The Vexing Oregon Vortex

Have you ever been to a House of Mystery before? The slanted floor, uneven roof, and caving walls allow for lots of optical illusions and a playground for your mind. But what if some of these illusions continued even after you left the mystery house? You may discover that this is exactly what happens at the Oregon Vortex!

The drive to the Oregon Vortex provided beautiful fall scenery through the quaint town of Gold Hill and the rural area beyond. Even though it is remote, there are plenty of billboard-sized signs pointing in the right direction. We arrived at a historic mining shantytown where friendly staff were happy to greet us. Several of the staff members donned crazy costumes, but I’m pretty sure that was just because it was Halloween.

Because we arrived several minutes before our tour could begin, one staff member mesmerized everyone in the gift shop with the scientific magic of magnetism. He also demonstrated how non-magnetic metals can still react to magnets, and even how magnetism can slow the force of gravity! This was a great primer before we were introduced to the Oregon Vortex, which is believed to be a strong disruption in the Earth’s typical magnetic field.

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I decided to visit the Vortex a bit spur-of-the-moment. And since I went early afternoon on a weekday (and I guess October 31st is technically a holiday to some people), I had a hard time finding someone who was able to accompany me last-minute. Fortunately, my mom had a free afternoon, so I got to spend time with her on this tour! She was actually the first person in our tour group to demonstrate one of the odd features of the Vortex. In the center of the above picture is a brick line. Our tour guide on the left is inside the Vortex, and across the line, my mom is outside of it. It was strange to see their differences when they switched places, and it even felt a little different for them! I noticed that I got a bit of a “seasick” feeling when we started the tour, but after we left, it disappeared. Our guide said that happened to some people due to the polarization. We also noticed that there weren’t any animals around- no squirrels, no birds, nothing. That was strange since we were in the middle of a forest, but for some unexplained reason, many animal species avoid the Vortex.

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My mom wasn’t the only person in our group that demonstrated an anomaly. The guide made sure to include everyone in our group, even the young children. Since I was the tallest, I was picked on a lot. In the above picture, the guide and I stood a few feet away from each other and placed a beam on top of our heads. Everyone else noticed it was slanted since I was several inches taller. But when we switched places, the beam was almost level! IMG_20141031_152011_895[1]

After several experiments near the outskirts of the Oregon Vortex, we ventured further in where the House of Mystery was located. I’ve heard that houses like these are built to be used at fairs, amusement parks, and tourist traps. But this is the house that is said to have inspired all the other mystery houses, plus it has a 110-year history to boot. This was built to be an office and tool shed in the old mining town, but after it was abandoned it eventually slid off its foundation. No, it isn’t covered in cobwebs as suggested in the picture above. The staff just decided to decorate everything to celebrate Halloween, which is also their closing day. I did like their little ode to The Wizard of Oz:

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The demonstrations done inside the House of Mystery were even crazier than the ones done outside. Not only did the Vortex affect things, but now all the weird slants of the house confused us too. We all appeared to be standing sideways, even though we were trying to stand straight. There was even a broom that, when stood on end, would stay balanced! It looked like it was leaning into thin air, but it was actually standing straight up and down!

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The hovering broom was crazy enough, but it was even more insane when we saw a bottle seemingly roll uphill (because what looked like uphill was actually downhill). An ordinary golf ball was thrown down a slide out the window, but it also appeared to roll uphill as it returned to us!

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Is it possible that the golf ball was magnetized, or that the broom was fashioned specifically so it would stand up? I’m sure that’s what many people reading this are thinking, and there is that possibility. But after visiting here, I doubt it. The staff told us that, if we returned, we were welcome to bring our own levels, measuring tape, and any other objects we wanted from home. I may have to try that in the future, but all their tools looked exactly like what you would get in any hardware store. I even felt and shook the golf ball, and even tested it for magnetism before we rolled it out the window. I don’t believe it’s all a hoax, even though I can’t explain it all. There have even been scientists perplexed at what happens in the Oregon Vortex. I guess that truly makes it a mystery!

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After a few more demonstrations inside the House of Mystery, we exited from the uphill side to continue our tour. After the guide showed us some things, he gave us the opportunity, he gave us the opportunity to try some things out on our own, and even offered to take pictures!

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I am five inches taller than my mom. We stood on a level surface (we even checked it with a level several times) with a beam on our heads. At first we looked like the picture above. I was quite a bit taller than my mom, which is typically normal. But then we switched places and took the next picture…

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We were almost at exact eye level to each other! The change in the beam’s slant is a great indicator that this happened, but if you still don’t believe it, go ahead and measure us in each of the pictures. No one knows exactly what happens in the Oregon Vortex, but one theory is that our atoms are more compressed in certain areas.

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We went to one final area near the farther end of the Vortex for the last few demonstrations. On this level piece of wood, we could see the participants get shorter and taller as the walked one way and the other! We could even see size comparisons as two people on each end walked towards each other!

When the outdoor tour ended, our guide encouraged us to come down to the gift shop where he would show us pictures of significant changes that happened to people while in the Oregon Vortex. There were even some pictures where magnetic lines showed up in the film as a result of the strong magnetic force. As we walked to the gift shop, our guide turned to us and asked, “Does it feel like you’re walking downhill?”

After all the questions he had asked us, like “Does this look level?” “Does this look larger?” “Do you feel different?”, which he then disproved, we thought we might be in for one last anomaly. But we were outside, with normal reference points. It really did feel like we were walking downhill! “That’s because you are” he said with a smile. Yes, there might not be much education behind the Oregon Vortex (other than teaching us to keep an open mind to new paradigms), but the hilarious staff is guaranteed to entertain you!

Would you like to visit the Oregon Vortex? You can’t. Well, at least not right now. They close for the winter in November. But not to fear, you can line up at their door beginning in March, and experience the historical, entertaining, and most of all, mysterious Oregon Vortex!

Thank you Oregon Vortex, for providing admission for my mom and me! We truly loved your attraction, and our opinions were not swayed by anything other than the great service you provide for every guest! 

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