Over 65 years ago, a strange natural phenomenon was observed in an apple orchard between Boone & Blowing Rock. No matter what the growing conditions were, the trees always grew as if pulled towards the north; and apples falling from the trees always collected in a certain area of the ground. Twin siblings working at the cider mill in the orchard, exactly the same height, would appear as if one was shorter than the other when standing on the mill’s platform.
The owner of the mill received a copy of LIFE Magazine in 1948 and read with interest about a peculiar “vortex” in California exhibiting several of the same features his land did, so he journeyed out West to research for himself. He knew he had a bona fide attraction on his hands, so when he returned home, Mystery Hill was born.
Through the years, Mystery Hill has grown and added more attractions, but its basic premise remains the same: Gravity simply operates differently here. Your tour guide will give you a brief overview of the attraction’s history and how it came to be, including showing some of the equipment once used in the apple orchard, and as you walk out to the Mystery House you are faced with brain-bending riddles along the walls. The platform that once housed the cider mill is still here, and when two people stand on it and then swap sides, they will indeed appear to have shrunk or grown! I had a hard time believing it myself until these photos were taken, showing me (5’8″ tall) and my husband (6’8″ tall). Our tour guide did not move between the shots and this is not a trick of perspective.
Just past the platform is the Mystery House, where gravity truly goes wild. Despite what your eyes tell you, you will truly be standing straight up and down! There are several fun activities in this room where you can test the reverse gravity over and over: see a ball roll uphill without being pushed; see water flow uphill; swing yourself backwards without any effort; and see a broom swing uphill from your fingertips.
When you’ve had all the fun you can in the Mystery House, continue on to the Hall of Mystery. Enjoy more brain-teasing optical illusions, games, and even put yourself inside a bubble!
Your admission ticket is not only good for Mystery Hill, but will also get you into the two fascinating museums next door. The stately white manor house beside Mystery Hill was once the home of B.B. Dougherty, one of the founders of what is now Appalachian State University, and was moved to its location next to Mystery Hill in 1989 when the college needed it moved from its old location on Rivers Street. The owners of Mystery Hill converted the lower level into the Native American Artifacts Museum, showcasing over 50,000 arrowheads and other pieces collected in 23 states by one couple over a period of 50 years. The top floor of the home was renovated, named the Appalachian Heritage Museum, and is furnished in the style the Dougherty family would have enjoyed during their lives, and provides a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of an upper-class mountain family in the very early 1900’s.
Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine, Trina’s Java Rocks, and the Appalachian Fossil Museum is right next door, so when you’re done with Mystery Hill, be sure to walk across the parking lot to mine your own treasures and get a hot cup of coffee! You never know what you’ll come away with.
Mystery Hill is a great fun-filled activity for the whole family, rain or shine! You’ll love making new memories at this historic attraction.
Where Is It?
129 Mystery Hill Lane, Blowing Rock NC 28605
Next door to Doc’s Rocks, near Tweetsie Railroad & High Gravity Adventures, halfway between Boone and Blowing Rock
Call them at 828-264-2792 or visit their website HERE for more information.
Rates & Hours
Mystery Hill is open 364 days a year (closed Christmas Day).
From June 1 til August 31, they are open 9:00am-8:00pm; and from September 1 to May 30 they are open 9:00am-5:00pm.
Kids under 4 are free. Kids ages 5-12 are $7; Ages 13-59 are $9, and Ages 60-300 are $8.
Group rates are available by phone and tour buses are welcome. Season passes are also available.
Anyone with a sense of wonder and adventure!
Younger children will need to hold on to their parent/guardian in the Mystery House. Mystery Hill as a whole is fairly handicap accessible, but the steep grade getting out of the Mystery House may be challenging for some guests.
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All text & photos copyright 2016 Cassandra Ellison, Blue Ridge NC Guide. No portion of this article is to be copied, saved, or otherwise distributed without express written consent. Author received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this article.