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Day 16 of 365: Gravity Hill


I feel way out of the loop since I’ve lived in Pasadena for over 30 years and have not heard of Gravity Hill until a few weeks ago when I started the “365 Things To Do In Pasadena™” project.  Most high school kids know it as Gravity Hill or Gravity Point and have at one time or another taken a drive to Loma Alta in Altadena to test this phenomenon for themselves – usually at night.

Here’s the idea, you get to a certain point in the road where your car is facing up hill.  Put your car in neutral and it starts to automatically roll up.  Several of these locations are rumored to exist in California, but the closest one is just north of Pasadena.

There are several ghostly stories about this particular Gravity Hill.  The first one involves a school bus accident where a school bus full of kids has overturned and many have died.  The ghosts of these kids, help push the car up the hill.  The other story involves an old Indian who was killed while rushing his carriage headlong down the hill to the bridge.  Now his spirit remains, intent upon “pulling back” modern drivers from a similar fate.

Wikipedia explains it as follows:

The slope of gravity hills is an optical illusion, although tour guides may claim natural or even supernatural forces are at work. The most important factor contributing to the illusion is a completely or mostly obstructed horizon; without a horizon, judging the slope of a surface is difficult as a reliable reference is missing. Objects one would normally assume to be more-or-less perpendicular to the ground (such as trees) may actually be leaning, offsetting the visual reference. The illusion is similar to the well-known Ames room, in which balls can also appear to roll against gravity.

So, my friend, DJ and I set out to test this for ourselves. First, we followed the directions on how to get there from Weird California website:

From Highway 210 in Pasadena, head north on Lake Avenue. Turn right onto Altadena Drive. Turn left onto Porter and go until it ends at E. Loma Alta Dr. Turn left on Loma Alta. Go over a few dips, and around a couple of corners. Go up the hill and right around the second sign for Sunnyoaks. You will be facing “downhill,” evergreen trees to your left with something that resembles a flood control channel past that, a wall of rock and dirt to your right. If you go over a bridge after curving to the left you’ve gone too far.

Once we found what we thought was the right spot, very conveniently a LA Sheriff decided to drive up and park right next to the point where we were supposed to be rolling up the hill. Of course, that didn’t phase us… wanting to make sure that the officer was aware that we’d be filming for a critical post for the 365 Things To Do In Pasadena project™ :), I kindly explained our dilemma and we were allowed to continue with our experiment. Interestingly enough, the officer knew exactly what we were talking about. Hmmmm….

After several tries (we obviously didn’t follow the directions above very well), the car started rolling up the hill in neutral. Not only that… it was actually picking up speed. Well… here’s the video. Let me know what you think and if you want something fun to do, go out there and try this out yourself. :)

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