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This Strange Phenomenon In Indiana Is Too Weird For Words

Mooresville is known for many things…Gray Bro’s Cafeteria, John Dillinger’s hideout, home of the state flag (ok, that last one is a little obscure)…but here’s a fun lesser-known spot that is worthy of the quick trip from Indy (or a pit stop if you are travelling on Highway 42).

Locals know plenty of tales that accompany the brain-bending phenomenon on Keller Hill Road, and if you haven’t made the trip to “Gravity Hill,” it’s definitely worth the detour. It can be a little hard to find (as it is unmarked), but once you hit the sweet spot, you are in for an entertaining ride… backwards… and up a hill.

Yes, you read that correctly. If you stop your car in just the right place and throw it into neutral, your car will begin to roll uphill. In 2007, a correspondent from the Mooresville-Decatur Times reported that, if done perfectly, you can find yourself speeding along backwards at 50 miles per hour without ever touching the gas pedal! We’ve seen stories of this unusual experience dating back to the 1930’s, but this old trick is still plenty of fun today.

These two ladies certainly had fun with it! (The action starts at 0:45.)

For those who love curious legends, there are several stories about why this happens. One tells of a Native American Witch Doctor who was buried at the foot of the hill, claiming his powerful energy still radiates from his grave. A similar version claims the force pushing your car is the spirit of an Indian Chief protecting the sacred burial ground of his tribe, which lies beneath Keller Hill.

A more sinister story says that a school bus once stalled in the valley between these hills and was struck by a train, killing the children inside; it is the spirits of the children pushing you out of harm’s way. Some suggest sprinkling flour across your bumpers to see the small handprints that appear after you’ve been pushed (we actually tried this one for fun—no such luck).

For the non-believers and the logically-inclined, the optical illusion is quite easy to explain: you haven’t broken the laws of gravity and you aren’t really moving uphill (sorry to spoil the stories…although we are happy to report that we found no evidence of the ill-fated schoolchildren).

Our brains are pretty easy to trick, especially when it comes to spatial position. Under the right conditions (like the ones on Keller Hill Road) the hilly landscape around you creates some visual confusion. An obscured horizon line makes it hard for you to figure out which direction is up relative to the rest of the world because you lack a point of reference. Even though it looks like you’ve stopped at the bottom of a hill, the overall slope of the road is moving in only one direction, and the laws of gravity do take effect, pushing the car downhill…even though it feels like you are moving up.

As we said before, the location can be a little hard to find. Don’t give up! There is no “true” address for this location (the closest we can give you is 705 Keller Hill Rd.), but you will find it roughly a mile from the turnoff from Hwy 42 onto Keller Hill Road. It works best when you are facing west (away from Hwy 42—you will be pulled east, back toward the highway). When you think you’ve found it, stop your car at the bottom of the hill and shift into neutral. Be patient; it takes a few seconds for your car to start rolling. It may take you a few tries, but it really is worth the effort.

We DO have to add this word of caution: please be careful when you go test this out—this is an active road and the hills limit the visibility of other drivers. We don’t want you to wind up in a car crash just because we loved the free entertainment on Gravity Hill. It is best to test this out when fewer cars are on the road (we suggest going in the morning), turn your hazard lights on, and if possible bring a “spotter” to stay on the lookout for oncoming cars. Although we fully admit that this is way more fun to do in the car, you can also see the effects by placing a ball in the middle of the road. Use your noggin…even if it is severely confused by the optical illusion around you.

Meg Archer
Meg is the Contributions & Creative Content Editor for OnlyInYourState. She works in source research, concept development, and business outreach. Meg enjoys playing with her food (cooking), writing furiously (at inconvenient moments), and exploring (everything and everywhere).