An Examination of
--An Enigma Project Report—
Michael A. Frizzell
Amongst places of mystery throughout the world are stories of Gravity Hills. Regardless of their locations, these odd sites all perform in basically the same way. Gravity seems out of kilter in these places. Cars under no power or constraints will drift up these hills—as if propelled by unseen forces[i]. Upon analysis, a number of these locations have been shown to be optical illusions created by unique combinations of angular terrain, location of flora, and background scenery that trick the eye into perceiving an incline where there is actually a decline.
The Enigma Project has
cataloged a list of over 45 Gravity or Magnetic Hills
Since all documented gravity hills share some or all of the above traits, and several have been proven to be illusions, then there is a probability that all gravity hills are illusions. Having pondered the question over the years, I have consulted the files and maps of the United States Geological Survey and have found no reference to any fixed, geophysical phenomenon that could account for such highly localized areas of apparent gravitational or magnetic aberration. If we apply the deductive method of Occam’s Razor (Given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler), to the choices of, A) Gravity Hills are the sites of unknown geophysical phenomena or B) Gravity Hills are optical illusions. Given the available facts, choice B will prevail.
That being said, are we to assume that there are no such anomalies on the Earth intense enough to create the phenomena typically mentioned in gravity hill claims? Given the human propensity for mapping and surveying the planet with satellites, magnetometers, and other hi-tech gadgets, logic dictates that if there were such places they would already be matters of scientific record. Nonetheless, the Earth is a big planet and we certainly haven’t scrutinized every square meter of it. However unlikely, perhaps somewhere on our globe there is a place where the laws of geophysics are exaggerated. So, in giving the Bedford County Gravity Hill the benefit of that doubt, we decided to put its claims to the test.
In March of 2004, when Enigma Project investigator Victor Fulda and I went out in search of the Bedford County gravity hill, we did not know what to expect in terms of the site’s specific location or general appearance (see Figure 1). During our trip we discovered that this place is not only recognized by the state of Pennsylvania as a landmark, is has been deemed a tourist attraction by the Bedford County Bureau of Tourism (see Figure 2)[iii].
Figure 1- Pennsylvania’s Counties Figure 2- Bedford Co. Brochure
When we finally found the spot, set in beautiful rural countryside along Gravity Hill Road[iv], we were impressed by the apparent grade of the road. At what appeared to be the bottom of the hill, some past visitor had marked the word “start,” with white spray paint, across the road in large letters. In a similar fashion, printed across the asphalt approximately 400 feet up the hill is the word “end.” Presumably, as a matter of convenience, these designations were added for the benefit of future visitors to denote where the phenomenon begins and stops (see Figures 3 & 4).
Figure 3- Gravity Hill “Start” Marker (looking up the hill) Figure 4- Gravity Hill “End” Marker (looking down the hill)
Our Evaluation of the Road consisted of Two Different Measurement Tests
The first test involved using a GPS unit to measure elevation on Gravity Hill Road within the “start” and “end” window mentioned above[v]. The following elevations were obtained:
Gravity Hill “Start” elevation: 1,582 feet
150 feet “up” Gravity Hill: 1,576 feet
300 feet “up” Gravity Hill: 1,564 feet
Gravity Hill “End” elevation: 1,569 feet
GH length from “Start” to “End” = 416 feet
The values we measured on Gravity Hill Road from the “start” position, clearly show a drop in elevation along the way, and a slight increase in elevation at the “end” marker. The chart below (Figure 5) shows these values as contours that tend to disagree with what the eye sees.
Figure 5- Elevation Changes along Gravity Hill
Our second test consisted of a series of careful measurements taken with a tripod laser level along the 416 foot length of Gravity Hill (see Figure 6). The objective here was to determine the amount of change in declination or inclination that occurred on the hill from beginning to end. This was accomplished by projecting a leveled, tripod-mounted laser beam as against a large, movable wooden mast which we proceeded to move up gravity hill. Much like a surveyor’s leveling rod, the 8 foot tall mast had been carefully graduated in feet and inches so that measured changes along the road could be resolved in detail (see Figure 7).
Figure 6- Victor Fulda levels Tripod Mounted Diode Laser Figure 7- Mike Frizzell holds Graduated board for Laser Measurement
The laser we were using was limited to a projection distance of 100 feet in bright daylight so we took measurements between the laser and the rod in 100 foot increments. After several hours of measurement (we had to move our equipment for passing vehicles and then re-adjust), we obtained enough data points to render the relative drop in the road’s elevation (see Figure 8).
Figure 8- Laser survey of Gravity Hill shows unmistakable decline in road
Prior to our testing of Gravity Hill, we knew that topographic maps of the road revealed nothing more than a subtle decline (not an incline) in its elevation (see Figure 9). However, for many people “seeing is believing,” and we anticipated that some would probably reject the dry values on a topographic map over what they see with their own eyes. So, in anticipation of that reaction we decided to “go the extra mile” and demonstrate that this odd strip of road is not some anomaly in violation of geophysical laws.
Figure 9- “Start” & “End” markers on road correspond to decreasing elevation levels on topographic map
A Possible History of Bedford County’s Gravity Hill
As we busied
ourselves with our laser survey of that scenic country road, at one point a car
stopped next to us and the elderly couple inside politely asked what we were
doing. When we explained our reason for being there late on a Sunday morning, the
elderly gentleman smiled and told us he was native to the area and actually
knew the chap that “discovered”
The New Paris Gravity Hill was first
observed by a postman named Charlie Gumppet, just after World War II. During
his delivery rounds one day, Charlie stopped along the old country road (now
known as Gravity Hill Road) to sort his mail. As he sat in his truck performing
this task, he placed the vehicle in neutral and slipped his foot off the brake.
He soon became distracted from his chore, when his truck slowly began drifting
uphill—apparently against gravity. By the mid-1950s, Charlie retired from the
Postal Service and began raising produce on a nearby farm at the end of
There’s Nothing Up Our Sleeves
As mentioned in the first paragraph of this report, all of the gravity hills put to the test have been shown to be optical illusions. Conditions of local terrain, the sway of trees, the curves of background scenery have all blended to trick the eye. As a final evaluation of Gravity Hill we took identical photos of a view “up” the road from the “start” position. The first photo is intact. The second photo has had all peripheral scenery removed. Figure 11 suggests an incline. Does Figure 12 agree?? Look carefully…
Figure 11- Normal Gravity Hill road view Figure 12- Gravity Hill road view with optical bias removed
Geophysical Anomalies—Yes or No ?
Since Gravity Hills are probably not perversions of physics, do Anomalies of Gravity & Magnetism Exist on Earth?
Yes! They most definitely do. However, this answer must be qualified.
you know what to ask for you can actually find official US Geological Survey
maps with such intriguing titles as the Magnetic Intensity Map, the Bouguer Gravity
Anomaly Map and the Magnetic Anomaly Map[vii].
Such labels might be interpreted as meaning that Gravity and Magnetic Hills
have already been detected and recorded. Actually, these maps cover most of the
General Location of the Bedford
Pennsylvania, Bedford County, ~ 1 mile southwest of New Paris, PA off Rt. 96 (Cortland Rd.) to Bethel Hollow Road (SR 4016) and along Gravity Hill Road (T 539) (watch for white “start” & “end” markers on road)(see Figure 10).
Specific GPS location WPT001 (“Start”):
Figure 10- General Map showing Route to
Gravity Hill (“Start”) from
While some of these odd places have been subjected to close examination, others have not. Should you learn of a gravity or magnetic hill in your area and wish to evaluate it, your first course of action should be to check a topographic map of the location[x]. This type of map may easily dispel the gravity hill claims by revealing terrain measurements that flatly contradict what the naked eye perceives. There are even websites that offer free topographic information online[xi]. However, if you cannot resolve the mystery with a topographic map, a simple GPS survey of the site (as we’ve shown above) should settle the matter.
Most unexplained phenomena are uncooperative and frustratingly transient. UFOs accelerate to warp 10, Ghosts vanish, and Bigfoot runs away. Gravity hills, however, are firmly anchored. They remain on-demand and readily avail themselves to analysis. If they are not all illusions, they will patiently wait until someone proves it.
Please bear in mind that many of the sites we’ve referred to are located on active roadways. Trying to experience a gravity hill with your vehicle or taking measurements on foot might be extremely hazardous due to moving traffic. Please use common sense, apply all due caution, and obey local laws in these situations.
We invite the input of readers concerning their experiences with this and other Gravity Hills.
The Enigma Project
P.O. Box 462
[i] Though some of these places have no known legends to explain their odd behavior, in other cases, ghosts, spirits, or similar otherworldly residues are said to be responsible for the mystery.
[ii] The motive force of the gravity hill near Burkittsville, MD is said to be caused by the ghosts of Civil War artillerymen who were killed on the road while desperately trying to push a cannon into position. It is said that, even now, their ghostly efforts will be applied to any un-powered vehicle that assumes a position at that spot in the road.
[iv] Off of Bethel Hollow Road (SR 4016).
[v] GPS units are electronic devices that can accurately determine direction, elevation, distance, and velocity of the user relative to his/her location, where they have been, where they are going, and points in between. This worldwide form of radio-navigation is based on a triangulation of calculated time and distance data received by the unit from 24 satellites (and their ground stations) variously positioned in orbit around Earth.
[vi] The history of such sites is a curious factor that hasn’t been investigated. Since many of them are in remote locations, one wonders how they were first discovered.
Soldier’s Delight Park-Baltimore County, MD &
[ix] Since their may be trends, patterns or relationships that exist between know geophysical anomalies and other unexplained phenomena, we encourage other researchers to these possibilities. The maps mentioned may be helpful.
[x] This type of map shows terrain contours and levels of elevation.