America is a weird place. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a wonderfully weird place. With all the incredible beauty we’ve got going on, nature was bound to throw a little kookiness in there for good measure. From rainbow swamps to blue-skinned people, and even places where gravity seems to work in reverse, this great land offers us a full buffet of the most bizarre and mysterious quirks of nature. Check out these strange phenomena around the U.S. and prepare to be left more than a little shocked.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Florida’s Psychedelic Swamp
Every year, usually around February and March, this Florida swamp takes on a whole new look. These pictures aren’t edited; the technicolor effect is due to the release of tannic acids from decomposing plant life. The natural oils from cypress leaves in particular produce a type of “oil slick” effect on the still surface of the swamp. When sunlight hits the water just right, the swamp begins to shimmer in a psychedelic rainbow. These tannins also occasionally produce what is termed “black water”, or patches of water that seem incredibly inky and highly reflective.
2. Thor's Well, Oregon
Located just off the coast of Cape Perpetua in Oregon’s Siuslaw Nation Forest, this unique coastal phenomenon has been puzzling residents for countless years. Swirly seawater flows into this rocky chasm and occasionally erupts into the air in a foaming geyser. No one knows exactly what first caused this peculiar phenomenon. One popular theory holds that Thor’s Well was caused by the collapse of a sea cave. Others believe that the formation may be a gateway to the underworld. Whatever the truth (probably not that second thing), one thing is for sure: Thor’s Well is both a beauty and a beast. Approaching the roaring well takes nerves of steel, as the eddying waters, sharp rocks and powerful waves that surround the chasm can easily overtake viewers that get too close.
3. Fire Tornadoes in Missouri
Extremely rare and incredibly dangerous, fire tornadoes form when intense heat combines with high winds. These conditions are not hard to come by if a grassy area catches fire on a gusty day. When hot air rises rapidly, cool air rushes in from beneath and around the it, swirling the flames upwards just like the water in a toilet. A toilet from hell.
4. The Rainbow Pools and Geysers of Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone Park sits on a huge caldera, a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. The area is dotted with geothermal hot springs and geysers that are notable for their mesmerizing colors. Pools such as Abyss Pool, Black Pool (top), and Morning Glory Pool (bottom) are some of the park’s biggest attractions. The crazy colors are caused by a number of factors such as temperature, bacterial growth and chemical balance. Some of the pools may look beautiful but are actually so acidic that your skin would burn within moments of contact with the water.
5. The Ice Caves of Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska
The Mendenhall Ice Caves are within the Tongass National Forest just outside of Juneau in Southeast Alaska. The melting of the massive Mendenhall Glacier creates crystalline cathedrals of breathtaking beauty under the ice. Though these caves look magical, they’re also treacherous; the thinning ice and slippery rocks can create hazardous conditions for even the most experienced explorers.
6. The Fireflies of Tennessee
For two weeks out of the year, Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains host an absolutely magical natural display. From mid-May to mid-June in East Tennessee, one strain of firefly glows synchronously – that is, they all flash at the same time. Imagine standing in your backyard and suddenly being surrounded by glowing green pinpricks of light, all pulsing in unison. This stunning phenomenon is actually a mating ritual, and the National Park service offers shuttles to firefly-dense areas during this time.
7. Blue People of Troublesome Creek
The Fugate family of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky, are the carriers of a rare genetic abnormality that causes them to have a blue tint to their skin. The family settled in Troublesome Creek over 200 years ago, and the rare blood disorder has persisted in the family line until the present day. The image shown is of Martin Fugate and his family. Benjamin Stacy, born in 1975, is the last known descendent of the Fugates to have been born exhibiting the characteristic blue color of the disease. He lost his blue skin tone as he grew older.
8. The Mayesville UFO Crash
On January 7, 1948, the state police and Godman Air Force Base began receiving alerts that a bizarre object was hovering in the skies near Louisville. Onlookers could not identify the object as a plane, helicopter, weather balloon, or any known flying object. National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas Mantell, took flight in pursuit of the object. He maintained radio communication for a time, but contact was abruptly lost at some point during the flight. Before he lost contact, Mantell described the object as “very green” and “about one fourth the size of the full moon …through binoculars it appeared to have a red border at the bottom…it remained stationary, seemingly, for one and a half hours." At 3:50 pm, the wreckage of his plane was found on a Kentucky farm. Mantell’s body appeared to have sustained massive damage with every bone crushed, but witnesses reported that there was no blood at the scene. He is buried in Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville.
9. The Fire Rainbows of Idaho
Also called "ice halos” or "circumhorizontal arcs”, these vivid rainbows are usually spotted just beneath the sun or moon. They are caused by light shining through atmospheric ice crystals and can only be seen at certain latitudes.
10. Devil's Kettle in Minnesota
Devil’s Kettle is the colorful name for the spot where the Brule River splits in two....and half of it vanishes. One half of the Brule river empties into what appears to be an 800-foot chasm with no known outlet. For years, people have been trying to figure out where the water is going. Ping pong balls, dye and even small cameras disappear into the hole and are never seen again. One theory holds that it eventually empties into the Pacific ocean, but the truth is a mystery to this day.
11. Wet Microbursts in Arizona
Sometimes called “rain bombs” by locals, these dramatic cloud forms are fueled by sudden, extremely powerful wind currents that occur during intense thunderstorms. They can caused major damage to buildings, trees and even animals, and come in both “wet” and “dry” flavors.
12. Fly Geyser in Washoe County, Nevada.
Fly Geyser is located about 20 miles north of Gerlach in Washoe County. This remarkable geyser was actually created accidentally in 1961 during the drilling of a well. The vivid coloring and fantastical shape of the natural steaming spout give it a whimsical, otherworldly appearance.
13. Pennsylvania Gravity Hill
“Gravity hills” are areas that appear to operate outside the laws of physics. One such spot in Pennsylvania is a popular stopping-place for the curious and skeptical alike. Located on McKinney Road near Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania gravity hill operates in this way: if you stop your car on the road and shift into neutral, your car will appear to slowly roll uphill. Other objects, such as balls and perhaps even small children, will also roll uphill. While most people seem to accept that this phenomenon is an optical illusion, there are some that believe some sort of unique magnetism is at place. Don’t listen to them, though. They’ve rolled up the gravity hill one too many times. These kinds of places are located all over the world; there may even be one in your state!
14. Nacreous Clouds in Alaska
These ethereal cloud formations are only seen at high altitudes in places when temperatures drop below negative 85 degrees Celsius. These clouds stretch in colorful ribbons across the lower stratosphere, their iridescent hues shifting and moving with the wind. Sadly, these cloud forms are actually detrimental to the environment, as they are thought to be caused by CFCs in the atmosphere and actually encourage the chemical reactions that break down the ozone layer.
If you’re into weird, slightly hokey and definitely entertaining roadside attractions, then the Mystery Spot has what you’re looking for. Stop by and be astounded by gravity-defying phenomena, such as water running uphill; people standing tall, but also seemingly sideways; and sitting straight (and yet not straight at all) in your seat – an act that will perplex and awe you for sure. While the effects are usually attributed to optical illusions and subtly tilted environments, it’s hard to deny that this place feels magical. Check out this video for an incredible peek into the Mystery Spot.
Have you seen any of these crazy phenomena? Do you know of any others? Let us know!