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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

magnetic hills A sensory illusion in which a road or path appears to have a slight upgrade but is actually minimally downhill.
      This can be brought about by false optical indicators. One such occurs when nearby trees, road signs, or fence posts in the area are inclined somewhat away from the vertical, a condition which may have come about from a long-forgotten geological shift. The tendency for the senses is to automatically assume that trees and other such objects are positioned at right angles to the horizontal, and with some persons the sense of sight overcomes that of the balance organ (located in the ear) which normally gives us our conception of the position of the horizontal.
      Stories abound of cars that run uphill at these locations with the ignition turned off, when actually they are coasting downhill. If it is possible to stand far enough back from the site so that the greater surroundings are also seen, it will be noticed that the illusion then fails.
      A strong example of this deceptive effect is found at the “Oregon Vortex,” a site on Interstate I-5 near Gold Hill, Oregon, near the California-Oregon border. The thousands of visitors who visit the area annually go away convinced that they have witnessed a genuine unexplainable miracle.



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