Gravity hills can be explained by spirit levels, not spiritual forces


Tim the Yowie Man


Tim the Yowie Man

Naturalist, author, broadcaster and tour guide Tim the Yowie Man has dedicated the past 25 years to documenting Australia’s unusual natural phenomena. He’s the author of several books, including Haunted and Mysterious Australia (New Holland, 2018). Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @TimYowie
By Tim the Yowie Man 20 September 2023
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Gravity hills, spook hills, magnetic hills, mystery hills, or anti-gravity hills… whatever you choose to call them, there’s a simple explanation behind these national and global phenomena.

On a recent family trip to the fabled Hanging Rock in Newham, Victoria, the Yowie clan took an unplanned detour to Woodend.

Emily, my 11-year-old daughter, found “something on the internet” about a nearby “gravity-defying” section of road “where things roll uphill”.

Yes, you read correctly: roll uphill.

“If you put the car in neutral and take the handbrake off, the car rolls uphill,” she exclaimed, reading from the website.

And so began an hour-long search for the offending (and not signposted) stretch of road along Straws Lane. We only realised we were at the right spot when we noticed a car stopped on the opposite side of the road, hazard lights flashing. A young boy and his dad were standing over a soccer ball they’d placed on the bitumen and willing it to roll uphill.

Eventually, the boy’s ball slowly rolled uphill – the same direction the liquid from Emily’s water bottle flowed when she promptly poured it onto the road to see what would happen.

Of course, science tells us balls can’t roll uphill, and nor can water defy gravity. But that doesn’t stop dozens of eager tourists who flock to Straws Lane to capture these seemingly extraordinary moments on their smartphones.

The phenomenon is merely an optical illusion, with the surrounding landscape making it look as though the road is gently sloping upwards, instead of down. 

What’s more, these so‑called gravity hills (aka anti-gravity hills) are both a national and global phenomenon. In the USA, some over-imaginative tourism operators point to other unexplained happenings, such as UFO sightings, as a possible cause of the phenomenon. 

I hate to be a party pooper, but every gravity hill I’ve investigated is simply a case of optical illusion. Some are more convincing than others. 

So, sorry – there’s no Merlin under the road in the Brecon Beacon in Wales, no ghost pulling cars up the hill at Brisbane’s Toowong Cemetery, and no bamboozling scientific anomaly at Straws Lane in Woodend, Victoria. 

Just don’t tell my daughter, who is still convinced that “it’s the work of aliens”. 

Oh, and we now travel with a spirit level in the glove box.