Oregon Vortex, OR 2013

     While coming back from a vacation in Northern California, Becky (my wife) and I, had the opportunity to visit one of the most famous tourist attractions called the Oregon Vortex.  The Oregon Vortex is a roadside attraction that opened to tourists in 1930, located in Gold Hill, Southern Oregon, in the United States.

Map of Southern Oregon

     A gold assay office was built in the area in 1904 by the Old Grey Eagle Mining Company, which slid from its foundation in the early tens, coming to rest at an odd angle. In 1914 the outpost and assay house were rediscovered by a prospector named William McCollugh. McCollugh convinced his friend, geologist and engineer John Lister to come to the US from his birth place in Alva, Scotland. Lister says he researched the paranormal phenomena of the so-called 165-foot magnet radius and then purchased the site.  Lister then  opened the Oregon Vortex as a tourist attraction in 1930. He claimed the property was on the confluence of mysterious forces he called terralines. The story goes that he was so frightened by what he discovered, he burned his notes before his death. Of course you can buy a set of his notes at the gift-shop at the property.

John Lister in the building at the site (image provided by

     The present owners, the Cooper family purchased it in the 1960s, say the building slid down the hill because of a magnetic force, that forms what the Coopers call a “vortex.” This force, they claim, also causes all sorts of other “paranormal activity” around the hill, where balls appear to roll uphill and broomsticks seem to stand on end.

Tour guide at the Oregon Vortex, demonstrating the broom trick.

     Within the vortex is a gift shop, the twisted remains of the old mining assay office dubbed the House of Mystery, two sites for demonstrating the growing and shrinking effect, and the willingness of visitors to believe in something they don’t understand.

Becky and I are posing in the back of the “House of Mystery”

     As a science teacher and having a short discussion with the guide, he agreed that what people see in the House of Mystery — balls appearing to roll uphill and a pendulum hanging askew — is optical illusion distorted by the wacky angles of the twisted building. But he insisted that something else is going on outside the house to make people appear to grow and shrink, though what it is remains a mystery.

     When the two of us change places, the one of the right of the photo has apparently gained a few centimeters in height, while the other  has shrunk a bit! There are problems with obtaining a solution to this mystery, the vortex guide told us, for “whatever instrument you use to measure with while inside the affected area you will always measure to be the same height because the instrument of measurement will change.  Look carefully at the two images, is there a size change? Try measuring me…in both.

The height distortion between Becky and I (notice that one side of the board that we are standing on is slightly buried)

     With a good pair of eyes or sense of orientation, I point out that it is the distorted building that makes the objects and people around it appear at different heights. The perceived distortions are due to a forced perspective which makes shapes appear larger or smaller due to a distorted background.  Plus one-side of the board is slightly lower than the other. (pictured above).  Rolling a steel-ball, which I did, proved that. Nothing seems level here and it isn’t.

Tour guide and I go face-to-face to show a sudden change in height by on of us, (of course notice the slight change-of-stature and chin for the guide)  “Focus on our waists”.

     A vortex is a fluid or gas circulating around a core, where the pressure is lower inside than out.  A vortex forms when water swirls down the bathtub drain. Tornadoes are vortices. Vortices form when rivers pass around a large boulder in a stream. What is happening at the Oregon Vortex is not a vortex.        

A large plumb-bob found within the house, (note the angle of incline)

    Magnetic vortex: nope. Delightful trick of perception: unquestionably. And since these vortex locations have been reproduced in every state across the United States, it is worth a visit.  This is the “Mother-of-all” mystery houses and is truly historical.

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