then adds another myth that the force against the tilt is so great that they can't level. Due to the same reason, the ball seems to be rolling up. As the house is tilted towards the front as shown on page 5 of the comics, when Henry hangs in the handholds, he is pulled outwards of the house. The guide mis-attributes the effect of gravity to the mysterious force. Dennis goes to hold is daddy from falling out, pulling down Henry's pants in the process.

Then they go to walk in the walls. Dennis suggests trying that at home too. Already exhausted Henry declares that they will not. The wall should be facing the backside of the house for the gravity to work as shown in the picture.

Then in the next scene, the guide is showing how the marble does not roll up or down. Dennis takes down his own marble from his pocket and hits the marble on the plank. The guide gets angry. Dennis gets confused and calls the guide a sore loser. Now the man again calls Alice and Henry to stand on the plank and see change their heights when they change sides. This is an effect akin to the Ames Room. Here the reference is the house.

Dennis threatens the guide not to shrink his dad anymore, afraid that there won't be anything left of him. The guide is bewildered.

The guide now is guiding them out, again trying to affirm the mystery of the place, he asks if they feel anything different. Dennis says that he is hungry. Henry asks if the field is always as strong as today. The guide trying to build up the mystery and skew their experience says, it was one of the mild days. Being thrashed by Dennis the whole day, the guide asks a counter question, if Dennis is as annoying as of today. Henry responds with the similar response the guide gave moments earlier, "Today was one of HIS milder days, too!".

Other explanations on the mystery of the place

Tour guides suggest that “a meteor which fell in ancient days and left a magic circle” is the cause behind the mystery, and suggest that an electromagnetic field on the hill deters wildlife. These are stories proposed by guides for entertainment and not scientific reasoning.

The conditioning and effect on the visitors

The visitors are conditioned to believe that a mysterious force is at play making the whole experience mysterious. Those who are not already aware of the effects and illusions in play will believe what they see and hear. The guide first anchors the mystical force to the effects and illusions and then keeps suggesting the same thing time and again, conditioning visitors to think that there is actually such force after some repetitions.

Here the child is experiencing it first hand. There is a great chance that he does not understand the reasons and techniques behind the illusions. He might believe what he sees and hears as he happens to believe that the guide is actually shrinking his dad time and again. Take the child more places like this and keep him away from the scientific explanations, he will be conditioned to believe in mystery forces, magic and so on. Extra care should be taken to explain the scientific principles to the children and we are good to go.

My take on the comic strip

The comic strip is a funny comment and a good parody on how such mystical places operate and how people fall prey to the stories who ignorant of the scientific theories. The place seems to be worth a visit. One can enjoy the illusions, without the "mysterious force" baggage. The stories presented by the guides are for entertainment and should be taken as such. The title "The Wrong Slant" plays on the words to show this wrong slanting towards ignorance and belief instead of on the science we often choose.

Such places can exist with scientific explanations too. We can enjoy magic even when we know how it works. Don't we enjoy gifts even if we know it wasn't from Santa?