Mystery Hole – Ansted, West Virginia - Atlas Obscura

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Mystery Hole

Ansted, West Virginia

The "mysteries" of this quintessential roadside oddity were almost destroyed by neglect but were saved by fans of kitschy wonder. 


While the heyday of zany roadside wonders designed to lure in smiling families on their yearly road trip is long since passed, West Virginia’s delightfully named Mystery Hole continues to endure thanks to the efforts of its wonder-minded owners.

The Mystery Hole attraction was opened in 1973 when original owner Donald Wilson discovered what he claimed was an underground area where the laws of gravity acted more like suggestions. Like many mystery houses of the time that once dotted the American roadways, this odd gravimetric behavior manifested in rooms where people seemed to stand at a distinct slant, balls and even water that seemed to roll uphill, and furniture balanced on impossibly precarious points. While these illusions were located in a basement area (where he could level the land in the strange ways that created his illusions), above ground he built a zany-looking gift shop that was painted in eye-catching carnival colors and which was decorated by kitschy wonders like a sawed-off Volkswagen Beetle that seemed to be crashing into the structure and a big gorilla statue looming over the front door.

Wilson’s attraction did fine business during its first decade or so until the road trip culture began to decline, eventually leading to the closure of the Mystery Hole in 1996. Wilson passed not long after, and it seemed that the Mystery Hole would simply be left to vandals and the ravages of time. However, the attraction was eventually taken over by Will and Sandra Morrison who took to sprucing the place up.

Today the Morrisons still operate the Mystery Hole just as it was in the 1970s with the gravity illusions and carnival atmosphere intact. While the simple tricks and goofy scares of the Mystery Hole might seem hackneyed among today’s sophisticated technological wonders, the site is a monument to the simple entertainments of a bygone America that have never really lost their charm.

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