When I was a child, I remember my father telling me a story about a “crooked old man that lived in a crooked old house”. I also remember that one day he actually showed me that crooked house and I never forgot it. Thirty-some-odd years later, I decided to find that place of mystery once again so I could share it with my own child. I was happy to find out that Mystery Hill, located halfway between Blowing Rock and Boone, NC on Rt. 321, was still around to entertain and baffle visitors of all ages.
I was a little apprehensive at first as I wasn’t sure how my 15 year-old would react. To him, it wasn’t fun unless it was on a computer screen and you could shoot it, chase it or drive it. This was a self-guided tour with no digital intervention whatsoever – just honest to goodness optical illusions. However, he quickly found himself entertained. This was in no small part due to me, or rather to my reaction to the disorienting house. Apparently, some people react adversely to the house and I just happened to be one of those people. (Funny, I don’t remember it bothering me as a child.)
It only took seconds after I stepped inside the door. From the outside peaking in, it was readily apparent that “something ain’t right” but it wasn’t until I was fully inside that the full effect of the house took hold and would not let go. It was a sensation similar to that of extreme motion sickness. My mind would not allow me to accept the reality that was right before my eyes. Balance was not possible for me. I did happen to notice that there were warnings posted in several locations indicating that you should hold the rail when you enter until you get oriented. Get oriented heck, I was just trying to figure out how not to fall on my face. Letting go of the rail was the farthest thing from my mind. I wasn’t ever going to let go. Well, I take that back. I actually did let go so that I could drop to my knees and crawl out on all fours to the nearest exit.
Once I was safely outside, my son began explaining the rationale for the Mystery House. At that point, I wasn’t interested in learning about magnetic pull or angles. I was just happy to be back where “up” was “up” and “down” was “down”. Although I did feel a bit left out as I wasn’t able to enjoy the experience of standing at a 45 degree angle and watching water flow uphill or perform any of the experiments in the house that seemed to totally defy the laws of gravity. However, I have to admit that I was entertained by hearing the adults scream when another family entered the house. It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one.
In addition to the mystery house there is the famous Mystery Platform where the person on the north end is always larger than the person on the south end. Somehow it was so cool to be larger than my brother years ago but now, I don’t have the desire to be “larger” than anyone so keep my feet firmly on the south end.
If you mind hasn’t been boggled enough, then continue your tour through the world of optical illusions in the Hall of Mysteries. Here you will find a magic mirrors, magic light bulbs, magic faucets, all the stuff I could never figure out and was content just to stare in awe and accept as fact. My son, however, loved to stay and dwell on each exhibit until he could solve it. To me that takes some of the magic out but to each his own.
Also included in the admission price is a self-guided tour of the Heritage Museum filled with Native American artifacts and a re-creation of an early 19th century middle class American Appalachian home complete with pictures, toys and furnishings of the era.
When you are ready for lunch, picnic tables are available onsite. If dining out is more to your satisfaction, VirginiaWind highly recommends the Speckled Trout Café and Oyster Bar in Blowing Rock. The restaurant is famous for its mountain trout. The atmosphere is casual and the food is fabulous. You definitely won’t be disappointed.
As much as technology thrills me, there is nothing better than good old fashioned entertainment. Mystery Hill is truly an original fun house. So whether you love a good mystery or just want to have some family oriented fun, you will definitely have a good time. And that’s no illusion.
Hours of Operation:
Open 7 days a week
June – Aug: 8:00am-8:00pm
Sept – May: 9:00am – 5:00pm
From Blowing Rock, NC: Take US Hwy 321 North approximately four miles.
From Boone, NC: Take US Hwy 321 South approximately four miles
From Blue Ridge Parkway: Exit at mile marker 291 onto 321 N approximately 1.5 miles.