DEFY GRAVITY: DESCEND GRAVITY HILL ROAD
IN NEW PARIS, PENNSYLVANIA
Sometimes (no, most of the time) I arrive at places when I’m unprepared. Sometimes it’s my mental condition, sometimes it’s that I arrive at a place unexpectedly.
This happened on October 28, 2014. The latter, that is—arriving at a place unexpectedly. I had no water in the car (I usually do) and no exercise ball (I usually don’t). Nonetheless, my husband Monte and I had an extraordinary experience on Gravity Hill Road in New Paris (Bedford County), Pennsylvania.
The publicity flier I picked up at the motel we stayed at asked Have you ever wanted to defy gravity? Being married to a former physicist this sounded like an unmanageable challenge. I showed the flier to Monte, telling him it might be interesting to take a detour deep into the Bedford County mountains en route home. After all, it was a delightful Indian summer day with miles of bronze, gold, and yellow leaves covering the hills of Pennsylvania. It was a good time to practice leaf-peeping. Our GPS took us to the site easily.
“Maybe we should read the directions on the flier before trying this,” I commented as he turned off Bethel Hollow Road onto Gravity Hill Road.
- drive 2/10’s of a mile on Gravity Hill Road
- Locate the “GH” spray painted on the road—drive about 1/10th mile further
- stop before getting to the second spray painted “GH”
- stay calm and cool
- check behind your car for oncoming traffic
- put your car in neutral and take you foot off the break
- enjoy the slow and steady ride as the car rolls uphill
The car did it. It rolled up the hill of its own volition.
We continued on to the second hill 3/10s of a mile further.
We descended to its foot, where the starting point was marked by a small yellow tag on a telephone pole marked 69.
I told Monte we were beyond the crest of the hill and I got out of the car, walked up the hill, and made certain there was no oncoming traffic. Then he put the car in neutral and took his foot off the break. He couldn’t guide the car very well as it rolled backwards up the hill,
so he returned to the foot of the hill and turned around. The car reached 10 mph rolling uphill under its own volition.
Had I had water I could have poured some on the road. The flier stated the water, too, would flow uphill.
As we returned to Bethel Hollow Road we noticed three motorcyclists at the crest of the first hill. They were from Johnstown, and one said his parents brought him to Gravity Hill Road when he was a child. This day one of the cyclists said he had trouble, that his cycle rolled too slow, but it did roll.
What causes this phenomenon? Was our car ascending or descending this hill?
The WordPress photo challenge for October 31, 2014 is descent—experiment with your point of view and angle, or go even deeper with the theme. How much deeper into descent can you go than not being able to judge if you are ascending or descending a hill?
The flier states that some speculate it’s an optical illusion. Others are certain there’s a warp in the earth’s gravity that causes this strange behavior.
Later, while surfing the I’net, I discovered the following:
- (An) elderly gentleman smiled and told us he was native to the area and actually knew the chap that “discovered” Bedford County’s gravity hill. While his wife nodded in silent affirmation, he went on to explain the following: 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 Bethel Hollow Road. Since his farm was in a very rural setting, he began to consider ways to increase sales by bringing more customers to his merchandise. The idea came to him to exploit the gravity hill as a tourist attraction. He contacted Pittsburgh radio station KDKA and told them of the natural wonder. Charlie was given free publicity by KDKA and this place has been on the map ever since.
Allegedly there are, in the United States, other spooky hills like Gravity Hill Road. There are many others around the world. I’ll examine the locations later, as well as an exploration of why this phenomena occurs. If you cannot wait read An Examination of Gravity: The Bedford County Gravity Hill, New Paris, Pennsylvania .