I first learned about Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida when I was a little girl. For those who are old enough to remember the show That’s Incredible! perhaps you, too, saw the episode where it was featured.
Apparently it made an impression. Over twenty years later I thought of it again when we moved to Florida. On one of Wayne’s business trips to Orlando, I decided to go check out Spook Hill while he attended meetings.
It turned out to be sort of adventure in and of itself. Lake Wales isn’t very far from Orlando. About an hour. Still, I rarely jaunt to haunts alone. A solo navigation expedition? Could’ve been dangerous.
As it turned out, it was a little bit confusing and whole lot embarrassing.
You see, I didn’t get how to work Spook Hill at first. Even with the instructions.
And it’s not like they’re unclear. There’s a huge sign that explains what to do.
- Drive up to the white line.
- Put your car in neutral.
- Watch it roll backwards. (Well, watch as you and the car roll backwards. You really want to be in the car, not letting it roll backwards all by itself. Thankfully I was smart enough to get this part. Wow. That really would’ve made for a funny blunder!)
THE LAY OF THE LAND
Okay, so first I had to find Spook Hill. Miraculously that part was a cinch.
I was sort of surprised to find it’s across from an elementary school. And even more surprised to see the elementary school is named Spook Hill Elementary. Kind of weird.
Anyway, there’s a sign explaining the history of the area and why it’s called Spook Hill. It has to do with a battle between a monster alligator and an Indian warrior chief that created the swampy depression nearby. That’s how it’s explained the topography came to be. Pioneers named the ridge Spook Hill when they found their horses struggling at the foot of the ridge before they even started the climb up.
WHAT HAUNTS SPOOK HILL?
The big question is: what force pushes things backwards at the foot of the hill? Is it the gator’s vengeful spirit, or the warrior chief protecting his land?
Scientific experts pose a less supernatural explanation: it’s all an optical illusion.
It’s all a bunch of hooey is what it is!
I was disappointed because I thought you rolled up the hill, not away from it. The hill is pretty pronounced. That would’ve been pretty impressive to roll up it. But backwards? Big deal!
I knew going there it was an optical illusion. I didn’t understand how it worked until I started snapping pictures, though.
If you look towards the hill, it does look flat. (Refer to the very first picture of this post.)
However, if you look from the perspective of the hill at your back (see above picture), the road looks a little more like it’s angled down and thus explains why you roll backwards.
But even knowing it was an optical illusion, I was sorely disappointed. Mainly because I didn’t comprehend the directions properly. I had initially stopped where the sign is that explains how to experience Spook Hill. I put my car in neutral and expected to roll forward to the white line. (Again, I was looking to be as WOWed as I remembered from watching it on That’s Incredible! That would’ve WOWed me.)
I was so disappointed when the car stood still.
“I’m not rolling at all! Spook Hill is not working for me. What the hell?”
That’s when I pulled over, got out and started snapping pictures. And that’s when another car came along and did Spook Hill like it’s supposed to be done.
Once they drove off, I got back in my car and went to the white line and, yep, that time it worked.
But that was it? Why had it looked so cool and spooky on TV? It sucked in person!
Again, it would’ve been much more impressive had my car rolled up the freaking hill.
So what’s the moral of this story, my friends? It’s not don’t trust what you see on TV. It’s don’t trust your childhood memories of what you’ve seen on TV.
Here’s a great video of Spook Hill I found on YouTube. Sums it up perfectly!