Arts & Entertainment

Optical illusion on Portville’s Promised Land Road doesn’t disappoint


Fresh stone and oil meet worn, grooved pavement at the top of the last paved hill on Promised Land Road in Portville, N.Y. Though Trisha Noller’s house is the second-to-last on the road before the dead end, it’s not unusual for her to see random cars with out-of-state license plates drive back and forth in front of her house.

“I’ve seen people from Tennessee, Nebraska; they all come around here all the time,” Noller said. “My son, who’s 8, I said next year he’s going to have a lemonade stand.”

To match the grooved road, cracks run up the Nollers’ paved driveway, a result of drivers turning around or temporarily parking there.

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“They (the town) said they stopped paving the road because that’s the county line, which is not true,” Noller said. “They stopped it because of the illusion.”

Known to most as “the illusion” and “the gravity hill,” people drive down Promised Land Road past the Nollers’ house, turn around, then drive back to their green 1015 address marker, putting the car into neutral. If done just right, the car will travel backward instead of forward, as if going up the hill.

“We see people do it all the time,” Noller said. “You’ll see a bunch of cars just go up and down and up and down. I’ll be out here working in the yard and people will stop and ask me questions.”

The Nollers, whose family has grown to include 4-year-old Evelyn along with 8-year-old Keaton, didn’t choose their place of residence randomly.

“I was pregnant with my son and my husband said, ‘Have you ever heard of the illusion?’ ” Noller said. “We went for ice cream at Ice Cream Island and then we came up here so he could show me, and that’s when we saw the ‘For Sale’ sign.”

She pointed to the beige-colored home she and her husband have lived in for eight years. “I never understood it either, I think after we moved here I saw how it worked.”

Tae Cooke, a lecturer in St. Bonaventure University’s physics department, drove to the end of Promised Land Road to see the hill for himself.

“It really is just a perception thing,” Cooke said. “Physics is working just like it would.”

Putting the car into neutral at the right spot – directly in front of the Nollers’ address marker – is the key to the illusion.

“It looks like you’re going uphill but the truth is that you’re going downhill,” Noller said.

Cooke agreed.

“It’s really downhill, but it doesn’t look like it,” he said. “Your eyes are playing tricks on you.”

Despite living in front of the illusion, Noller has only done the hill herself once or twice since understanding it. She enjoys watching other people try it and get creative with it.

“I’ve actually seen people lay on the ground while the other person’s car is going down,” she said, also mentioning the times she’s seen people drop water or bounce a ball trying to create the same effect the car experiences while in neutral.

“When I first moved here, I took pictures of all the people. There must have been a car show because there was a row of all different kinds of antique cars,” she said, and motioned with her fingers. “All the way up the road and all the way down and they just kept turning around.”

The Nollers’ family dog, Diggers, doesn’t bark at cars anymore, and Noller encourages people to drive to the end of Promised Land Road to check out the illusion.

“Keaton will have his lemonade stand,” Noller said, pointing to the end of the driveway where people pass frequently to try the hill. “In the fall on a Sunday afternoon when it’s like 70-degrees, I said, ‘Put it right here, I bet you’ll make a killing!’”

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To watch the illusion click here.



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