Spook Hill is a legendary spot on Florida's Ridge Scenic Byway, also known as SR 17. It's a 38.7-mile route that travels through many historic communities, winding along the Lake Wales Ridge.
Spook Hill has long been a popular stop for families and roadtrippers who enjoy having their cars coast backwards up the hill. (Yes, you read that correctly!) According to the Lake Wales Chamber and Florida Scenic Byways websites, this is the essence of the Legend of Spook Hill:
Many years ago a Seminole village on Lake Wales was plagued with raids by a huge gator. Their leader, Chief Culcowellax, was a great warrior. He killed the gator in a battle that created Lake Ticowa; when he died, the chief was buried on its north side.
Later, after the Native-Americans lost their lands to the encroaching settlers, pioneer mail riders discovered their horses laboring down hill and named it "Spook Hill." When the road was paved, cars miraculously coasted up hill!
Do you think this is the gator seeking revenge, or the Chief still trying to protect his land? Either way, this type of natural phenomenon is also known as a magnetic hill.
Spook Hill may not be as much fun today as it was 50 years ago. Some say that recently, Lake Wales' municipal workers painted the starting line in the wrong spot. Others say that to work, the vehicle has to be heavier than most of the cars typically on the road today.
To experience Spook Hill, take Highway 27 south to 17A just before Lake Wales, then head east and follow the signs.