Recently, Amy and I had a lovely vacation in northern California, spending the latter portion of it in the charming and constantly hilarious company of the Garing/Combs family – Amy’s aunt/uncle/cousins on her mother’s side (in case you care for that level of detail). On our penultimate day with them, we visited the “world-famous” Mystery Spot, just outside Capitola, CA., which the Garing kids had fond memories of from a tender age.
Initially, I was skeptical that it was worth wasting a perfectly beautiful sunny day at some ridiculous-sounding shack in the woods trying to relive someone else’s childhood, but I couldn’t have been more mistaken. I’m here to tell you that the Mystery Spot is a must-see and it would be nothing less than a travesty if it were left out of any travel itinerary to the region.
The story goes that in the early part of the twentieth century (no exact date was given) someone was interested in purchasing the sloping area (now known as the Mystery Spot) from its owner to build a summer house. The owner refused to sell the slope without the adjacent level ground – now the parking lot. Eventually, the newcomers bought the entire property and built a small wood shed on the steeply sloping part (in itself a poor decision from an engineering perspective) and immediately began noticing certain “bizarre phenomena” which science, despite repeated attempts, has never satisfactorily explained. (see campy 1960s advertising paraphernalia showing this phenomena here.)
Our guide around the Mystery Spot was the well-informed and sparky young buck, Carl, who, if I’m honest, was the most unintentionally hilarious person I’ve ever had the good fortune to encounter. From his skinny, disheveled appearence to the way he accidentally dead-panned his delivery of the ironic sections of his schpiel – “this is no ordinary plank, it is the plank of mystery!” – he was absolutely first-class and had me in virtual paralysis of laughter for the duration of the tour.
Strangely though, no-one else on the tour found him to be so funny. Even after we had left the Mystery Spot I was sitting in the back of the car giggling to myself. What could have caused this outbreak of the mirth, you ask? Well, the Mystery Spot, of course.
Carl had warned us at the beginning of the tour that not only were peculiarly inexplicable reversions of the laws of physics known to occur within the confines of the “spot”, but weird physical symptoms were also commonly experienced by tour-takers, including changes in height, loss of balance and confusion. Clearly, my inner-ear was playing up because I very nearly experienced incontinence on more than one occasion and even Amy reported dizziness and light-headedness. And, as, I think, this (below) photograph demonstrates perfectly, the Mystery Spot can do some terrible and awesome things to one’s coiffure.
Later that day – when I had recovered much of my former composure – I noticed that the madness brought on by the Mystery Spot was spreading throughout our group. I watched transfixed in horror as Amy’s mother and aunt, sporting the hideous grins of the criminally insane, began laying out what they described as “dinner”. Before us lay a motley selection of three-day-old and poorly-kept Chinese food, a few scraps of the previous nights’ pasta that appeared to have been scraped off people’s plates, a greying mess of geriatric cold-cuts, some random bocconcini mozzarella sprawled in an ugly dish, a paper plate of wilting Sun-Chips, and a hollowed-out watermelon.
I have rarely seen a less appetizing spread of food in my life and, at the sight of it, I immediately began to experience those same feelings of light-headedness and vertigo of earlier in the day. I fear what might have become of me had I been forced to eat any of this, for in those who, amazingly began attacking this dreadful buffet with gusto, there developed an almost instantaneous malaise of disappointment and depression that lasted the remainder of the evening and into the following morning, until only stout breakfast of eggs and bacon managed to restore their spirits.
Interestingly, and this phenomenon I must report to the owners of the Mystery Spot one day because I suspect they are blissfully unaware of this perilous and hitherto undocumented reaction, neither my mother-in-law nor Amy’s aunt were with us on the tour that day. In fact, the former had never once even visited the “spot”, so just how they managed to contract this mania may become yet another of the secrets of the Mystery Spot that remain unsolved by science.