BLOWING ROCK, N.C. - Some call it a gravitational spot. Others say it's a vortex area. Scientists have dubbed it an unexplained energy source.
Whatever the terminology, a phenomenon exists on this mountainside between Boone and Blowing Rock. And since 1949, it has both entertained and confounded High Country visitors.
Mystery Hill is a sprawling family attraction that includes the Hall of Mystery Museum, Appalachian Heritage Museum, Native American Artifacts Museum, a picnic area, and gift shop.
However, the Mystery House and its adjacent Mystery Platform exert the greatest gravitational pull on tourists.
The Mystery House is built over an unexplained energy source. Before it became a tourist attraction, the land was an apple orchard. According to legend, apples would fall and roll away from flat ground directly to the gravitational spot. Additionally, the wife of owner William Hudson always experienced dizziness when she stood at the spot.
Then in 1948, Hudson read a magazine article about a similar spot in California. He went to Santa Cruz for a visit and came back with an idea, says current owner Wayne Underwood.
"Mr. Hudson said: ‘I'm going to build a house on that spot. If it works, we'll have an attraction. If not, we'll have a place for the apples. They go there anyway,' " Underwood says.
So the attraction was formed in 1949. Wayne Underwood's father, R.J., bought the property in 1958, and it has flourished as Mystery Hill ever since.
"We have people come from all over the world to experience the gravitational anomaly of the Mystery House," says Underwood. "We get a tremendous amount of return visitors."
The main room of the Mystery House defies the laws of physics. Folks feel a gravitational pull as soon as they enter. When they attempt to stand at a normal 90-degree angle, they actually stand closer to a 45-degree angle. Balls roll uphill and water flows uphill.
Folks are also drawn to the Mystery Platform, a level slab where a person standing on the platform's north end always appears taller than when he or she is standing on the south end.
Mystery Hill has survived two major fires over the last half century, rebuilding both times. In 1989, the historic Dougherty House was relocated to the property from Appalachian State University in Boone. The house was one of the college's first buildings.
The stately house contains the Appalachian Heritage Museum on the second floor, and the Native American Artifacts Museum on the main floor. The main floor showcases more than
50,000 Native American artifacts. This astounding collection was acquired by Mystery Hill in 1997 from the Moon-Mullins family in Hickory.
Although the modern age gravitates toward computers and electronic devices, Underwood purposely keeps his attraction low-tech. He prefers the hands-on approach of past generations.
"They have to figure out how to do things themselves without pushing buttons," explains Underwood. "Here the kids have to think. And they love it."
Mystery Hill also makes a conscious effort to focus on fun.
"Families love it. The one thing families miss today is the belly laugh. They get it here," Underwood says. "They have opportunities to laugh at each other."
At a normal pace, it takes just under an hour to see all the sights at Mystery Hill. At a slower pace, folks can spend two to three hours on the property.
Mystery Hill is open every day of the year except Christmas. Admission price is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $7 for children. It's free to kids age four and under.
For information, call (828) 264-2792, or visit: www.MysteryHill-nc.com.