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Florida’s Spook Hill defies gravity. What’s the secret of the thrill?

  • Gabrielle Calise Times staff

LAKE WALES — I marked the beginning of October with a ghoulish quest.

After a 90-minute drive to the Polk County town Lake Wales, I wound through a housing development, over a set of railroad tracks and around a school named for a legend: Spook Hill Elementary, whose letter Os are drawn to resemble a set of eerie eyeballs. The mascot, Casper the Friendly Ghost, foreshadowed the mystery around the corner.

Spook Hill is a relic of Florida’s pre-Disney roadside attraction days, and remains one of the state’s last free tourist traps from that era. In a quiet neighborhood, a one-way road lined with moss-draped oak trees leads up to a soaring incline. A sign arches above a painted white line on the road, spelling out the name in dripping, spectral letters: SPOOK HILL.

I am a lover of fanfare, Halloween and, unfortunately for a Floridian, hills. My favorite pastime is speeding over St. Petersburg’s Thrill Hill , which creates the same feeling in your tummy as a roller coaster drop. Then I heard about Spook Hill, a gravity hill that, according to lore, gives you an eerie sensation of being pulled backward uphill.

Public opinion on this particular spot is mixed. There are numerous 5-star reviews for Spook Hill online. “Free, fast, and silly,” one said.

It seems like there’s just as many 2- and 1-star entries. One Google reviewer put it: “We weren’t spooked LOL.”

I was determined to figure out how to feel the same otherworldly sensation that the 5-star visitors reported.

The legend of this place, as told by a sign at the base of the hill, probably wouldn’t pass muster with its current wording in 2021. An illustrated ghost grins next to the words, pointing at them with a puffy white finger.

The gist is this: Long ago, an enormous alligator terrorized a Seminole tribe near Lake Wales. After a fierce final battle, both the warrior tribe leader, Chief Culcowellax, and the gator perished. Pioneers later called it Spook Hill.

“Is it the gator seeking revenge, or the chief protecting his land???,” the sign ponders. “Stop car on white line, place in neutral and let it roll back.”

I pulled up to the imposing hill and stopped at the white line at the bottom. Yes, the bottom. Before things get steep and exciting. I put the car in neutral and took my foot off the brake.

Is ... this it?

I didn’t feel like anything was dragging me upward. I was just leisurely cruising backward.

I returned to the white line to try again. This time, I fixed my gaze in front of me. Before I rolled back that far, I peeked in the rearview and saw my car aimed toward a tree. I adjusted the wheel. By then, another car was approaching behind me.

Clearly, this was not my time to be spooked. I’d try again later.

I drove up the hill, away from the attraction, feeling confused. As I scaled the sharp incline, I felt suspense building, like my car was a roller coaster cart slowly inching up to the first peak. Except the anticipation was misplaced. I already visited the attraction, so to speak. I imagined explaining to my boss that I’d made a three-hour round trip for ... nothing.

I must have missed something. So, I set out to solve this mystery. Why was Spook Hill here anyway? And how the heck do you get it to work?

A local tradition

People often ask Jennifer D’hollander what Spook Hill is all about. But the executive director of the Lake Wales History Museum doesn’t want to give away too much of the secret.

“The whole idea is, are you really moving backwards? Or is it an optical illusion?” D’hollander said. “It’s for the visitor to decide for themselves.”

Spook Hill emerged during the mid-20th century, D’hollander explained, when travel by car was a popular way to vacation across the country.

The local chamber probably added Spook Hill after nearby landmark Bok Tower Gardens was built and dedicated in the late 1920s, said Tina Peak, library director at Lake Wales Public Library. The group felt the need to “kick up the game” and make Lake Wales a whole destination.

“I was born here, so I’m kind of underwhelmed,” Peak said with a laugh. “It’s one of those quirky little early Florida tourist attractions that people still love, and one of the few that you can still go to that doesn’t cost you anything.”

Kristina Nichols, who works with Peak as a library assistant, was also born and raised in Lake Wales. She attended Spook Hill Elementary, where students sing about their mascot, Casper the Friendly Ghost, in the school’s fight song. The smiling phantom is also shown holding books on school T-shirts, which Spook Hill visitors sometimes ask to purchase as souvenirs.

Now 30, Nichols remembers using pencils with ghost-shaped erasers and watching cars tackle the hill from her perch on the playground. Every year before Halloween, the school threw a fall festival and costume parade in honor of Casper’s birthday.

The week Nichols got her driver’s license, she visited Spook Hill.

“It never worked for me,” she said.

Spook Hill lore

The library collects the many newspaper clippings and documents that have told the story of Spook Hill over the years. Looking through the clips, you can see how much the legend has shifted.

In 2018, Max Adriel Imberman, a historic preservationist at the Florida Division of Historical Resources, submitted an application to get Spook Hill listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He said that steep hill in front of the white line where motorists begin is what blocks the view of the horizon. Hence, the optical illusion.

He wrote that the oldest recorded image of the site as a tourist attraction was taken in 1953. The next two decades would be the hill’s greatest period of local prominence.

The original sign in that photograph, which contains language that is today considered outdated and offensive, relayed a legend from the local chamber of commerce:

“The story relates of how the old Negro parked his car at the foot of this hill. He headed for the Lake. The song froze on his lips as he glanced back at his Jalopy. Slowly his old car was backing up-hill — the motor was not running — ‘Them’s Spooks,’ he was quoted as saying before he fainted. That is how Spook Hill came to be named.”

A different legend stars a cranky pirate ghost named Captain Gimme Sarsaparilla.

“Captain Gimme Sarsaparilla was a bloody pirate captain who roamed the seas in the early 16th century,” reads a clip from the 1950s-era issue of the Daily Highlander . “It is reported that Tampa’s Jose Gasparilla was just an ordinary freebooter in comparison — a poor relation — second or third cousin — of the terrible Captain Gimme.”

The story said Gimme retired from plundering in beautiful Lake Wales. His trusted aid, Teniente Vanilla, was buried at the foot of the hill. When Captain Gimme perished, his resting place was Davy Jones’ locker, at the bottom of North Lake Wales.

The newspaper clipping said that the captain was awakened after a man stopped his car at the foot of the hill. A car weighs the same as 16 people, conjuring the swashbuckling lyric, “16 men on a dead man’s chest.” Therefore, cruising over Vanilla’s resting place inspired the spirit of Captain Gimme to rise from the lake and shove the man’s car up the hill.

A 1964 Orlando Sentinel clipping in the library’s collection explained Spook Hill Elementary lore. When the school first opened, principal James W. Cooper struggled to get transcripts for transferring students. Apparently, other institutions saw the name and thought they were being pranked.

Cooper was responsible for bringing in Casper as the mascot. He wrote to Harvey Comics asking to use it for the school.

“Alfred Harvey, president, gladly granted permission, characterizing Casper as ‘friendly, helpful and good … a fine example of today’s youth.’”

In 1992, investigators from the Center for Paranormal Studies in Silver Springs came to Lake Wales. They bundled Spook Hill in the same trip as a visit to a nearby haunted home. They detected no electromagnetic activity at the attraction.

“Normal science apparently was enough to convince the trio that an optical illusion probably is responsible for cars that appear to roll upward,” read a report in The Ledger .

Perhaps Henry Ferguson, a visitor in the 1990s, told it to The Ledger best.

“I’m not excited, and I’m not scared, but it is something strange,” he said.

In search of spooks

By the time I finished my research and headed back to Spook Hill, the sky was drizzly and pale. Dare I say: It looked spooky.

Maybe if I could watch others visit, I could pick up on the secret. I ordered a sandwich to go on the way over, bracing myself for a long stakeout. But the line was two cars long when I reached Spook Hill.

I watched the first, a gray sedan, gradually approach the line before stopping and rolling back. They braked just before the sign. Then, the car drove forward to leave, driving even slower as they reached the top of the hill.

I imagined the person inside milking the last bit of Spook Hill, peeking back at the sign in the rearview mirror, wondering, “Was that it ?”

“I was you,” I said through a mouthful of my chicken BLT.

Next, a red Ford Focus approached the sign. Two people were inside.

The woman in the passenger seat held up her phone to film. The driver threw his hands in the air. When they rolled back, he didn’t stop until well after they moved past the ghost sign.

Brian Eason, 52, and Olivia Grace Miller, 49, were visiting from Bradenton. They started their day at Bok Tower and ended at Spook Hill. Unlike most of the people I’d spoken with, this couple loved it.

“I’m giving her the whole Lake Wales experience,” Eason said.

Eason shared a few pointers before heading back for one more attempt. As his car rolled back, he flashed a big grin and a thumbs up. Then they left.

My turn. This time, I put my car in neutral and then peeled my hands from the wheel, hoisting them up above my ears. Instead of just releasing the brake, I took my foot completely off the pedal.

I stared straight ahead. Not looking up at the top of the hill. Not peering back. I imagined the massive gator, Chief Culcowellax, Captain Gimme Sarsaparilla all tugging my Hyundai Elantra by its rear wheels.

The further back I rolled, the more the road looked like it was curving up. It felt like I was being yanked back, rising higher and higher as I got closer to the sign and finally rolled past it. The key, it seems, is letting your car roll back far enough.

I tried it again. Then again. It wasn’t a wild joy ride. But I felt a thrill in finally understanding the sensation, and I needed to attempt it more to believe it.

On my fifth go, I heard a car driving on the road behind me. My cue to finally leave Spook Hill.

It was someone else’s turn to solve the mystery.

Culture, music and nostalgia reporter

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What's the history behind the Legend of Spook Hill?

The weather is getting cooler (finally), and it’s almost time for Halloween — that special day for thinking about all that’s creepy, crawly, scary and mysterious. We think it’s the perfect time to take a look at a curious tourist attraction in Central Florida that doubles as one of the state’s most unusual (super?)natural phenomena, Spook Hill.

Spook Hill is located on 5th Street in Lake Wales, a city in Polk County. For years, signs have invited motorists to stop their car at a white line on what appears to be the bottom of a hill, put their car into neutral, and watch with terror as their car appears to creep its way back up the hill, as if moved by some unseen force.

Ask most folks who study such phenomena and they’ll tell you it’s all an optical illusion, that the unique pattern of changes in elevation along 5th Street plays a trick on your eyes, making it seem as though you’re at the bottom of a hill when you’re actually at the top. But is this really what’s happening?

Many locals have offered much creepier explanations over the years. A popular restaurant in Lake Wales called Barney’s Tavern, for example, was kind enough to publish a leaflet in the 1950s explaining the “real” story behind Spook Hill. According to this legend, it all began when a Spanish pirate named Captain Gimme Sarsparilla decided to hang up his cutlass and retire to Lake Wales. He was joined by fellow pirate Teniente Vanilla, whose surname was an acronym for a much larger mouthful of a name — Vincento Alfredo Nieto Isidoro Lima Llano Alvarez. We’ll stick with “Teniente Vanilla” for the sake of brevity.

According to the good folks at Barney’s, when Vanilla died he was buried at the foot of Spook Hill. Captain Sarsparilla, for whatever reason, ended up nearby at the bottom of the lake for which Lake Wales is named. All was well for a couple of centuries, but then one day in the early years of the automobile age a man decided to park his car right at the bottom of Spook Hill and go fishing. The car — which the crew at Barney’s estimated to be approximately the weight of 16 men — was parked directly over the grave of the long-forgotten Teniente Vanilla. And you know what they say about pirates and 16 men on a dead man’s chest. This was bound not to end well.

Vanilla, his rest now disturbed, was said to have called out to his old friend Captain Sarsparilla, who emerged from his watery tomb in Lake Wales and pushed the unlucky fisherman’s car up the hill and off of the dead pirate’s chest. And–legend says–that’s what will happen to your car as well if you dare to stop at the bottom of Spook Hill as that fisherman once did.

Now that’s not the only explanation that has been put forward to explain this chilling peculiarity. At some point local tourism promoters put forward a completely different legend involving a struggle between a Native American chieftain and a particularly bothersome alligator. Someone else proposed a theory involving an underground lode acting as a magnet that draws automobiles up the hill.

So what’s the real story behind Spook Hill? We’ll leave it for you to visit Lake Wales someday and decide for yourself … if you dare!

View this blog post on the Florida Memory website at www.floridamemory.com/blog/author/josh/

LISTEN: 'NOT IN MY COUNTY' WITH SHERIFF GRADY JUDD

Why do cars roll uphill at Spook Hill? Legends & science explain the thrill of Lake Wales’ gravity hill

An archway over Fifth Street in Lake Wales depicts Spook Hill where cars appear to roll backward uphill.

An archway over Fifth Street in Lake Wales depicts Spook Hill where cars appear to roll backward uphill. 

LAKE WALES, Fla. - A concoction of legends, science, and a dash of Florida weirdness all offer explanations for why tourists and residents continue to be thrilled by a hill in Lake Wales .  

Before Central Florida became home to the ‘House of Mouse,’ quirky roadside attractions were king. 

As highways were built across America in the late 1920s and 30s, roadside attractions began popping up off the beaten path with hopes of taking drivers off the interstate and into small towns across the country. 

In Florida, visitors could see mermaids , alligators and even take a sip from the Fountain of Youth . Many of Florida’s original roadside attractions are just a memory, but some still exist, including one that has been scaring tourists long before the haunted mansion opened at Disney World – Spook Hill. 

Where is Spook Hill?    

A couple reads a sign displaying the legend of Spook Hill - Lake Wales, Florida in 1956. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project.

A couple reads a sign displaying the legend of Spook Hill - Lake Wales, Florida in 1956. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project.

It not for the arch over the 2-lane roadway located in the southeast corner of Polk County, you might miss it. 

Spook Hill is actually the dip in the road on Fifth Street, between Burns Avenue and Spook Hill Elementary School.

The so-called gravity hill creates an illusion where cars stopped at the bottom of the hill appear to roll backward, uphill, and it has been giving people ‘the spooks’ for decades. 

A photo from 1950 advertising Spook Hill. One could drive their car to the bottom of the "hill", turn off the engine, release the brakes and watch as the car rolled back as much as 100 feet up the hill. This is due to an optical illusion. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project.

A photo from 1950 advertising Spook Hill. One could drive their car to the bottom of the "hill", turn off the engine, release the brakes and watch as the car rolled back as much as 100 feet up the hill. This is due to an optical illusion. Courtesy of

"It is in fact an optical illusion sort of thing," explained Anderson Hanna, curator of collections and exhibits for the Lake Wales History Museum. "The way that it looks is not the way that it really is."

READ: For more than a century, Sunken Gardens has been a tropical oasis in the middle of downtown St. Pete

Spook Hill gained popularity in the 1950s, during the Golden Age of America’s roadside attractions. 

"A lot of local businesses and things like that were like, you know, if we had a roadside attraction, people could get off of those main highways and come into our little town and possibly get some sort of commerce and things of that nature…that’s one of the reasons roadside attractions actually came about," Hanna stated.

An archway marking Spook Hill runs over the road, which is still a thoroughfare, and next to it is a sign with a ghost explaining one legend of why the cars appear to roll uphill. 

The legends of Spook Hill

A sign with a ghost on the right-side of Spook Hill explains one legend of why cars appear to roll uphill. 

The friendly looking ghost aside the sign at Spook Hill explains the first legend of the oddity. It reads:

Another popular tale surrounding the mystery of Spook Hill was created decades ago by an old Lake Wales restaurant called Barney’s Tavern.

The restaurant published a pamphlet describing the "real" story behind Spook Hill. 

Optical illusions: Three ways your eyes may deceive you

Optical illusions: Three ways your eyes may deceive you

Sometimes the brain receives information from the eyes that doesn't seem to 'fit.’ That's an optical illusion, but did you know there are three different types? See if you can tell what's really going on in each of these images.

The pamphlet says that, after years of pillaging and plundering on the high seas, two pirates, Teniente Vanilla and Captain Gimme Sarsaparilla, (who supposedly made Tampa’s Jose Gaspar look like an ordinary freebooter), decided to retire to Lake Wales. 

When Vanilla died, he was buried at the foot of Spook Hill and Captain Sarsaparilla ended up at the bottom of the pond, bearing the name Lake Wales. 

Barney’s Tavern leaflet from 1954. Leaflet describing Spook Hill, a tourist attraction in Lake Wales in Polk County, Florida, including legendary origins of the phenomenon and comments from previous visitors. The leaflet was sponsored by Barney's, a Lake Wales restaurant. Courtesy of State Library of Florida, Ephemera Collection and the Florida Memory Project. 

Centuries later, a man parked his car at the bottom of Spook Hill so he could go fishing. As he headed toward the lake he glanced back at his vehicle and it was traveling backward uphill even though he did not leave the motor running. 

As the story goes, the man cried out, "Dem’s spooks" before he fainted. That’s how Barney’s Tavern said Spook Hill acquired its name. 

The restaurant’s leaflet goes on to state the angler unknowingly had stopped his car, which was said to have the weight of 16 dead men, on top of Vanilla’s unmarked grave, awakening the pirate from his eternal slumber. Vanilla called out to Sarsaparilla for help and the captain rose from his underwater grave and pushed the car off of Vanilla’s final resting spot. 

Now, anyone who tries to park their car at the bottom of Spook Hill is pushed away by the ghost of Captain Sarsaparilla.  

spook hill story

Undated image of Barney's Tavern. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project. 

How does Spook Hill work?

To feel the thrill of Spook Hill, take a drive down Fifth Street in Lake Wales between Burns Avenue and Spook Hill Elementary School, whose mascot is ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’. On the right, you will see a ghost with a sign explaining one of the legends of Spook Hill. Straight ahead you will see the road dip down and then up with the famous Spook Hill arch above and a white line painted on the street below. 

Drive to the white line painted in the middle of the road beneath the arch and put your car into neutral. 

As soon as you take your foot off the brake, you will get the sensation that you are rolling backward uphill 75-100 feet. To those watching from the shoulder of the road, it also appears as though the car is rolling backward uphill. 

"There is no great reason why it is there except that it is a roadside attraction and there was an optical illusion," Hannah shared. 

Despite it being a free tourist attraction, Spook Hill is located on a road that drivers use regularly on their daily commute, so be careful when stopping your car at the white line. 

What is a gravity hill?

According to Visit Central Florida, Spook Hill is the only known magnetic hill in Florida and the oldest gravity hill in the country. 

Despite the legends and popular folklore, science may explain why cars roll uphill at Spook Hill. 

Spook Hill is a gravity hill or an optical illusion that presents visitors with the spooky feeling of driving uphill when they are truly going downhill. 

A gravity hill is a place where gravity appears not to work. Researchers say gravity hills are just an optical illusion. Depending on the area’s landscape, a small downhill slope may appear to be going uphill. Cars can be seen rolling uphill against the gradient of the road. 

Car rolling "up" the Spook Hill attraction in Lake Wales in 1970. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project.

Car rolling "up" the Spook Hill attraction in Lake Wales in 1970. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project.

According to Geography Realm, one of the most important features of a gravity hill is that the horizon line is partially or completely blocked, which blurs a viewer’s perception of up and down. 

"When you’re driving at a highway speed for a long period of time and you get off of that highway, you continue going a little faster than you should. So, if you happen to be in an area that’s a little bit higher, you just get that sense of it being a little bit higher or the gradients are a little different to your perception," Hanna explained. "That’s one of the reasons I think it looks like that."

Spook Hill today

Spook Hill gained popularity in the 1950s and was added to the National Register of Historical places in 2019.  

For more than 70 years, tourists have made a point to take the back roads and venture into Lake Wales to feel their car roll uphill at Spook Hill. 

Side-by-side images of Spookhill in 1950 and 2022.

Side-by-side images of Spook Hill in 1960 and in 2022. 

"We’re not saying a million plus or anything visit the area, but I think the way things are going of course, today people want to harken back to that nostalgic time period when everything was hunky-dory," Hanna shared. "That kind of really screams Americana and that traveler-type spirit, discovery and hey, I just saw the world’s largest pistachio, the world’s largest frying pan, ball of twine, things like that. It’s the oddities that you find comfort in I guess." 

Is an alligator seeking revenge? Perhaps a chief is protecting his land. Possibly two pirates are trying to keep people from parking on their burial ground. Or maybe it’s simply the force of gravity. 

Many theories try to explain the thrill of Spook Hill, but it is something that needs to be experienced first-hand. Head out to Lake Wales, stop on the white line on Fifth Street and give it a try - if you dare. 

Florida history: Lake Wales landmark may be Central Florida’s last free tourist attraction

Pull up to the sign. Read the legend. Move up to the line. Stop. Put the car in neutral. Come off the brake.

It. Ever. So. Slowly. Begins. Rolling. Up. Hill.

Before you know it, you’ve rolled backward about 500 feet, on past the sign, and you’re

scratching your head, and so are the kids.

The secret of Spook  Hill

OK, here’s the big secret (most of you can figure it out): Because Spook Hill is surrounded by rolling hills, the whole horizon is at a cockeyed angle and your perspective is thrown off. Take the hills away and you can tell you’ve just rolled down.

Although it does get plenty of mileage out of Spook Hill, the town of Lake Wales — to its credit — never went the next stop of blocking off the road, charging admission and routing the only way out of the neighborhood through a gift shop. It may well be the last free tourist attraction in Central Florida.

Another explanation: What’s the history behind the Legend of Spook Hill?

Photos: A look at the mystery of Spook Hill in Lake Wales

Pirates, Demon Crocs and Aliens: Secluded roadside attraction has gained a cult following

The story goes that circuit riders traversing the area and, later, citrus workers hauling their wagons around the lake, noticed their horses appeared to be laboring downhill. When the road was paved and cars began suffering the same fate, Spook Hill was born.

The hill is in a residential neighborhood at the north end of the town, just north of State Road 60 and just east of U.S. 27.

It’s right on the way for many tourists on their way to Cypress Gardens, or taking a shortcut to Disney World, or visiting the nearby Bok Tower, a 205-five foot tower whose carillon bells, ranging in weight from 17 pounds and 12 tons and played by a keyboard, send their music out to the hilly countryside.

The Seminole Indian legend behind the hill

There’s not much to Spook Hill, just a couple of lines painted on the road and a billboard

bearing the figure of a cartoon ghost and describing this Indian legend: A Seminole chief and his people had settled in the area. A giant bull alligator took up residence in an adjacent lake, then began raiding the village.

Seeing his people terrified, the powerful and courageous chief, placed under the protection of the Great Spirit by the tribe’s shaman and elders, set out after the animal.

It took many days before he came across the alligator, dragging another night’s victim into the lake. The chief and the beast struggled for a month; finally the thrashing stopped and the water turned red. As his subjects watched in terror and anticipation to see if either combatant would emerge from the lake, the chief rose from the water triumphant.

Florida Time is a weekly column about Florida history by Eliot Kleinberg, a former staff writer for three decades at The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, and the author of 10 books about Florida (www.ekfla.com). 

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Entrance sign above road saying “Spook Hill”

Photograph by Jennifer Nanek,  of Florida State Historic Preservation Office

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Last updated: October 17, 2019

RoadsideAmerica.com Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions

Attraction:

Spook Hill view.

Lake Wales, Florida

Gravity Hills -- where cars inexplicably defy the laws of science -- lurk in every region across the America. Their locations are passed on by word-of-mouth, and they're frequented by cruising teenagers or families out for a thrill after church. Spook Hill is somewhat unique in that it's officially recognized by the town, and prominently marked for your uphill-rolling entertainment. There's a large sign on North Wales Drive explaining "The Legend" and how to experience the effect.

"Many years ago an Indian village on Lake Wales was plagued by raids of a huge gator . The Chief, a great warrior, killed the gator in a battle that created a small lake. The chief was buried on the north side. Pioneer mail riders first discovered their horses laboring down hill, thus naming it "Spook Hill." When the road was paved, cars coasted up hill. Is this the gator seeking revenge, or the chief still trying to protect his land? "

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Random Florida Fact: Spook Hill defies gravity

Tourist attraction claims drivers can roll up this lake wales hill.

Anthony Talcott , Digital Journalist

LAKE WALES, Fla. – There are plenty of spooky attractions in the Sunshine State, from cemeteries where the devil steals beers , a cursed stretch of Interstate 4 , and even the country’s most haunted restaurant .

But at “Spook Hill,” you can test the legends out for yourself.

This hill can be found along 5th Street in Lake Wales, not far from an elementary school by the same name.

According to city officials, Spook Hill is a type of “gravity hill,” which is a place where gravity appears to work in reverse. If you park your car along the road and place it into neutral, it will seemingly roll uphill instead of downhill.

The street has been a tourist site for decades, with state records about the site dating all the way back to the 1950s.

Nowadays, a sign posted nearby tells the legend of Spook Hill, explaining that ages ago, a Native American tribe near Lake Wailes once suffered from attacks by a giant alligator.

“The town’s great warrior chief and the gator were killed in a final battle that created the huge swampy depression nearby,” the sign reads.

Later on, pioneers traveling along the nearby Army trail found their horses struggling to walk through the foot of a ridge, despite it appearing to go downhill. And so they dubbed the area Spook Hill.

“Is it the gator seeking revenge, or the chief protecting his land?” the sign asks.

Another legend about the hill stems from a now-defunct restaurant in Lake Wales called Barney’s Tavern.

The restaurant provided pamphlets in 1956 that discussed the story of “Captain Gimme Sarsaparilla,” a pirate who reportedly decided to retire in Lake Wales back in 1511 to pursue a life of whale fishing. Sarsaparilla was joined by his trusted friend, Teniente Vanilla.

According to the pamphlet, Vanilla was buried at the foot of Spook Hill after his death, and Sarsparilla was said to “repose in Davy Jones’ locker at the bottom of North Lake Wailes.”

Much later on, a man parked his car along Spook Hill directly above Vanilla’s chest, and Sarsaparilla’s spirit “arose from the depths of the lake” to push the car back up the hill and off of his dead friend’s resting place, the legend states.

Visitors are urged to try the experience out for themselves. To do so, they can stop their car on the white line, place it in neutral and let it roll backward.

News 6 visited Spook Hill in October to put those legends to the test.

From the inside of the vehicle, it appeared as though the car was indeed rolling uphill. However, a camera placed along the side of the road was able to catch the optical illusion at work.

In a 1991 article by the magazine Skeptical Inquirer , computer scientist Guss Wilder explained that the illusion only works if you’re driving at the hill head-on.

“When viewed from any angle other than from the designated approach road, the alleged ‘low point’ is obviously higher than the road behind it,” Wilder wrote. “A substantial portion of the visitors never get out of their cars to size up the situation properly and drive away with bewildered looks on their faces.”

Whether the street is haunted by the ghosts of pirates and gators, or whether it’s simply a trick of the eye, there’s no doubt it’s a location with plenty of history.

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A Little Bit Human

A Little Bit Human

Lights, Camera, Progress

The Gravity-Defying Story of Spook Hill, Florida

November 24, 2022 by Joseph Sherwood

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spook hill lake wales

In this article:

  • You may have heard of someone having their car roll down a hill because they forgot to turn on their parking brake. However, have you ever heard of someone’s car rolling uphill? Well, at Spook Hill in Central Florida, you can put your car in neutral and have it roll up a hill while you sit in it. 
  • According to legend, this strange phenomenon is caused by the spirit of either a great Native American warrior chief or a massive alligator. However, scientists believe that this is actually an optical illusion. 
  • On top of that, this sort of optical illusion exists in many other places around the world and, most likely, somewhere in your home state. But, Spook Hill has become the most famous “gravity hill” in the United States because of its local community’s willingness to promote it. 

Have you ever heard of someone forgetting to put on their parking brake and having their car roll downhill? While that may not have ever happened to you personally, you’ve probably heard a similar horror story from a friend or family member. However, have you ever heard of someone’s car rolling uphill ? Well, if you live in central Florida , that could be a legitimate concern. In the town of Lake Wales, Florida, sits Spook Hill, a seemingly supernatural place where gravity is reversed and cars roll uphill. 

Don’t believe me? Well, you can see for yourself. There are actual videos online that show this phenomenon very clearly. Feel free to debate the veracity of those videos all you like. Whether or not you believe, this phenomenon has been well-documented for years. In fact, there’s even a street sign on Spook Hill that tells you exactly how you can test it. According to the sign, all you have to do is pull your car up to the white line painted on the ground, put your car in neutral, and then watch roll up the hill. 

spook hill gravity hill

However, that’s not all that this sign says. It also displays another story about a great warrior chief who defended the hill from a giant alligator. This is just one of several explanations that have been used to explain the strange psychics of Spook Hill . On top of that, it would seem that Spook Hill is also not the only hill of its kind. 

Let’s take a look at the legends around Spook Hill and what possible scientific explanations there could be for this hill’s indifference to gravity. 

The Legend Explained

As the legend goes, according to the sign that sits on Spook Hill, the site was created by an epic battle between a Native American chief and a magically large alligator. Apparently, the chief’s village sat atop Spook Hill. The gator would repeatedly raid the village, making life dangerous for the townspeople. 

Eventually, things culminated in a grand battle that ended with the great warrior chief getting killed. In the midst of the battle, though, a massive swampy depression was formed in the surrounding land. The chief’s body was buried on the north side of the depression. 

Many years later, a group of pioneers unknowingly came upon the burial site of the chief. Near the site, they noticed that their horses were huffing and puffing even though they appeared to be going downhill. They believed that a ghost was the reason for this. Thus, they decided to name the site Spook Hill. 

spook hill lake wales florida

In fact, in later years, people even claimed to have seen giant ghosts appear and start pulling their cars uphill. Was it the ghost of the great warrior chief trying to protect his land? Was it the gargantuan alligator trying to pull unsuspecting victims to their deaths? Well, in all likelihood, it was neither. 

The Truth Behind Spook Hill

Fans of the paranormal will be disappointed to hear that there’s actually a pretty solid scientific explanation for the strange physics of Spook Hill. And, as it turns out, the physics of Spook Hill actually aren’t so strange at all. 

King of the Hill Is Making a Comeback on Hulu

Best king of the hill christmas episodes.

Spook Hill is what’s known as a “gravity hill” or a “magnetic hill”. Basically, these are hills that appear to have an upward slope as a result of an optical illusion involving the surrounding terrain. In reality, these hills actually have downward slopes. So, while it may look like your car is rolling uphill on Spook Hill, it’s actually rolling downhill. 

legend of spook hill florida

Without going into too much science, a gravity hill is basically a result of the human brain comparing the bottom of a slope to the horizon line, causing the slope to appear upward instead of downward. And, Spook Hill is far from the only gravity hill in the world. In fact, there are known gravity hills on six of the seven continents and in most of the fifty states of the United States. If you do a quick Google search, you can probably find a gravity hill that’s not far from your home. 

Spook Hill, however, has become the most famous of all gravity hills because the citizens of Lake Wales have been happy to promote it. Yes, it was reported that the Spook Hill Beautification Committee was granted $32,000 for “new signs, a tourist information center, and a parking lot.” So, a great deal of Spook Hill’s fame is due to its neighbors’ willingness to promote it. There’s also the fact that Spook Hill is located in Florida. And, for some reason, it seems more believable that there’d be a gravity-defying hill in Florida than anywhere else in the world. 

The Origin of Spook Hill 

While the geographic conditions of a gravity hill have probably existed at Spook Hill for thousands of years, the optical illusion only became known nationwide around the 1950s. During this time, travel by car was a popular way to get across the country and a ton of roadside attractions were cropping up during this time. In an effort to bolster the local economy of Lake Wales, the local chamber first built Bok Tower Gardens, a 250-acre contemplative garden and bird sanctuary. 

Realizing that there was also a gravity hill just a short drive from Bok Tower Gardens , they probably decided to advertise Spook Hill as an additional tourist attraction. In fact, they even ran with the paranormal angle so much that the mascot of the local elementary school, Spook Hill Elementary, was changed to Casper the Friendly Ghost . 

spook hill elementary school

Somewhere along the line, a sign was put up above Spook Hill, making it an official landmark. Today, people travel from all across the country to have the cars roll backward inexplicably uphill. And, despite the fact that this phenomenon has been explained by science, residents of Lake Wales will still tell you that they’ve seen ghosts tugging on the fenders of their cars. 

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Hi Joe! Fascinating. I checked the Atlas Link and found another gravity hill sport (or whatever) at Santa Cruz CA near where I grew up in Palo Alto. My family made frequent trips to Santa Cruz in summer and yes, I remember the Mystery Spot but don’t recall ever checking it out. I’m forwarding this to my nephew who lives in Santa Cruz to see if he has experienced this. Also, Joe, I meant to send you something from the WSJ (and believe I forgot and cannot find the article now) but it was about a museum in Portland featuring an exhibit of Japanese art that includes one of the original Great Waves. Since you have one in your home .,..might be of interest. With much love to you and Sam (hope I got the name right) from GrandJean (and Grandpa Dan)

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Spook Hill: Is it true that cars on this Florida street roll uphill?

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Pictured: Spook Hill in Florida – Courtesy: JennLShoots – Shutterstock

The Sunshine State is home to several creepy sights , such as graves where the devil is known to steal beer, a section of Interstate 4 that is said to be haunted, and even the most haunted restaurant in the nation.

However, you can verify the legends for yourself at “Spook Hill.”

This hill is located in Lake Wales near the same-named elementary school on 5th Street.

Spook Hill is classified as a “gravity hill,” which is a location where gravity seems to operate backward, according to city officials. Your car will appear to roll upwards rather than downhill if you park it alongside the road in neutral.

State records about the street go all the way back to the 1950s, indicating that it has been a popular tourist destination for many years.

These days, a legend about Spook Hill is written on a sign nearby, telling the story of how a large alligator once attacked a Native American tribe near Lake Wales, many years ago.

The sign says, “The huge swampy depression nearby was created in a final battle that claimed the lives of the gator and the town’s great warrior chief.”

Later on, even though the nearby Army trail seemed to go downhill, pioneers traveling along it discovered that their horses were having difficulty getting past the foot of a ridge. They called the region Spook Hill as a result.

The sign poses the question, “Is it the gator seeking revenge, or the chief protecting his land?”

Another mythology about the hill originates from Barney’s Tavern, a Lake Wales restaurant that is no longer in operation.

In 1956, the eatery distributed leaflets that told the tale of “Captain Gimme Sarsaparilla,” a pirate who is said to have chosen to retire to Lake Wales in 1511 in order to pursue a career as a whale fisherman. Teniente Vanilla, Sarsaparilla’s dependable companion, joined him.

The leaflet said that Sarsparilla “reposes in Davy Jones’ locker at the bottom of North Lake Wailes,” and that Vanilla was buried at the base of Spook Hill upon his passing.

Many years later, a guy parked his automobile just over Vanilla’s chest along Spook Hill. According to tradition, Sarsaparilla’s soul then “arose from the depths of the lake” to force the car back up the hill and away from his deceased friend’s final resting place.

It is recommended that visitors test out the experience for themselves. They can accomplish this by letting their automobile drift backward, shifting into neutral, and stopping on the white line.

In October, News 6 went to Spook Hill to investigate the legend.

It looked from the interior of the car like it was really rolling upward. Yet, the optical illusion was captured on camera by a camera positioned alongside the road.

Guss Wilder, a computer scientist, clarified in a 1991 Skeptical Inquirer article that the illusion is only effective when driving directly into the slope.

The claimed “low point” is clearly higher than the road behind it when viewed from any angle other than the official approach road, according to Wilder’s writing. “A significant percentage of the guests never get out of their cars to assess the situation appropriately and leave with puzzled expressions on their faces.”

It’s undeniable that the street has a lot of history, regardless of whether the ghosts of gators and pirates haunt it or if it’s just a trick of the light.

Stories that matter are our priority. At Florida Insider , we make sure that the information we provide our readers is accurate, easy-to-read, and informative. Whether you are interested in business , education , government , history , sports , real estate , nature or travel : we have something for everyone. Follow along for the best stories in the Sunshine State.

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Born and raised in South Florida, Krystal is a recent graduate from the University of Miami with professional writing experience at the collegiate and national news outlet levels. She’s a foodie who loves all things travel, the beach, & visiting new places throughout Florida.

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spook hill story

The mystery of Spook Hill has fascinated generations. Cars parked at the bottom of the hill will defy gravity and seemingly roll uphill. This is a public road, so visit anytime.

Lake Wales is known for its citrus groves, charming downtown, and iconic Singing Tower; however, the “Crown Jewel of the Ridge” also has an eerie side.

Get Your Chills on Spook Hill!

What would you say if I told you your car could defy gravity, and roll up hill all by itself? Well, it can at Spook Hill! The Hill in Lake Wales, Florida is a magnetic hill or “gravity hill.” Gravity hills can be found all over the world, and continue to spur folklore and curiosity as cars appear to roll up hill when placed in neutral. Not only is it one of the country’s oldest known gravity hills, it is also the only known magnetic hill in the state of Florida. In April of 2019, Spook Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Learn about the Legend

Want to learn more about the spookiness behind Spook Hill? Read all about the legend of this must-see Lake Wales historic stop that has fascinated many for generations.

Visiting Lake Wales

This unique, fun and free activity is a perfect addition to your next visit to Bok Tower Gardens and the Lake Wales History Museum . Whether it’s otherworldly forces at work, or an optical illusion – Spook Hill is a fun activity I know you’ll be dying to try on your next visit to Lake Wales !

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How a Small Maryland Town Survived the Blair Witch

Published on 9/19/2016 at 10:47 AM

Missing-person posters and confused whispers swirled around the 1999 Sundance Film Festival screening of a movie claiming to be a compilation of real video footage shot by three hikers who'd been killed under mysterious circumstances. Festival guides made it very clear that the movie,  The Blair Witch Project , was, in fact, a work of fiction, but the masquerade made writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez the talk of the festival.

The ingenious marketing plan for  The Blair Witch Project 's theatrical release made fact and fiction even blurrier, turning a $30,000 indie into a $140 million blockbuster phenomenon, giving rise to an entire "found"-footage subgenre in the process, and convincing a portion of the movie-going population that the myth was real. The thing was, part of the myth was  real. Burkittsville, "home" of the movie's demonic spirit, was an unassuming Maryland town. And little did residents realize that  Blair Witch hoopla would haunt them for the better part of two decades, all the way through to this year's mysterious new sequel .

Faking history

All myths are born, even the bullshit ones. The "Blair Witch" legend took shape when Myrick and Sánchez mapped out a plan that would culminate in The Blair Witch Project . Step one: a pitch video. Produced in 1998, the faux-educational spot detailed the exploits of a witch named Elly Kedward, who was banished from a colonial town of "Blair, Maryland," when she was accused of trying to let blood from local children. In the late 1800s, a child "went missing" in the forest, and when he returned, one of the search parties was found dismembered. In Burkittsville in the 1940s, an old hermit named Rustin Parr came down from the Black Hills Forest saying he was "finished" -- he'd killed seven children in his woodland home and blamed their deaths on the Blair Witch. The footage from the lost documentary crew was found at the ruins of Rustin Parr’s house.

Ben Rock, who would go on to be the production designer on The Blair Witch Project , recently recalled  the mythology's origins, admitting that he was "a little obsessed with anagrams back then." Rock took the name of British occultist Edward Kelly (who, along with John Dee, was said to bring dead people back to life) and wound up with the witch's "name." Rustin Parr's name began as an anagram for Rasputin . With a backstory sketched out, Myrick and Sánchez were free to drop victims into the middle of it.

Before Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard "disappeared in the Black Hills Forest in 1991," Myrick and Sánchez needed a starting point. That's where the trouble started for Burkittsville, MD.

click to play video

Making history

Burkittsville proclaims itself "a town rich in history and surrounded by beauty." In 1999, there were only 75 houses, a post office, and a church within the town limits. Locals call Main St "a testament to a simpler way of life." One would barely find a crossed look in Burkittsville, MD, let alone a terrorizing ghoul.

The Blair Witch legend blossomed in Burkittsville because of a cemetery. Just 50 minutes from The Blair Witch Project crew's Germantown, MD base, the town was the site of the September 1862 Battle of Crampton's Gap, one of the minor skirmishes leading up to the Battle of Antietam, fought three days later. The only remotely "creepy" aspects of Burkittsville were "Spook Hill,"  an incline just outside of town where Civil War soldier ghosts supposedly pushed idling cars uphill late at night, and "the Snallygaster,"  a mythical dragon that once laid an egg in the nearby hills.

In The Blair Witch Project , the real Burkittsville only appears twice: a "Welcome to Burkittsville" sign and several shots in the cemetery behind St. Paul's Lutheran Church, where the "witch's first victims were buried." There wasn't much more of the town to show -- it only takes 15 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other, and according to the most recent census data, its population is a mere 150. Myrick and Sánchez didn't film the Black Hills Forest portion of the movie in Burkittsville because it doesn't have a Black Hills Forest (those sequences were shot in Patapsco Valley State Park).They didn't even find real Burkittsville residents for the testimonials from "Burkittsville residents" -- those were shot back in Germantown. But even an establishing shot has staying power, as those directly and tangentially tied to The Blair Witch Project would eventually discover.

the blair witch project burkittsville

Making more history

"For the record, there never was a 'Blair Witch,' nor was the vicinity of Burkittsville ever known as 'Blair Township,'" Burkittsville's "unofficial historian" Timothy J. Reese wrote in 1999. "Those claiming to have done their homework in this regard had better direct their gullible inquiries to the buffoons who crafted this fictional cinematic nonsense. We locals would appreciate it if they took their fantasies elsewhere."

Those "buffoons" only doubled down after The Blair Witch Project 's Sundance premiere. After purchasing the movie out of the festival, Artisan Entertainment commissioned Myrick and Sánchez to shoot additional footage for both the movie (including mentions of Rustin Parr and four alternate endings ) and a fake television documentary that would air on the Sci-Fi Channel (now the uber-hip "SyFy") the week the film was released. Julia Fair, an employee of Myrick and Sánchez's Haxan Films, was in charge of creating props representing Blair’s witchy history. Fair created dozens of documents for the film, including the "only" copy of a book called The Blair Witch Cult that serves as the inciting incident for the character of Heather’s curiosity in the film.

"I tried to put it in historical context," Fair told The Baltimore Sun in 2000 . "I researched the times and the history of Maryland." The real township of Burkittsville was founded by Henry Burkitt in 1810. In Fair’s history, a railroad magnate founded it on the site of Blair in 1824 so he could exploit limestone deposits in the area (there are no limestone deposits near actual Burkittsville). A year after the film was released, Fair would realize what her thorough job had wrought. According to an April 2000 interview, she swore never to visit the town again after a Burkittsville historian told her, "You're ruining the history of my county."

Blair Witch mania approached Burkittsville like a storm. In the weeks leading up to the July 30th release of the movie, residents received emails from strangers asking about the witch. Postmaster Larry Ott told The Baltimore Sun that he warded off a barrage of phone calls. ("I've been postmaster since '93, and I tell them that if all this had happened in '94, I think I would have heard about it.") The city put its two police deputies on overtime to patrol the cemetery and issued a notification to all residents: "After viewing the movie, people may want to come out and see what Burkittsville is really like. We ask that you be cautious and reinforce safety precautions within your family." In turn, residents started locking their front doors for the first time ever.

Burkittsville mayor Joyce Brown, just starting her second term, was forced to address media attention and defend the town's values. "I've lived here 35 years and have also inquired with some older citizens -- none of them have ever heard of a Blair Witch," she told the Sun. "We are a Christian community. We have two local churches that have been established over 100 years. We take our Christianity seriously."

burkittsville maryland blair witch location

Shaking up history

When The Blair Witch Project took off with audiences, the mythology-heavy website was still at the center of its ad campaign and pointing to Burkittsville. Tourists from around the country and even across the pond swung by for a taste of mystery. Almost immediately, one of the four "Welcome to the Historic Village of Burkittsville" signs disappeared (Artisan Entertainment would eventually pay $1,143 to replace the sign with one welded to metal poles). Michelle Beller, the town clerk at the time, noticed after-dark activity at the graveyard -- someone was leaving candle luminaries on top of the gravestones. Brown reportedly called the president of the chamber of commerce from Amity, NY (who dealt with a similar craze after the release of The Amityville Horror in 1979), to ask for advice, and was told there was no way to stop the thrill-seekers.

While some residents cowered, others capitalized; Ott, who weeks before spoke out about the fiction, now found himself in the Burkittsville postcard business. "Yesterday I sold about a hundred," he said that August. Local artist Margaret Kennedy painted the movie's logo on T-shirts and sold them out of her Main St art gallery. After a fan posted photos of stolen Burkittsville cemetery dirt online, Linda Prior Millard and her 81-year-old mother Louise started selling "Blair Witch rocks" for $5 a pop. The Priors also made their own "stickmen" figures -- both full-size and refrigerator magnet versions. By the end of August, Linda managed to finally see the movie. "I thought it was pretty stupid," she said .

Mayor Brown remained cautious. That October, Burkittsville officially moved trick-or-treating night off of October 31st so the children could grab their candy "without outsiders being involved." Brown eventually conceded to The Blair Witch Project 's impact on Burkittsville history by putting a copy of the film in the official town record and welcoming film enthusiasts. "We are friendly to [the fans]," Brown said , "and they, for the most part, have been courteous to us." Across the street from the mayor, someone had nailed a sign to a telephone pole that read "THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT IS TOTAL FICTION." Still, reports indicate that Burkittsville visitors trespassed on residents' private property, videotaped people against their wishes, and caused minor property damage, including a pentagram graffitied on the side of the church. Even residents playing nice were chastised; Deb Burgoyne let curious tourists use the restrooms in her house until someone accused her of jeopardizing her children's lives by living in a town where a witch historically hunts children.

burkittsville cemetery blair witch

Remaking history

By 2000, the Blair Witch phenomenon appeared to be over, even if reports of 20-somethings recreating the fictitious exploration continued to trickle in ("We've been walking for hours and we can't find a thing!"  complained one occult enthusiast to The Washington Post ). But Hollywood was still possessed; in January 2000, Artisan Entertainment announced Blair Witch 2 , with documentarian Joe Berlinger ( Paradise Lost ) set to pump out the movie for a fall release. One planned stop: a visit to Burkittsville. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 would follow a meta path, abandoning found footage and beginning with Burkittsville's sudden popularity -- a haunted tale of mass hysteria.

What the sequel's producers didn't anticipate was a Burkittsville ready to air grievances. A Baltimore Sun report for February 15th paints a chilly picture of Artisan's initial interaction: "When the producers arrived at a town meeting Monday to pitch an idea of filming residents talking about the impact the original movie had on the town, they were repeatedly interrupted and insulted until they finally walked out... Yesterday, only a few residents of this town of 200... would discuss the fracas, and most who did talk wouldn't give their names." (Not that it's hard to identify some of the angrier residents from their previous statements -- it's a small town.)

"They'd come along and be peeking in people's windows, asking them where the witch lived. There were even people holding candlelight vigils in the cemetery for the dead children," said a man who would only identify himself as the town historian. "And they wouldn't believe it was fiction."

Even though Berlinger told the meeting that his movie was a psychological thriller spurred by The Blair Witch Project fake-out, the memories of property damage and invasions of privacy overruled the majority of the meeting's attendees. One of the most shocking statements came from a former town councilman named Sam Brown, husband of Mayor Joyce Brown, who claimed: "We've already been raped, now they want us to be prostitutes." Mayor Brown said she "can't comment."

click to play video

Despite the mayor barring access, Berlinger managed to shoot a few interviews with Burkittsville residents in the town sometime in the late spring. Linda Prior Millard appears in the film telling the true story of making profits selling rocks and sticks from her house. Deb Burgoyne, no longer offering up her bathroom, tells a story about always having makeup on when she leaves her house because she's being "video'd" all the time.

That October, Mayor Joyce Brown issued another letter to Burkittsville residents, alerting them that, again, a horror movie was coming out that would use the town's name in advertising. Audrey Stadnick, Larry Ott's postmaster successor, started getting about a dozen visitors a day, again asking if the Blair Witch legend was true. The "Welcome to Burkittsville" signs went into storage again (in Blair Witch 2 , the character played by Jeffrey Donovan is shown to have been the one to steal the first wooden sign as an Easter egg). The Frederick County Sheriff's Office assigned two deputies to the town for extra security the week of Halloween again. "The only times we'd have anyone specifically assigned to Burkittsville is, well, when we're doing this," said Sgt. Tom Winebrenner of the Sheriff’s Office.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was a critical failure in October 2000, and Burkittsville let out a collective sigh of relief. The only real scare: cease-and-desist letters from Artisan Entertainment. According to a later report , anyone creating Blair Witch merchandise without a license, including local artist Margaret Kennedy (who had been selling T-shirts), received a slap on the wrist. "It scared her so much, she gave all the shirts away," said Deb Burgoyne, the woman who is actually in Book of Shadows .

Eleven years after The Blair Witch Project ’s release, the town voted to auction off the metal Burkittsville signs that Artisan had bought for it in 1999. Since, the town signs have been redesigned twice, both times trying to not resemble any sign appearing in any Blair Witch film.

blair with 2016 burkittsville

Breaking from history

Over the summer, director Adam Wingard, a favorite of the indie-horror community, unveiled his new film The Woods at San Diego Comic-Con. When the lights went down a surprise lit up the screen: The Woods was actually a new Blair Witch sequel . Years after Burkittsville made its own reparations by auctioning off studio-bought signs (for much more than the $1,500 they were worth), the fake legend of the Blair Witch looked to surge interest in the community once again.

Much has changed since 1999. The internet is an endless source of hazy truths and debunkery: Paranormal Activity made "found footage" a household genre, and "viral campaigns," movie marketing masquerading as blips of reality, arrive with every new blockbuster. Burkittsville holds strong, vying to be as peaceful as possible. A few horror-film fans still pass through each year. Mayor Joyce Brown is gone, replaced by Mayor Deb Burgoyne (yes, the lady in the big sun hat in Book of Shadows is the mayor now). Most cultural phenomena pass by town; you won't find any Pokémon lurking around Burkittsville. The nearest screening of Blair Witch is an hour away. Judging from the movie's underwhelming $9.5 million weekend box office, few people made the trip.

That doesn't mean the residents didn't prepare. In the days leading up to Blair Witch , "Welcome" signs in Burkittsville were  taken down , and side streets connecting to Main were chained off. Mayor Burgoyne directed people to book hotel rooms in nearby Middletown and Brunswick to escape potential frenzy. There's an unwillingness to engage with even the slightest uptick in Blair Witch  fandom -- I left multiple messages on the town office answering machine, looking for insight into the post-movie plans. No one responded. Burkittsville was in a minor lockdown. It could be exhaustion. Rebecca Remaley, a resident who lives near the cemetery, was  preemptively tired  of the new movie. "We're a welcoming community," she told the Frederick News-Post . "There was just those instances where people seemed to forget that actual people lived here." And a witch, some say.

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Ghosts and Hauntings

Spook hill: where history and mystery collide.

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Nestled in the small village of Burkittsville, Maryland, lies a stretch of road that has captivated the imagination of both skeptics and believers: Spook Hill. Known for its eerie phenomenon where cars and balls appear to roll uphill, this road has become a local legend, intertwined with the area’s Civil War history and the broader folklore of haunted America.

The Ghostly Backstory

Spook Hill gained its reputation through stories suggesting that the spirits of Civil War soldiers haunt this area. In 1862, Confederate and Union forces clashed near Burkittsville, in a battle that led to heavy casualties. According to legend, the spirits of these fallen soldiers are responsible for the mysterious uphill movement of objects on Gapland Road. The tale goes that they pull objects towards the village, as if unable or unwilling to let go of the world they left behind.

The mysterious Spook Hill isn’t just a local curiosity; it’s become a part of American folklore. While Burkittsville gained widespread attention for its fictional role in “The Blair Witch Project,” Spook Hill has always had its own allure. Many come to experience the strange phenomena for themselves, some leaving convinced of the hill’s supernatural elements, and others skeptical but intrigued.

Though the tales of ghostly activity are compelling, the uphill rolling of objects has been explained as an optical illusion. Scientists and skeptics argue that the objects are actually rolling downhill, not uphill as it appears. The unique layout of the surrounding landscape—sloping trees and uneven terrain—disrupts our ability to accurately perceive the incline. Essentially, our brains fill in the gaps based on the conflicting visual information, leading us to believe that we’re witnessing something extraordinary.

A Destination for the Curious

Regardless of one’s beliefs, Spook Hill remains an intriguing destination. Whether you consider it a place where the spirits of long-gone soldiers linger, or simply a spot where the landscape plays tricks on your senses, the legend of Spook Hill endures. It serves as a haunting intersection between history and mystery, inviting everyone to take a closer look.

spook hill story

So, if you ever find yourself in Burkittsville, Maryland, consider making a detour to Spook Hill. Put your car in neutral and experience the mystery for yourself. Whether you walk away convinced of its supernatural origins or satisfied with a scientific explanation, the legend of Spook Hill is sure to leave an impression. It remains a place where history, folklore, and curiosity come together, making it a must-visit spot for anyone intrigued by the unexplained.

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Spook Hill Road is a legendary place in the town of Wappinger. It is home to some of the town’s oldest buildings, including the venerable Obadiah Cooper house dating back to 1730. The origins of its haunting name trace back to a time when the road was but a dirt path, skirting a small hill and rock outcropping. Although the hill’s topography was altered in the mid-twentieth century to pave the way for development, its notable name is a permanent reminder of the fear it once evoked.

On nights when it glowed its brightest, the moon’s shimmering rays would dance upon the smooth stones of the outcrop, casting an otherworldly glow. This luminescent spectacle would often startle horses that traveled past, causing them to bolt in fear, unseating riders, and overturning wagons. Over time, the road earned its eerie moniker, “Spook Hill,” as the tales of frightened horses and the strange glows passed from one generation to the next.

Legends & Lore marker for Spook Hill, Wappingers Falls, New York.

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Tyreek Hill Says His House Is 'Done' After Fire That Reportedly Caused $2.3 Million In Damages

Hill's reaction to the fire was caught on cameras for HBO's 'Hard Knocks' program

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Rich Storry/Getty

Tyreek Hill’s $6.9 million mansion is “done” after a massive fire at his home last week , the NFL wide receiver said. Hill, 29, was at Miami Dolphins practice when the fire began. His return to the team facilities was caught on camera by HBO’s Hard Knocks series, which is following the team this season.

“It’s done. The house done, bro,” Hill told his Dolphins teammates. “Smoke damage, fire damage. The whole upstairs is burnt down. It’s alright, though.”

The two-alarm fire at Hill’s Southwest Ranches, Fla., home last Wednesday reportedly caused $2.3 million in damages, according to TMZ . Everyone inside the home at the time of the fire was safe and local fire officials said there were no injuries as a result of the blaze.

Davie Fire Rescue Department officials told PEOPLE last week that the fire was caused by a child playing with a lighter.

Perry Knotts/Getty

Hill could be seen standing on the street outside the home alongside his wife Keeta Vaccaro as firefighters worked on containing the fire, which began in the upstairs portion of the property’s main house.

Local NBC 6 Miami cameras broadcast live footage of the scene, showing firefighters had cut a hole in the roof of the home. 

The 9,300-square-foot property includes two guest houses, seven total bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a home theater, a large basketball court and putting green, as well as a large indoor pool, according to the local station. 

“We’re very grateful to the firefighters that put the fire out,” Hill’s agent Drew Rosenhaus told reporters outside of the house after the fire was extinguished. “Thankfully, the fire was contained to a limited area in the home. Obviously, there’ll be some smoke and water damage. It’s very difficult for anybody obviously to have your home catch on fire, but Tyreek was handling it, he and his family, with as much poise as you could hope.”

Hill purchased the house soon after he was traded to the Dolphins by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022.

The wide receiver, who leads the league in receiving yards this season, received support from his Dolphins teammates throughout the incident. Their initial reactions to the fire were also caught on HBO cameras last week.

“I called him a couple of times but he wasn't he wasn't answering,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa told a coach during a team meeting. “I'm sure a lot of people have called him as well. So, I just sent him a text but he didn't text back.”

Never miss a story — sign up for  PEOPLE's free daily newsletter  to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. In a press conference after practice, Tagovailoa, 25, told reporters he was grateful to hear that Hill and his family were safe. “I think the main thing is his family is safe, his loved ones are good and he’s good as well,” Tagovailoa said. “I know it’s a little cliche to say, but those things like that, you know, part of the house, some of those things can be replaceable but I’m just glad a lot of his family members are safe.”

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Frozen Russian city is hit by massive floods after Soviet-era central heating pipe BURSTS leaving torrent of water pouring down streets amid mounting rage over crumbling infrastructure amid Putin's war in Ukraine

  • Russia is facing 'unprecedented' heating outages amid a bitterly cold winter 

By Elena Salvoni

Published: 06:37 EST, 11 January 2024 | Updated: 06:59 EST, 11 January 2024

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A Russian city has been hit by icy floods after a central heating pipe burst causing a torrent of water to pour out over roads and re-freeze as temperatures plummet to minus 15 degrees Celsius.

More than 100 houses and public buildings were left without heating in Novosibirsk, Siberia, with regional authorities rushing to mend the dated pipes and launching a criminal investigation to determine how it happened.

Dramatic videos on social media shows roads turning into rivers after the pipe ruptured, with one clip taken from a high rise block showing parked cars washed away by a rush of water.

In other videos, cars plough through steaming floodwater, with an eerie fog forming over the surface as the warmer water appears to hit the freezing air.

As President Vladimir Putin faces increasing domestic pressure over his prolonged war in Ukraine , Russians are becoming increasingly angry about 'unprecedented' winter heating outages and lack of investment in infrastructure.

Steam appears above a road completely submerged by floodwater in Novosibirsk

Steam appears above a road completely submerged by floodwater in Novosibirsk 

Dramatic videos on social media shows roads turning into rivers after the pipe ruptured

Dramatic videos on social media shows roads turning into rivers after the pipe ruptured

Cars were nearly submerged by floodwaters while snow and icy conditions also impacted commuters

Cars were nearly submerged by floodwaters while snow and icy conditions also impacted commuters

Residents are battling heating shortages as snow covers the ground and temperatures are sub-zero

Residents are battling heating shortages as snow covers the ground and temperatures are sub-zero

Utilities bosses have expressed concerns over the continued use of weak Soviet-era pipes, which cause problems for residents when the bitter winter cold hits every year.

Water pipes that are more than 90 years old in some cases were still in use until as recently as two years ago, according to Sergei Pakhomov, head of the State Duma's Construction, Housing and Utilities Committee. 

'There are 104 houses and 13 social institutions in the shutdown circuit,' heating firm the Siberian Generating Company reportedly said.

'During the period of localization of the defect, the heat supply to a number of houses in the Leninsky and Kirovsky districts is also limited.' 

The regional government has assured Novosibirsk locals that 'the situation is under the control' and that they are hoping to fix the pipe today. 

During the inspection, the prosecutor's office will assess the measures taken by the responsible persons to prepare for the heating season and to eliminate the utility accident. 

'If there are grounds, comprehensive response measures will be taken,' authorities reportedly said.

Homes elsewhere in Siberia have also been left without electricity due to apparent issues with infrastructure, the Moscow Times reports. 

It comes as Russians are headed to the polls across the country, with reports that flooding and heating outages in Novosibirsk have seen one polling station closed.

Cars were forced to drive through floodwaters, videos shared to social media have shown

Cars were forced to drive through floodwaters, videos shared to social media have shown

Residents watch as water streams down a road, covering it completely, with steam emanating in the background

Residents watch as water streams down a road, covering it completely, with steam emanating in the background

Putin, who is set to be re-elected for a fifth term after years of cracking down on dissent and jailing political opponents, has faced pleas from Russians who are 'freezing from the cold' to get the heating back on.

Residents  in the village of Novozavidovsky issued a video appeal to the President in which one woman says  'We're literally being killed by the cold.'

'This is some kind of torture and extermination of the population 100 kilometers from Moscow,' she added. 

Utilities issues are also hitting areas near the capital, with residents in the town of Elektrostal reportedly lighting a fire in the street to draw attention to their plight.

Cars driving through shallow water. The regional government has assured Novosibirsk locals that 'the situation is under the control'

Cars driving through shallow water. The regional government has assured Novosibirsk locals that 'the situation is under the control'

A criminal investigation has also been opened by authorities in the Tver region, where investigators have reportedly claimed that bosses at a water intake and boiler misappropriated customers' money for personal use.

Putin has responded by asking Emergency Situations Minister Alexander Kurenkov to provide heat and electricity to affected residents.

More than 70 per cent of communal infrastructure is said to have been affected by decay, pro-Kremlin paper Izvestia reported in 2022.

Share or comment on this article: Frozen Russian city is hit by massive floods after Soviet-era central heating pipe BURSTS leaving torrent of water pouring down streets amid mounting rage over crumbling infrastructure amid Putin's war in Ukraine

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Norilsk: The city built by gulag prisoners where Russia guards its Arctic secrets

Environmental activists are frustrated by how authorities handled a diesel spill which poured into two Arctic rivers in late May.

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Moscow correspondent @DiMagnaySky

Friday 3 July 2020 23:41, UK

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Arctic suffers worst ever industrial spill

The drive from Norilsk airport to the city takes you past mile after mile of crumbling, Soviet-era factories.

It looks like an endless, rusting scrapyard - a jumble of pipes, industrial junk and frost-bitten brickwork. If you were looking for an industrial apocalypse film setting, this would be your place - but you're unlikely to get the permissions.

Norilsk was built in Stalin's times by gulag prisoners. This gritty industrial city is a testament to their endurance both of the cruelty of Stalin's regime and of the harsh polar climate. There were no thoughts then on how to build to protect the environment, just to survive it.

Norilsk in Russia. Pic: Anastasya Leonova

Vasily Ryabinin doesn't think much has changed, at least in ecological terms. He used to work for the local branch of the federal environmental watchdog, Rosprirodnadzor, but quit in June after exposing what he says was a failure to investigate properly the environmental impact of the gigantic diesel spill which poured into two Arctic rivers in late May.

At 21,000 tonnes, it was the largest industrial spill in the polar Arctic .

Despite the Kremlin declaring a federal emergency and sending a host of different agencies to participate in the clean-up, just last week Mr Ryabinin and activists from Greenpeace Russia found another area where technical water used in industrial processes was being pumped directly into the tundra from a nearby tailing pond. Russia's investigative committee has promised to investigate.

"The ecological situation here is so bad," Mr Ryabinin says.

"The latest constructions such as the tailing pond at the Talnack ore-processing plant were built exclusively by Nornickel chief executive Vladimir Potanin's team and supposedly in accordance with ecological standards, but on satellite images you can see that all the lakes in the vicinity have unnatural colours and obviously something has got into them."

Nornickel Plant and container (on the left) which had the leak. Pic: Anastasya Leonova

Mining company Nornickel would disagree. It has admitted flagrant violations at the tailing pond and suspended staff it deems responsible at both the Talnack plant and at Norilsk Heat and Power plant no 3 where the diesel spill originated from.

On Thursday it appointed Andrey Bougrov, from its senior management board, to the newly-created role of senior vice president for environmental protection. It has a clear environmental strategy, provides regular updates on the status of the spill, and its Twitter feed is filled with climate-related alerts.

But what investors read is very different to the picture on the ground.

21,000 tonnes of diesel oil has spilled into two rivers in Norilsk

Norilsk used to be a closed city - one of dozens across the Soviet Union shut off to protect industrial secrets. Foreigners need special permissions approved by the Federal Security Service (FSB) to enter the region. It would take an invitation from Nornickel to make that happen and, for the past month since the spill, that has not been forthcoming.

Unlike in Soviet times, Russian citizens are now free to come and go. That's why our Sky News Moscow team were able to fly in and travel around the city, even if getting to the spill site was blocked. What they were able to film provides a snapshot of the immense challenge Russia faces in upgrading its Soviet-era industrial infrastructure, particularly at a time when climate change is melting the permafrost on which much of it was built.

The Russian city of Norilsk. Pic: Anastasya Leonova

Just downwind from one of the rusting factories on the city outskirts is a huge expanse of dead land. The skeletal remains of trees stand forlorn against the howling Arctic winds. Sulphur dioxide poisoning has snuffed the life out of all that lived here. Norilsk is the world's worst emitter of sulphur dioxide by a substantial margin.

"For 80km south of here everything is dead," Mr Ryabinin says, "and for at least 10km in that direction too. Everything here depends on the wind."

Sample took by Vasily Ryabinin near the Nornickel plant in Norilsk, Russia, on the day of an accident. Pic: Vasily Ryabinin

Immediately after the spill, Mr Ryabinin filmed and took samples from the Daldykan river just a few kilometres from the fuel tank which had leaked. By that point the river was a churning mix of diesel and red sludge dredged up from the riverbed by the force of the leak. Norilsk's rivers have turned red before and the chemical residues have sunk to the bottom, killing all life there. Nothing has lived in those rivers for decades.

In his capacity as deputy head of the local environmental watchdog, Mr Ryabinin says he insisted that he be allowed to fly further north to check the levels of contamination in Lake Pyasino and beyond.

Nornickel at the time claimed the lake was untouched by the spill. Mr Ryabinin says his boss encouraged him to let things be.

"I can't be sure I would have found anything, but this sort of confrontation - making sure I didn't go there with a camera, let alone with bottles for taking samples, it was all very clear to me. It was the final straw."

Rosprirodnadzor refused to comment to Sky News on Mr Ryabinin's allegations or suggestions that the agency was working hand in hand with Nornickel.

The Nornickel plant and the place where diesel meets red water (polluted by other chemicals). Pic: Vasily Ryabinin

Georgy Kavanosyan is an environmental blogger with a healthy 37,000 following on YouTube. Shortly after the spill, he set out for Lake Pyasino and to the Pyasina River beyond to see how far the diesel had spread.

"We set out at night so that the Norilsk Nickel security wouldn't detect us. I say at night, but they've got polar nights there now, north of the Arctic Circle. So it's still light but it's quieter and we managed to go past all the cordons."

He is one of the few to have provided evidence that the diesel has in fact travelled far beyond where the company admits. Not just the 1,200km (745m) length of Lake Pyasino but into the river beyond.

He says his measurements indicated a volume of hydrocarbons dissolved in the water of between two and three times normal levels. He thinks after he published his findings on YouTube, the authorities' vigilance increased.

Greenpeace Russia have spent the last two weeks trying to obtain samples from Lake Pyasino and the surrounding area. They have faced difficulties getting around and flying their samples out for independent analysis.

They are now waiting for results from a laboratory in St Petersburg but say the samples remain valid technically for just four days after collection and that they weren't able to make that deadline due to the authorities' actively obstructing their work.

Vasily Ryabinin and Elena Sakirko from Greenpeace. Pic: Anastasya Leonova

Elena Sakirko from Greenpeace Russia specialises in oil spills and says this has happened to her before. This time, a police helicopter flew to the hunter's hut where they were staying and confiscated the fuel for the boat they were using. Then a deputy for the Moscow city parliament tasked with bringing the samples back from Norilsk was forced to go back empty-handed.

"We were told at the airport we needed permission from the security department of Nornickel," Ms Sakirko says. "We asked them to show us some law or statement to prove that this was legal or what the basis for this was, but they haven't showed us anything and we still don't understand it."

Nornickel announced this week that the critical stage of the diesel spill is over. The company is now finalising dates for a press tour for foreign media and for other international environmentalists.

Mr Ryabinin thinks this should have happened weeks ago.

"If we don't let scientists come to the Arctic region to evaluate the impact of the accident, then in the future if anything similar happens, we won't know what to do."

A spokesperson for Nornickel said the company "is actively cooperating with the scientific community and will meticulously assess both the causes and effects of the accident."

The Russian city of Norilsk. Pic: Anastasya Leonova

Nornickel considers permafrost thawing to be the primary cause of the accident, but is waiting for the end of investigation before making a final statement, the spokesperson said.

They added that the company "accepts full responsibility for the incidents on its sites these past two months and holds itself accountable for any infrastructural deficits or poor decisions by personnel.

"The imperative is to do everything to clean up our sites, instil a stronger culture of transparency and safety in our workforce, and ensure that such situations do not occur in the future."

Tyreek Hill house fire caused by child playing with a lighter. Here's what we know

spook hill story

A fire broke out Wednesday at a house owned by Miami Dolphins star player Tyreek Hill .

The NFL's leading receiver left practice in Miami Gardens to check on his wife, Keeta Vaccaro , and family at their home in Southwest Ranches about a half-hour north in Broward County.

All people and pets escaped the blaze safely. On Thursday, the Davie Fire Department said the fire was caused by a child playing with a lighter in a bedroom.

Footage from local news media showed black smoke billowing out of the house as crews from Davie Fire Rescue and the Broward County Sheriff's Office battled the blaze. The home was heavily damaged, Davie Fire Marshal Robert Taylor said.

Here's what we know about Hill, his house and the fire.

Who is Tyreek Hill?

One of the integral pieces of the Miami Dolphins' explosive offense, Tyreek Hill is the NFL's leading receiver in the 2023-24 season. He has a league-best 1,717 yards with 112 catches (tied for second) and 12 touchdowns (second) through Week 17.

Known as one of the fastest players in the league, Hill burst onto the scene with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs from 2016 to 2021, making back-to-back Super Bowls and winning it all in the 2020 game played at the Dolphins' Hard Rock Stadium.

He was traded to Miami before the 2022 season, combining with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and fellow receiver Jaylen Waddle to form one of the fastest offenses in the league. He has made the Pro Bowl in all eight seasons and became the fastest player to reach 10,000 receiving yards in league history.

Hill is also known for several off-field incidents, including allegations of child and domestic abuse and hitting an employee at a North Miami marina . He was arrested in 2014 on assault and battery charges against a woman who was pregnant with his child.

What happened to Tyreek Hill's house?

Shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, January 3, a fire broke out at Tyreek Hill's mansion in Southwest Ranches. Davie Fire Rescue officials arrived at the scene with Broward County Sheriff's officials arriving later. The blaze was at one point upgraded to a two-alarm fire.

Hill left Dolphins practice in Miami Gardens to check on his family. Video shot from a helicopter by WSVN-Channel 7 , the Miami Fox affiliate, showed Hill comforting family members outside the home as firefighters fought to contain the blaze.

Davie Fire Marshal Robert Taylor said everyone inside had evacuated by the time firefighters arrived. No injuries were reported.

WSVN reported fire crews knocked down a portion of the roof to battle the blaze. Taylor said the damage was extensive enough that “it probably is going to need some work” before it’s safe to inhabit, but the fire department released the house back to Hill on Wednesday afternoon.

“He and his family are handling it with as much poise as you could hope,” said Hill's agent, Drew Rosenhaus. “He was very grateful to the firefighters and everyone that did indeed save his home.”

Hill was seen Wednesday driving out of the complex in a truck. Spotting a reporter, he lowered his window, smiled and said: “Go home, man. Everybody’s good, dawg.”

What caused the fire at Tyreek Hill's house?

Davie Fire Marshal Robert Taylor said Thursday that the fire started from children playing with a lighter in a bedroom.

“There was significant damage to the roof in the area where the fire originated,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the damage was limited to the attic and roof, but there was smoke damage throughout the house .

Is Tyreek Hill injured from the fire?

Tyreek Hill was at Dolphins practice in Miami Gardens when the fire broke out Wednesday afternoon at his home in Southern Ranches, about a half-hour's drive northwest.

Hill was seen arriving to the house in a walking boot on his left foot. He is nursing an ankle injury he has been dealing with since a game December 11 vs. the Tennessee Titans . The injury kept him out of the Dolphins' next game against the New York Jets , but he has played in every game since .

How much is Tyreek Hill's house worth?

Tyreek Hill bought his mansion in Southwest Ranches in 2022 for a reported $6.9 million.

NBC 6 South Florida said "the 9,300-square-foot home features seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a home theater, a full-size basketball court, a massive pool and two guest houses."

Hill showed it off on his YouTube channel after buying it in June 2022, shortly after signing a four-year, $120 million contract with the Dolphins.

Where is Tyreek Hill's house located?

Tyreek Hill's home is in the 16000 block of Berkshire Court in a gated community in Southwest Ranches. The Broward County community is about 23 miles west of Fort Lauderdale and a half-hour's drive from Hard Rock Stadium.

Did Tyreek Hill buy a house in Miami?

It's not quite Miami, but Hill did buy a mansion worth about $7 million in Southwest Ranches in Broward County. The home is roughly 16 miles northwest of the Miami Dolphins' facilities in Miami Gardens and about 30 miles north up I-75 from Miami proper.

Does Tyreek Hill have a wife?

Tyreek Hill married Keeta Vaccaro , on November 8, 2023, during the Dolphins' off week. The two had been engaged since 2021.

Vaccaro  is an influencer who was born in Brownwood, Texas. Her health and beauty app,  OWN Flow , provides personalized exercise plans, nutrition plans and routines. Vaccaro also founded the accessory and clothing line 1996: The Label.

She is the sister of Kenny Vaccaro, who played eight seasons in the NFL from 2013-2020, most notably with the New Orleans Saints.

Your guide to Milwaukee's Story Hill neighborhood

The picturesque Story Hill neighborhood is known for its historic homes, many built around World War I. The homes embody several architectural styles, including Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Mediterranean Revival, and feature a few Sears Roebuck mail-order "kit homes ." 

But before Story Hill became one of Milwaukee’s 75-plus neighborhoods, it owes its start to the western suburb of Wauwatosa . 

Here’s what to know about the Story Hill neighborhood 

In 1843, Hiram Story left Vermont with his family to put down roots in Milwaukee. By 1846, the year Milwaukee was incorporated, Story had built a 160-acre farm just west of the city, in Wauwatosa .  

But a storm blew him on a different path. High winds toppled a tree on his farm, revealing a rich deposit of limestone. 

Story went from farmer to quarryman, furnishing limestone to builders throughout the area. With business plentiful, Hiram brought his brother, Horace, into the fold.  

When the brothers built their homes on a high bluff of the quarry, it became known as Story Hill. Milwaukee annexed the neighborhood in 1925 as the area and industry grew.  

The brothers operated the quarry until 1938. The land was acquired by the city of Milwaukee for back taxes and converted into a garbage dump. Eventually filled in, the area became home to Milwaukee County Stadium, built in 1953. The quarry’s old footprint is now American Family Field’s north parking lot and adjacent land underneath what's now State 175. 

Where’s Story Hill located? 

The neighborhood’s boundaries zigzag from the Menomonee River to the north, Frederick Miller Way to the south, Hawley Road and 60th Street along Blue Mound Road to the west, and Brewers Blvd. and 44th Street to the east.  

A cemetery and a soldiers home 

The main thoroughfare traversing Story Hill brought the neighborhood a new kind of industry. On Blue Mound Road just east of Hawley Road, Milwaukee’s Catholic Church opened Calvary Cemetery in 1857.

It’s the final resting place of some of the city’s most notable inhabitants, including meatpacker Patrick Cudahy, beer baron Frederick Miller and Solomon Juneau, a founding father of Milwaukee.  

The cemetery’s ornate Victorian Gothic-style gatehouse came later. Constructed in 1897, the architecturally significant gatehouse has fallen into disrepair. The two-story building served as the cemetery office and residence for its caretakers and their families.  

Another architectural gem is the National Soldiers Home . Built in the late 1860s, it served as a convalescent home for disabled Union soldiers from the Civil War. The cluster of Victorian buildings and picturesque landscape were designed to be a recuperative place for soldiers. The 90-plus acre campus still serves that purpose as supportive housing for military vets today. 

The site is one of 43 National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin . The Soldiers Home contains some of the oldest and most historic buildings in the Veterans Affairs system. 

Notable residents and political movers and shakers

Besides its notable architecture, prominent residents such as actor Spencer Tracy and radio personality O. C. White, a soul legend on WAWA, have called Story Hill home. But the area could also be considered a political powerhouse. 

Several of the city’s political movers and shakers have roots in Story Hill. Ray Cannon served as a congressman in the 1930s. John and Ray Fleming served as city attorney and clerk of the court, respectively. Doyne Park is named after John Doyne, Milwaukee County executive from 1960 to 1976, who fought to keep the then-Milwaukee Braves in the city. Then-city district attorney E. Michael McCann served from 1968 to 2006. The area’s current alderperson, Michael Murphy, who says the best fishing for steelhead trout is the Menomonee River, has been on the Common Council since 1989. 

Places to eat, drink and be merry 

If you're not tailgating, the best places to grab a bite to eat before or after a Brewers game are along Blue Mound Road. 

  • Story Hill BKC, 5100 W. Blue Mound Rd. 
  • Kelly's Bleachers , 5218 W. Blue Mound Rd. 
  • Tavo's Signature Cuisine , 5814 W. Blue Mound Rd. 
  • Dugout 54 , 5328 W. Blue Mound Rd.

More: How many neighborhoods are there in Milwaukee? Here's why there's no 'right' answer.

New to the neighborhood? Here’s how to access Milwaukee services

  • Story Hill is in the 10th Aldermanic District. Contact your alderperson and find news about the district at  city.milwaukee.gov/CommonCouncil/CouncilMembers/District10.
  • The Story Hill is within Police District 3. Visit city.milwaukee.gov/police/districts/District-3 for more information.
  • Find your garbage and recycling schedule at  city.milwaukee.gov/sanitation/GarbageRecyclingSchedules .
  • Learn how to register to vote and find your polling place at  city.milwaukee.gov/election/Voter-Info .
  • Need to borrow tools for a home improvement project? Check out the city’s Tool Loan Center, 2500 W. Capitol Drive. More details at  bit.ly/MKE_ToolLoan .
  • Want to get emailed updates about police activity, new development and more in your neighborhood? Sign up for the city’s e-notify system at  city.milwaukee.gov/News-Events/enotify . 

Tell us about your Milwaukee neighborhood. We want to hear from you!

What makes your Milwaukee neighborhood special to you? Do you have any photos in the neighborhood you'd like to share? Share more at  bit.ly/MKE_Neighborhoods .

IMAGES

  1. The Mystery Behind Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida (with Photos

    spook hill story

  2. The Legend of Spook Hill in Lake Wales, FL

    spook hill story

  3. The Legend of SPOOK HILL

    spook hill story

  4. Legendary 'Spook Hill' in Lake Wales added to National Register of

    spook hill story

  5. The Gravity-Defying Story of Spook Hill, Florida

    spook hill story

  6. The Legend of Spook Hill

    spook hill story

VIDEO

  1. spook hill

COMMENTS

  1. The Legend of Spook Hill

    The Legend Legend has it that a Native American tribe in the area was being harassed by a giant alligator. They sent their warrior chief to fend off the beast. Following his brave battle to the death, the chief was buried on the north side of the hill.

  2. Florida's Spook Hill defies gravity. What's the secret of the thrill?

    After a 90-minute drive to the Polk County town Lake Wales, I wound through a housing development, over a set of railroad tracks and around a school named for a legend: Spook Hill Elementary,...

  3. What's the history behind the Legend of Spook Hill?

    Spook Hill is located on 5th Street in Lake Wales, a city in Polk County. For years, signs have invited motorists to stop their car at a white line on what appears to be the bottom of a hill,...

  4. Why do cars roll uphill at Spook Hill? Legends & science explain the

    article An archway over Fifth Street in Lake Wales depicts Spook Hill where cars appear to roll backward uphill. LAKE WALES, Fla. - A concoction of legends, science, and a dash of Florida weirdness all offer explanations for why tourists and residents continue to be thrilled by a hill in Lake Wales.

  5. Spook Hill

    Coordinates: 27.912°N 81.582°W Spook Hill is a gravity hill, an optical illusion in Lake Wales, Florida, where cars appear to roll up the spooky hill.

  6. The Legend of Spook Hill in Lake Wales, FL

    The Legend of Spook Hill in Lake Wales, FL An old black and white image, complete with a mischievously smiling ghost, announces Spook Hill to drivers with the following improbable legend. Courtesy Florida Memory Many years ago an Indian village on Lake Wales was plagued by raids of a huge gator.

  7. Legend of Lake Wales' Spook Hill is rooted in Seminole Indian folklore

    A giant bull alligator took up residence in an adjacent lake, then began raiding the village. Seeing his people terrified, the powerful and courageous chief, placed under the protection of the...

  8. Spook Hill

    One legend explains that a Florida pirate (Captain Sasparilla) is buried at the hill and pushes cars away. Another legend claims that the spirit of a giant alligator inhabits the area. The veracity of these claims have yet to be verified.

  9. Spook Hill, Lake Wales, Florida

    Spook Hill. Lake Wales, Florida. Gravity Hills -- where cars inexplicably defy the laws of science -- lurk in every region across the America. Their locations are passed on by word-of-mouth, and they're frequented by cruising teenagers or families out for a thrill after church. Spook Hill is somewhat unique in that it's officially recognized by ...

  10. Spook Hill

    Legends say that an Indian chief battled an alligator that had been terrorizing the local village. The fight was apparently so intense that both combatants died, on top of the hill. The legends...

  11. Random Florida Fact: Spook Hill defies gravity

    This hill can be found along 5th Street in Lake Wales, not far from an elementary school by the same name. According to city officials, Spook Hill is a type of "gravity hill," which is a place ...

  12. The Gravity-Defying Story of Spook Hill, Florida

    The Gravity-Defying Story of Spook Hill, Florida Joseph Sherwood According to legend, this strange phenomenon is caused by the spirit of either a great Native American warrior chief or a massive alligator. However, scientists believe that this is actually an optical illusion.

  13. Spook Hill: Is it true that cars on this Florida street roll uphill?

    These days, a legend about Spook Hill is written on a sign nearby, telling the story of how a large alligator once attacked a Native American tribe near Lake Wales, many years ago. The sign says, "The huge swampy depression nearby was created in a final battle that claimed the lives of the gator and the town's great warrior chief."

  14. Spook Hill

    Learn about the Legend Want to learn more about the spookiness behind Spook Hill? Read all about the legend of this must-see Lake Wales historic stop that has fascinated many for generations. Visiting Lake Wales This unique, fun and free activity is a perfect addition to your next visit to Bok Tower Gardens and the Lake Wales History Museum.

  15. Spook Hill

    Central Florida Lake Wales Things to Do in Lake Wales Spook Hill Spook Hill 444 reviews #9 of 21 things to do in Lake Wales Mysterious Sites Write a review About Cars will coast uphill at this mysterious site. Suggest edits to improve what we show. Improve this listing All photos (72) Top ways to experience nearby attractions

  16. The Blair Witch Project True Story: The Real Haunting of Burkittsville

    The only remotely "creepy" aspects of Burkittsville were "Spook Hill," an incline just outside of town where Civil War soldier ghosts supposedly pushed idling cars uphill late at night, and...

  17. Spook Hill: A Local Gravity-Defying Legend

    Spook Hill: A Local Gravity-Defying Legend. It has become almost folklore, the story of this hill on which the law of gravity seems to be reversed. The wooded, country road in Yates County, New York, runs not far from Canandaigua Lake, and yet it feels almost remote, unassuming and even a bit ordinary. Then, heading South on Newell Road at what ...

  18. Spook Hill: Where History and Mystery Collide

    Known for its eerie phenomenon where cars and balls appear to roll uphill, this road has become a local legend, intertwined with the area's Civil War history and the broader folklore of haunted America. The Ghostly Backstory Spook Hill gained its reputation through stories suggesting that the spirits of Civil War soldiers haunt this area.

  19. SPOOK HILL

    WILLIAM G. POMEROY FOUNDATION 2023. Spook Hill Road is a legendary place in the town of Wappinger. It is home to some of the town's oldest buildings, including the venerable Obadiah Cooper house dating back to 1730. The origins of its haunting name trace back to a time when the road was but a dirt path, skirting a small hill and rock outcropping.

  20. PDF On the Soviet Nuclear Scent

    2 G-2, OSS, and their British counterparts, under the direction of the two nations' atomic authorities, 3 began with a vigorous campaign to discover which Germans had been recruited for this effort and which

  21. Putin taunts the West with 'first ever' visit to remote ice-covered

    President Vladimir Putin has arrived for his first-ever presidential visit to Chukotka in Russia's Far East - just 55 miles from the US state of Alaska.. Putin arrived in Anadyr, the local capital ...

  22. Tyreek Hill Says $6.9 Million Mansion Is 'Done' After Fire

    Photo: Tyreek Hill's $6.9 million mansion is "done" after a massive fire at his home last week, the NFL wide receiver said. Hill, 29, was at Miami Dolphins practice when the fire began. His ...

  23. Frozen Russian city is hit by massive floods after Soviet-era central

    A Russian city has been hit by icy floods after a central heating pipe burst causing a torrent of water to pour out over roads and re-freeze as temperatures plummet to minus 15 degrees Celsius.

  24. Norilsk: The city built by gulag prisoners where Russia guards its

    Norilsk was built in Stalin's times by gulag prisoners. This gritty industrial city is a testament to their endurance both of the cruelty of Stalin's regime and of the harsh polar climate.

  25. Tyreek Hill Southwest Ranches house fire: What we know

    Shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday, January 3, a fire broke out at Tyreek Hill's mansion in Southwest Ranches. Davie Fire Rescue officials arrived at the scene with Broward County Sheriff's officials ...

  26. Milwaukee's Story Hill neighborhood guide

    Here's what to know about the Story Hill neighborhood. In 1843, Hiram Story left Vermont with his family to put down roots in Milwaukee. By 1846, the year Milwaukee was incorporated, Story had ...