The best of …
A Halloween Special
From Issue 14-2008
Originally published Oct. 18/2008
A Ride Up Spook Hill or What’s the Point?
(2008) Dennis Crenshaw
As a teenager growing up in northern Florida the day came when the rumor of there being a hill in southern Florida where your car rolled backwards uphill was too much of a drawing card. On that day you and several of your friends chipped in their pocket change (gas was 27 cents a gallon) and you all headed off south for adventure and the rumor of a strange Spook Hill in the small town of Lake Wales.
So while we were in southern Florida visiting Cyrus Teed’s Koreshan Unity settlement I decided that Marsha needed the experience. Back when my friends and I visited the area in my ’59 Plymouth Sports Fury convertible (red of course) we had the hill all to ourselves and we made several trips. However this time I noticed that there seemed to always be a couple of cars lined up at the top of the hill waiting for the current car to make its run. The price of fame I guess.
At the top of Spook Hill is a large sign that was erected by the City to help promote tourism in the small off-the-beaten- path town giving one version of the story about the famous south Florida landmark with instructions on how its done. When our turn came Marsha and I drove to the bottom, and following the instructions stopped and placed our front wheels on the white line that the city has painted across the road, put our car in neutral and like magic or voodoo we rolled back up the small hill.
After our run I pulled into the driveway of Spook Hill Elementary School (who’s mascot is Casper the Friendly Ghost, . . . who else could it be?) to make a video of a car coasting up the hill towards us.
The next vehicle parked by the sign directly across from us at the top of the hill was a big brand-new red Dodge pick-um-up truck. I could see a tall slim fellow setting at the wheel. Next to him sat a woman, but I couldn’t make out her features through the tinted windows. I started filming as he drove off to the bottom of Spook Hill. He stopped with his tires on the white line and he sat there at an idle. And he sat. And he sat. And he sat. Then he pulled forward, made a slow 3 point u-turn and put his tires on the line facing in the wrong direction. And he sat. And he sat. And he sat. By now I’m mumbling into my camera as I continue to film. Finally I said the S word to myself and quit filming. I noticed the line of cars now equaled 4 patently waiting for Red Truck to move so they could get their shot at Spook Hill. Finally he put his truck in gear and drove back up to the small driveway I as parked in, stopped the truck behind me, got out and came over.
“I saw this hill on a postcard in North Carolina and while in Florida decided to give ‘er a shot. But she ain’t working.” He said with real concern in his voice.
“You didn’t do it right,” I told him. “You were facing in the wrong direction. Watch the next car.”
Of course the next car stopped on the white line, the driver threw it out of gear and the car rolled back up to us as pretty as you please.
The North Carolina man looked at me for a long second, then, without muttering a word turned and took another long look at Spook Hill. Then he looked back at me.
“Hell that ain’t no hill.” He said. “That’s an incline. I want to be pulled up the hill,” he pointing at the steeper longer hill that is the continuation of the short road after crossing that white line. The hill he had turned around and parked on. He then took a long hard look down toward Spook Hill one last time, shook his head, turned and looked at me a last time. I could hear total disgust in his voice when he quietly said to me, “What’s the point?”
With that said, and without another word, he walked around the truck, climbed into the driver’s seat of the cab and slammed the door. Now that she was nearer I could see the woman in the passenger seat. She was setting there straight as a board, mouth clamped into a straight line and arms crossed. As the fellow pulled out and left the area in record time the woman didn’t make a move or say a word. Just kept setting there staring straight ahead, arms crossed like a wooden Indian.
Now what you have to realize is that Lake Wales is located in the southern center of the state. Most tourists stay near the expressways which hug both of Florida’s coast. To get to Lake Wales you have to get off the freeway and take back roads for at least a couple of hours, probably more. So, while he might not have gotten the point, I had.
He had seen Spook Hill on that postcard God knows how long ago and had been curious, so when he and his wife finally took that Florida vacation he left the freeway and the beaches, headed into cattle country for the sole purpose of being pulled up a hill with his wife asking the whole way over, “What’s the point.”
I really did feel sorry for him because I know, just as well as I know a car rolls UP the incline at Spook Hill, that she’ll MAKE her point known sooner or later. You can bet on it
Take a ride up Spook Hill. . . and bring your gal along, see if she gets the point.