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Illustration of a bear with hills and the ocean in the background
Illustration of a bear with hills and the ocean in the background
Illustration of a bear with hills and the ocean in the background
The California Report brings you news and culture from around the Golden State. The morning service with co-hosts Lily Jamali in San Francisco and Saul Gonzalez in Los Angeles brings you the news and information you need to start your day. We’ve got you covered with the top stories and newsmaker interviews each weekday.

Want more in-depth storytelling? The California Report’s weekly magazine, with host Sasha Khokha, takes you on a road trip for the ears, and the imagination, to meet the people and visit the places that make California unique. Subscribe to The California Report Magazine Podcast.
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A large yellow-and-black sign reads "Welcome to Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, California U.S.A."

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Angela Corral acorral@kqed.org or twitter @kqedangela, @calreporttweets and #TheCaliforniaReport

The Team

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Lily Jamali

Co-host, The California Report

Lily Jamali is co-host of KQED’s The California Report, which airs on NPR stations throughout the state. She also serves as a correspondent for the show. She has closely followed the unfolding story of PG&E’s bankruptcy. Her work is shaped by her reporting on the 2018 Camp Fire while it was still burning in Butte County, a region she first covered as a local television reporter from 2004 to 2006. 

Prior to joining The California Report, Lily was the anchor of Bloomberg Markets: Canada. Previously, Lily worked as a reporter and producer for Reuters TV. She has also worked as a freelance correspondent for PRI/BBC's The World reporting from Latin America and Central Asia. She received a grant from the program to cover climate change from The Maldives in 2011. 

Lily speaks Farsi, Spanish and French. She holds an M.B.A. in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business, a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and a Bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Geography and Environmental Studies from UCLA.
Twitter @lilyjamali
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Saul Gonzalez

Co-Host, The California Report

A Golden State native, Saul has been the Los Angeles co-host of The California Report since 2019, covering such issues as homelessness and housing policy, the state's response to climate change and the ravages of the Covid pandemic. Whenever possible, tries to be outside of the studio, connecting these big issues to the daily lives of Californians experiencing them in very personal ways.  

Before joining KQED, Saul worked for the PBS NewsHour, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, and public radio affiliate KCRW in Santa Monica, where he also hosted the podcast series "There Goes the Neighborhood" about gentrification. For his work, Saul has been honored with several Emmys and is a two-time winner of the L.A. Press Club's Radio Journalist of the Year Award.  

When not working, Saul spends his time trying to hone his amateur photography skills and spending as much time as possible in bookstores and coffee houses.
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Angela Corral

Senior Editor, The California Report

Angela Corral is the senior editor of The California Report. Born and raised in the Bay Area, she has worked in radio since 1998. She enjoys the camaraderie of the newsroom and has done just about every job at some time or another. Angela has never met an animal story she doesn’t like. When she’s not at work, Angela is probably watching baseball or taking pictures of her dog.
Twitter @kqedangela
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Keith Mizuguchi

Producer, The California Report

Keith Mizuguchi is Producer for The California Report. Born and raised in the Bay Area, his passion for radio began all the way back in high school, as he was a staff member at the student-run radio station. He would continue his endeavors in radio, working at the campus station at San Jose State University. Eventually, he would turn to news and radio, working at all-news station KLIV in San Jose, KCBS in San Francisco and KNX in Los Angeles, before joining KQED in early 2021. Outside of news, Keith enjoys live music and exploring the food and drink scene wherever he is living.
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Mary Franklin Harvin

Producer, The California Report

Mary Franklin Harvin grew up in a two-stoplight town in South Carolina, where she learned to analyze story structure by listening to elders on front porches. She earned her graduate degree from the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Before finding radio, she worked as a writer for former president Bill Clinton out of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s Harlem office. She first polished her radio chops with The Kitchen Sisters and at KALW, 91.7 FM, before coming to The California Report in 2019.
Twitter @emeffharvin
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What's Behind One of California's Most Ubiquitous Bumper Stickers?

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A large yellow-and-black sign reads "Welcome to Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, California U.S.A."
The iconic yellow-and-black sign welcomes visitors to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz, California. (Amanda Font/KQED)

In a redwood forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, halfway between Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley, you’ll find the Mystery Spot. Even if you’ve never been there, you might be familiar with the iconic yellow bumper stickers that serve as both souvenir and advertisement for this 81-year-old roadside attraction.

More Stories From the California Report Magazine's Hidden Gems Series

Lucky Santa Cruz visitors may even spot a "Mystery Spot car" parked somewhere downtown covered completely in stickers.

In 1939, a man named George Prather bought the land from a lumber company on which the "spot" sits. According to the official lore, he only wished to purchase a flat area at the bottom of a hill, but was told the hill must be part of the deal.

While exploring his newly purchased parcel, Prather began to notice some odd things. He reported feeling very dizzy while standing on the hillside, and he felt that the effort needed to hike it was much greater than he expected.

Prather allegedly took a compass to the hillside, only to find that it pointed in the wrong direction. According to Prather, most of these effects were focused in an area approximately 150 feet in diameter.

Realizing he had an interesting piece of property on his hands, Prather dubbed the place the Mystery Spot and opened it as a roadside attraction in the early 1940s.

Three cars whose bodies are completely covered by yellow bumper stickers (not the windows or lights).
One of the 'Mystery Spot' bumper sticker cars that can sometimes be spotted parked in downtown Santa Cruz. (Amanda Font/KQED)

Today, the Mystery Spot runs tours 365 days a year to the spot and through a cabin that helps demonstrate the quirks of the area. The wooden structure leans sharply downhill, but visitors standing in front of it appear to be leaning uphill. The effect is an illusion that they're standing almost diagonally. Water poured on a board demonstrated to be on an incline runs in opposition to gravity.

Page of a newspaper from 1941 with the headline "Mystery Spot--You Never Saw A Crazier Place--Opens Sunday For Your Amazement!"
An article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel describing the opening of the Mystery Spot. (Courtesy of Newspapers.com)

Walking through the cabin's rustic interior, the discombobulation intensifies, with visitors sometimes experiencing motion sickness as a result of an unusual shift in perspective. The angle of the cabin allows folks to climb up the walls and stand balanced in seemingly impossible positions. A large weight at the end of a pendulum swings widely when pushed one way, but half the distance when it swings back. People appear to change in height when standing in different areas around the cabin.

How is this possible?

The Mystery Spot's "official" theories posit that maybe a UFO crashed into the hillside long ago, and the still-running engine is causing a magnetic anomaly. Or, perhaps, there's a swirling pool of magma somewhere deep below that's affecting gravity in the area. Or even that some gases are seeping out of cracks in the hillside, causing visitors to hallucinate the whole thing.

The truth, of course, is not any of these wild, magical theories. It's an optical illusion, though a supremely convincing one. For $8, plus whatever you're compelled to spend on souvenirs, you'll get one of the classic bumper stickers and enough mystery to keep you wondering all the way home.

A woman in an orange T-shirt and cargo shorts appears to lean backward in a room.
Mystery Spot tour guide Stella demonstrates her ability to lean at a seemingly impossible angle without falling down. (Amanda Font/KQED)

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