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    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Nooks & Crannies: Gravity Hill

    WHAT: Gravity Hill, a mysterious stretch of upper Main Street, Sterling.

    WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW IT: To all appearances, this is a place where the law of gravity has been suspended or even — dare we say it? — reversed.

    WHAT HAPPENS HERE: Your car rolls uphill.

    THE HILLS ARE ALIVE: There are lots of these so-called “gravity hills” around the world. In fact, there seems to be at least one in every one of the 50 states of the union. Sometimes they are called “magnetic hills” in the belief the cause is magnetism.

    A STRONG WITCH: Of course, a third possible explanation is witchcraft. Chris Kettle, who works at the Main Street Deli just down the road from Gravity Hill, says the land the road crosses once belonged to a witch named Margaret Henry. Or so goes local lore. “She didn't like people parking there, so she pushes you,” Kettle says. “That's why it looks like you're rolling uphill, because she's actually pushing you uphill.”

    THERE IS A ROAD: Just a jog over from Gravity Hill, you'll find Margaret Henry Road, points out Ginny Dunbar, the owner of the deli. “There's always young kids coming in asking, 'Where's Gravity Hill?' and we tell them where it is,” she says.

    DON'T BELIEVE YOUR EYES: Dunbar and Kettle tend to agree, however, with the scientists who say the whole thing is an optical illusion. You are not really rolling uphill, they say; it just looks that way.

    A FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT: This intrepid reporter, not about to be intimidated by a dead (albeit pushy) witch, stopped his VW Jetta in the magic spot and, sure enough, started rolling “uphill.” The spot is a dip in an otherwise normal-looking country road — fields, trees, a couple of houses on either side — but this was the first time he'd ever seen an optical illusion move his car.

    HOW TO GET THERE: Take Main Street North from Route 14 until you come to the stop sign at Snake Meadow Hill Road. Turn your car around to face the way that you have come. The road before you will seem to head down to a little dip and then uphill. Pull your car to a stop next to the first telephone pole just past the 35-mph speed limit sign. Then, says Kettle, “when it looks like you're going uphill, just put your car in neutral, and she'll push ya.”

    — Kenton Robinson

    Article UID=0ad5fb6f-76d0-498d-99a0-4d36b70b296a