Randall fills the
ticket booth in which
he sits. Behind him, tied to a table with a thick rope, quivers Penelope
Eloise, Randall's Jack Russell terrier. Sun slants through the thick trees,
smothering Randall's face in a chalky glow. The last tour will start in
ten minutes, he says. As those going on the tour shell out five bucks,
Randall tells them that they're lucky. Those who come on weekends sometimes
have to wait up to two hours before beholding any mysteries.
ten silent minutes, Randall emerges from the booth, gesturing for the
meager weekday crowd to filter through the squeaky turnstile. "Welcome,
ladies and gents, to the Mystery Spot," Randall says, in rehearsed sideshow
intonations, as though he has never seen us before. "My name is Randall
and I'll be your guide." But first Randall would like to tell you a little
It turns out he can say "Hello"
in 125 languages. It is only fitting that 71 are obscure Indian dialects,
since a large percentage of foreign visitors at the Mystery Spot are from
"They come from all over that
country," he says, "I think it's because they are inherently a very mystical
people." But Randall is only the guide, the demonstrator, the conduit;
you can take it or leave it. After greeting the small group in Italian
and Danish, he begins the first demonstration. He points out the invisible
line that marks the boundary of the Mystery Spot. "The two ladies inside
the Mystery Spot boundary seem to be leaning 3 or 4 degrees; folks outside
of the boundary seem to be standing up pretty straight and tall; fellow
standing right on top of the boundary is looking about half mysterious,"
Randall calls attention to
a wooden board sitting across two small cement planks and proves with
a carpenter's level that it is "perfectly flat and level." Two young men
from Italy wearing cowboy hats agree to be the first victims. They stand
at opposite ends of the board. One of the boys looks slightly taller than
the other but after they switch places, the shorter one looks taller.
The crowd gasps.
BUILDING THE MYSTERY
The tour group waits for the
forthcoming scientific explanation. Surely there must be some logical
reason for all this."Hey folks," says Randall, "If I could explain ‘why,'
we'd have to change our name to 'The Spot.'"
The Mystery Spot was discovered in
1933 by a fellow the guides refer to as the "Gentleman." Unaware of the
"anomaly," the Gentleman purchased the land from a logging company
that had been in the area since the late 1800s. He bought it with money
he had earned from inventing the tire alignment rack, known to mechanics
as "a bear rack." The entire area had been clear-cut and replaced with fast-growing
Eucalyptus trees. According to legend, one of the first things the Gentleman
noticed was that these trees seemed to be leaning towards the same point.
The Gentleman, who had a keen eye for perspective but was not an overly
articulate soul, explained his rather strange discovery in the following
The original sign bearing this
nearly inscrutable history still stands at the gates to the Mystery Spot.
"Yeah, we leave it up there,"says Randall, "even though it doesn't make any
sense, out of respect for the founder."
Tour guide legend has it that the
Gentleman had a weakness for birds and built the cabin as an aviary, but the
strange forces of the spot pulled the cabin to the vertigoed slant, where
it remains today. He opened the place to the public in 1940, and it has been
open seven days a week, 365 days a year, ever since. When he died, the Gentleman
passed on the mysterious 150 square-foot spot to his son, who kept it until
his debts forced him to sell. His lawyer, Mr. Christopher Smith of Santa Cruz,
bought it for around 3 million dollars as a present for his wife.
the Mystery Spot is a campy monument that has changed very little since 1940.
It continues to puzzle Doubting Thomases, scientists, skeptics and mystics
alike. Visitors from all over the world come to slant uncontrollably in this
peculiar vortex, to marvel at balls that roll up slopes instead of down them,
and to watch as their heights, and the heights of their loved ones, seem to
Is the Mystery Spot a hoax?
What lies behind the mysteries? A little digging reveals some pretty odd
suppositions. Some have suggested that aliens deposited large metal cones
on the property as a guidance systems for their spacecraft. Others have
said that the magma core, or molten rock within the earth, turns
counter clockwise, or they have pointed out that the hillside is sloped
at 42.6 degrees, just like the angle of the pyramids. Henry G. Hubbard,
an engineer with the State Division of Mines (and probably the closest
the Mystery Spot has ever had to a bona fide scientist) explains the mysteries
by noting an excessive amount of carbon dioxide in the area. He claims
the gas escapes from cracks between rocks in the hillside, causing the
light-headed feeling many experience, and he explains the "shrink and
grow phenomenon" as an optical illusion caused by refracted light rays.
Mystery Spot promotional literature
claims that a Dr. Oscar Brunler, the late co-inventor of the electro-cardiograph,
found the "highest dielectric biocosmic radiation" known anywhere in the world
at theMystery Spot. "What that means is still a mystery," concludes the pamphlet.
Along with bottled scorpions and
tomahawks, the Mystery Spot gift shop sells a book entitled "Gravitational
Mystery Spots," published in 1996. It offers what is probably the most long-winded
and out-there explanation of all. "What I think is causing these vortices,"
writes Douglas B. Vogt, "is a computer-like device built by a highly advanced
civilization, that lived on the planet a long time ago."
GATEKEEPER OF THE ANOMALY
Back at the ticket booth after
the tour, Randall describes himself as the kind of guy who likes small ugly
cars from the 1970s and wagon wheels lying around in the front yard.
He adjusts the baseball cap that
sits backwards on his head. "Boss says he'll give $500 to the first person
who will completely cover their car in Mystery Spot bumper stickers," he says,
but the bored Latino teenagers from Watsonville and the couple from Reno with
the loud baby don't look enthused. Randall gives out the last free bumper
sticker and, in his heavy Boston accent, starts talking about how someone
stole the last old sign.
"Well, we don't know if they stole
it. It's just not there anymore."
The phone rings.
"Hello, Mystery Spot," he says.
"How do you get here from Los Angeles?"
A woman in the group tries to take
Randall's picture without his noticing but finds that her camera has stopped
"Don't worry," says Randall, off
the phone now and cradling the diminutive Penelope Eloise in his large, plump
arms. "It will work again in two or three days. It's always happening."
can't explain it. He says that out of all the other spots like this that he's
seen (there are over 17 mysterious spots in the United States alone) this
is definitely the hardest to figure out. Some locals come at least twice a
month to experience the discombobulating effects, he says.
Randall can't explain any of it,
though he will almost admit that a lot of what goes on in the cabin is cleverly
crafted optical illusion. However, he was surprised the other day when he
had to crawl under the cabin and saw that the foundation beams were truly
"Proves the gentleman didn't build
it like that," he says. "Somethin' else was pulling at that shack."
When Randall isn't guiding
tours at the Mystery Spot, he attends Toastmasters meetings. The boss
gets all his guides involved with Toastmasters. Randall is one of the
best, and it's not such a mystery why he is the assistant manager as well.
He even is allowed to live in a small shack on the premises for a very
reasonable fee because he's so "in with the boss." Built by a hippie tour
guide back in the '60s, the shack has electrical problems and only two
support beams. "He must have been one weird hippie," Randall says. "They
say he used to always sleep in the cabin under the pendulum."
Since getting his degree in
Linguistic Anthropology, Randall has worked as a plumber, a dog trainer,
and a writer for Gear Head magazine; and he was employed by the
Navy in a capacity he won't reveal. Two years ago, just before his unemployment
checks ran out, he saw an ad in the paper for tour guides.
"Later I found out
that the paper was four months old," he adds mysteriously.