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America's Most Mysterious Places

Mount Shasta, Redding, CA

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Mount Shasta, Redding, CA

The Mystery: This stunning snow-capped peak in the Cascade Mountain range, 60 miles south of the Oregon border, has long been considered one of the planet’s great “cosmic power spots,” luring everyone from Native Americans to Buddhist monks and hippies. Its sacred slopes are home to a potpourri of mysteries: spontaneous altered states; UFO sightings; crystal caves; encounters with Ascended Masters; underground military bases; even the rumored home to Lemurians, surviving members of a sensitive super-race some believe existed 12,000 years ago during the time of Atlantis.

Fact: A chance encounter with a strange group of warm, seemingly enlightened people in Shasta Valley inspired James Hilton to author the classic 1933 novel Lost Horizon, a tale about the idyllic community of Shangri-La. Others claim similar real-life experiences, but the mountain’s sheer natural beauty is inspiration enough for most.

America’s Most Mysterious Places

Skinwalker Ranch, Uintah Basin, UT

The Mystery: Its name may be a tongue-in-cheek twist on filmmaker George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch, but this 480-acre compound in northeastern Utah is the site of many unexplained—and harrowing—incidents: roaring underground noises, the appearance of menacing blue orbs, attacks by shape-shifting beasts, and evidence of animal mutilations.

Fact: Purchased in 1994 by a couple looking to raise cattle and quickly put on the market two years later, the area—according to local Native American folklore—is legendary for its dark energies. The ranch is now managed by the National Institute for Discovery Sciences, a paranormal research organization.

America’s Most Mysterious Places

Oregon Vortex, Gold Hill, OR

Becca Owen

Oregon Vortex, Gold Hill, OR

The Mystery: Measuring 165 feet in diameter and known for producing intense feelings of vertigo, this curious site in southern Oregon has attracted visitors since the 1930s. Here, balls roll uphill, brooms stand on end, and people appear to grow and shrink inside its centerpiece, a former gold mining outpost called the House of Mystery.

Fact: Whether caused by gravity anomalies, a concentration in the Earth’s magnetic fields, or paranormal presence, the Vortex’s strange phenomena is well documented, and animals still refuse to enter its sphere. Native Americans referred to it as Forbidden Ground.

America’s Most Mysterious Places

Paulding, MI, Home to the Paulding Light

The Mystery: For more than a century, on clear nights, unidentified spheres of light appear like clockwork on the horizon of this four corners town. To date, there’s no logical explanation for the luminescent red, white, and green balls that dance on the edge of the forest, but they are rumored to be the ghost of a railroad brakeman who met his fate on the tracks.

Fact: Locals and the curious regularly line up by the dozens for the bizarre light show; the Michigan Forest service has even posted signs guiding sky-gazers to the best viewing spots.

America’s Most Mysterious Places

Coral Castle, Homestead, FL

DK / Alamy

Coral Castle, Homestead, FL

The Mystery: Made from 1,100 tons of megalithic-style limestone boulders—some heavier than the Pyramids’ and bigger than those at Stonehenge—this unusual structure, located 25 miles south of Miami, was built from 1923 to 1951 by a single man, a diminutive Latvian immigrant named Edward Leedskalnin, as an homage to the love of his life who left him on the eve of their wedding. But how did he do it?

Fact: Leedskalnin claimed he knew the secret to the Great Pyramids’ construction, and was once witnessed levitating stones. Other construction details—no mortar, precision seams, impossible balancing acts—have also stumped scientists for decades.

America’s Most Mysterious Places

Sattva Sanctuary, Trout Lake, WA

The Mystery: At the base of Mount Adams lies an incredible hotbed of UFO activity: a wooded ranch-cum-spiritual retreat owned by James Gilliland. The founder of Enlightened Contact with ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence and the Self-Mastery Earth Institute has been hosting seekers at “the ranch” since 1986. Thanks to so many unexplained light shows, almost no one leaves disappointed.

Fact: Countless visitors to the consciousness-raising compound, including many prominent scientists, report staggering UFO eyewitness accounts: documented sightings, sounds, even alleged contact of the third kind. One wave included as many as 50 unidentified craft. The curious public is welcome Monday through Thursday to conduct its own sky-watches. (Reservations: 509-395-2092.) Coincidentally, it was after seeing a UFO near Mount Adams in 1947 that pilot Kenneth Arnold first coined the term “flying saucer.”

America’s Most Mysterious Places

Ringing Rocks Park, Bucks County, PA

The Mystery: Deep in the woods in this 128-acre park is a large field of mysterious boulders that, when struck, sound like bells, as if they are hollow and made of metal. Each summer, hundreds of visitors flock here, hammers in hand, to perform their own “rock concerts.”

Fact: While scientists have determined the stones are made from a volcanic substance called diabase, there’s no explanation for their unusual ringing properties, nor for the eight-acre field itself, which is situated high on a hillside, not at the bottom, ruling out that it may have been formed by a glacier or avalanche.

America’s Most Mysterious Places

Mel’s Hole, Manastash Ridge, WA

The Mystery: The nine-foot-wide bottomless hole and former dump site on Mel Waters’s former property near Ellensburg, Washington, is awash in mystery, which includes its professed ability to “reanimate” dead animals. Some speculate the opening is actually a tunnel, giving rise to the “Hollow Earth” theory first proposed by astronomer Edmond Halley (of comet fame) in the 17th century. The most pressing secret: where does the hole lead?

Fact: Waters—who has since moved—reported sinking a fishing line some 15 miles into the pit in an attempt to find the bottom. He never found it. He also claimed the abyss would shoot black rays and could bring animals back to life; a neighbor tossed a dead dog into the hole only to have it return, alive, from out of the woods. Some believe the discovery is a blow hole for Mount Rainier, but no one knows how to account for the high strangeness.

America’s Most Mysterious Places
Lake Michigan, Home to the Lake Michigan Monster

Walter Bibikow/Corbis

Lake Michigan, Home to the Lake Michigan Monster

The Mystery: Locals and cryptozoologists have long believed there’s an enormous prehistoric creature living in the second largest of the Great Lakes. Sightings from around its shores—Cross Village, Harbor Springs, Northport—date as far back as 1817 and tell of a 60-foot serpent or “sea panther,” as local Native Americans referred to it (because of its catlike head and lizard body), that likes to emerge at dusk.

Fact: While the beast, if it truly exists, is thought to be a land-locked plesiosaur. Similar sightings have also occurred in the other northernly lakes, including Lake Champlain—home to Champy—and Lake Erie, where proclaimed creationist Carl Baugh discovered a carcass of a three-foot long “baby monster” in the early 1990’s. He had the creature, probably a burbot, stuffed and placed on display at the (now closed) L & D Bait and Tackle shop near Cleveland, Ohio

America’s Most Mysterious Places

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