The Cosmos Mystery Area

As someone who longs for adventure but has experienced very little, I always love to share stories about places that I’ve actually been.  One such place is The Cosmos of The Black Hills in South Dakota.

The Cosmos Mystery Area is a place that claims to defy the law of gravity.  It is a strange place where one can actually feel mysterious forces pressing against them.  Is it an optical illusion or a true natural phenomena? I’m not sure, but it is an amazing place to visit.

A tour of The Cosmos is approximately 30 minutes long.  During this tour, you’ll be lead up a hill which is nestled deep inside the awe inspiring Black Hills National Forest.  According to the sign right outside the mystery site, “the laws of nature seem to have gone completely berserk”, and it does feel that way.  Once at the top of the hill, you’ll see a shack that appears to be lopsided, and lots of other interesting features.

The tour guide leads each group through a series of strange demonstrations.  Water is poured onto a tilted board, and it flows up rather than down.  Tennis balls can be thrown sideways and boomerang back to the person who threw it.   This all takes place outside.  There’s one demonstration in particular that I’m always asked to volunteer for.  This is the mind boggling height difference demo.  I’m always picked because I’m short.  What happens is they ask me to stand next to a concrete slab that is clearly raised about the ground.  They use a level to show that the ground is completely flat all around the slab.  Then, they’ll grab another tourist who is a great deal taller than me, usually over 6 feet, and have them stand on the slab.  For some damn reason, I will appear to be taller than the guy on the slab, even though he regains his height over me when standing right next to me.  I don’t get it, I tell ya!  Then again, maybe I’m easily amused.

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Now is the part of the tour where you head into one of the shacks.  There are two shacks on the site.  One was supposedly discovered in 1952 in exactly the state shown today.  The other shack was built to see if they could replicate the affects seen inside the first shack, and they did.

Inside the shack, things really get interesting.  First, you’ll be amazed as you look around at the others in your tour group, and notice that they all appear to be standing almost completely sideways.  Think of that scene in the “Smooth Criminal” video where Michael Jackson and his fellow dancers lean forward more than appears humanly possible.  This is what it looks like.  Attempting to walk around inside the shack is very disorienting.  You feel as though something is sucking you forward, and your knees will feel weak.

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The demonstrations inside the shack are impressive.  The most amazing feat is the balancing chair act.  For this, someone is asked to volunteer. (Again, for some reason usually me) The volunteer steps up onto a wedge where the chair is placed and the tour guide is bracing.  Once seated, the guide removes his or her hands, and the chair appears to balance itself on the tiny ledge with only the back legs!  It truly is amazing to see.

Generally, people will ask the guide to explain what makes the place so special, and always they say they don’t know.  Sometimes they’ll offer a theory such as a gravitational vortex or some other such speculation.  I tend to think it has more to do with the careful placement of each prop on the side of a mountain.  But it is still a truly incredible sight to behold!

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If you decide to visit The Cosmos Mystery Area, you should make sure that you are physically up for it.  It’s quite a hike up to the site, and as I said, it is very disorienting.  I’ve seen older people lose their balance and fall inside the shack, and I’ve also seen more than a few people lose their lunch. Ewww.

But if you’re up for it, it’s worth seeing.  The Black Hills National Park in general is an amazing place.  One of my favorite places in the U.S., actually.  I’ll do some future posts about other amazing sights in the area.

Directions: North of Keystone two miles on US 16, then east one mile on US 16 toward Rapid City. Or from Rapid City, go South on Hwy 16 past Rockerville until you see the blue entrance sign for the Cosmos before US 16A.

Here are some great videos demonstrating some of the wonders of The Cosmos.