On the morning of my actual birthday, Pete and Derek bought me admission to the granddaddy of all mystery spots, the Oregon Vortex. First discovered by the white man in 1864, the “natural, historical, educational, scientific, authentic” Oregon Vortex is, we were told, the oldest and “most respected” gravitational vortex in America. The science behind this authentic natural wonder is a little too educational and historical to get into here, but suffice to say the vortex is a “famous” circular area with “unique” phenomena: balls roll up hill, squirrels fear to tread, and the harsh mistress of gravity takes a nap on the job.
We were greeted upon entering by a framed quotation from the Vortex’s discoverer: “We know practically nothing about anything,” a motto that would be appropriate in any number of establishments. After that, a pair of enthusiastic Vortex Girls took us on a tour of antigravitational thrills and chills: We used coathangers to douse for magnetic oddities. Our tour group watched as the birthday boy shrank and grew, Alice-like, under the influence of gravitational sinkholes. We saw a golf ball roll uphill and a broom stand on its bristles in the House of Mystery, a structure mysteriously similar to the Confusion Hill Mystery, two hundred miles down the road. We took pictures which the Vortex literature promised us would “amuse and baffle for years to come.”
The Vortex Girls were friendly and kind of cute and even when we got them away from their bosses they still insisted they believed in the Vortex and its powers. Derek remained staunchly Scully-esque in his disbelief, while Pete and I, initially skeptical, gradually succumbed to Mulder-ian enthusiasm. All of us agreed we’d gotten top Vortex value for our Vortex dollar.
John Litster, the Scottish physicist who studied the area in 1914 (and whose findings showed up in my pseudoscience research last year at the Archives of Useless Research) believed the Vortex to be “an aberration in the Light Field and other Fields.” (I like how he covers his bases there with those “other Fields.”) Ernie and Irene Cooper, who took over the Vortex in the 1960s and still run it today, pose a sexier possibility. Could the “famous” circular area be a navigational bearing point, a kind of cosmic Six Flags over Oregon, for alien roadtrippers from millennia ago? The answer to this question lies in the stars, where, perhaps, a family of aliens with glittery Vortex bumper stickers on their flying saucer are flipping through a photo album of Sardine Creek, Oregon, still “amused and baffled” after all these years.