Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The House of Mystery

The other day my youngest son, Sawyer, gave me some suggestions for my blog. He had been watching television and had heard reference to what is known as the OREGON VORTEX. As he explained it to me “the OREGON VORTEX is a mysterious area in the southern part of the state of Oregon that American Indians called "the forbidden ground." Strange things happen to you in that place. It can make you feel real peculiar.” I figured I needed to take a closer look…

The OREGON VORTEX, a spherical area encompassing about 3/4-acre, dates back before recorded history of the area. American Indians avoided the area; so did birds and other wildlife, they continue to avoid the area still today.
In spite of rumored inexplicable occurrences, the Grey Eagle Mining Co. built a gold assay office on the site in the 1890's. The building promptly slid from its foundation, coming to rest at an odd angle. The area hasn't changed much since the building was first constructed, except for the boundary fence and the various platforms and tools installed to demonstrate the exceptional things that happen there. The old assay office is now known as the HOUSE OF MYSTERY.
When the mining company erected the building, it was plumb and level. Sometime in 1910, during a particularly heavy rainy season, the building rode a mudslide down the hill, coming to rest against the side of a maple tree. Which is where it still sits. No longer plumb or level, the house is awkwardly skewed. Oddly a strong feeling of uneasiness or disorientation will grow in you and will increase the longer you stay inside the house.
The VORTEX opened as a tourist attraction around 1930, with guides explaining the unusual conditions as they escorted groups through the area. Visitors are still awed by the phenomena.
Take the "North-South perspective." The tour guide directs a group to two poles rising vertically from either side of a narrow wooden platform. Though the tour guide claims the poles are of the same length, the pole to the right (north) appears several inches shorter. The tour guide Guide measures a metal rod to show the group it's exactly 7 feet long. She holds the rod up against the right (north) pole. Same height. As the guide drags the rod across the platform (which she has already proven level with a carpenter's bubble level), the rod appears to lengthen until it seems to be the same height as the left (south) pole. The poles are of identical height, although the south one appears much taller.
Next, the guide asks two people to step onto the platform, stand facing each other at the poles for a moment, then exchange places. As they move towards each other, pass and continue to the opposite pole, they appear to either grow or shrink in height, depending on which way they are walking (north or south).
Scottish scientist John Lister visited the VORTEX area in 1913. After performing more than 14,000 experiments, Lister concluded the VORTEX acts like a giant refracting lens, bending the light in a circular, or vertical motion. He thought of the effect was an optical illusion. The VORTEX staff disagrees.
Use your camera. You can prove it's no illusion. Stand at one pole and take a picture of someone at the other pole. Then trade places and take a second photo from exactly the same distance. After developing your pictures, place the photos side by side and measure the height and shoulder width on both. In the photo taken at the South Pole, the person will actually measure taller and broader in the shoulders. If it were an optical illusion and not a physical change, there would be no change on your photographs.
Next a visitor 5'8" tall stands in the center of the platform facing the group. The tour guide stands 5'10" tall. When the taller tour guide stands on the left (north) side of the visitor--they seem of a height shoulder to shoulder. The guide then moves to the right side (south) of the visitor. Though the visitor has not moved, the tour guide now towers over the visitor and has to reach up to touch the guides shoulder.
Albert Einstein developed the second theory about the VORTEX. He thought the phenomenon was more than just optical, that it was something we could also feel. Because the VORTEX actually expands and contracts as much as 19 inches several times daily, Einstein thought a person’s molecular structure also expands or contracts as they walk through the area, keeping the same proportions as before.

Well, that’s what we know about the OREGON VORTEX. I admit it isn’t much but one cool thing is that you can still visit the site. As far as the two possible reasons for the oddness of the location, neither theory explains all of the strange phenomena. Such as why anyone inside the VORTEX feels compelled to lean as much as 7 degrees towards north instead of standing straight up. Or why camera light meters tend to read darker inside the area then in surrounding areas. My only explanation is that we truly live in a weird, WEIRD world!

I’m Average Joe

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