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On sale, not on the level

The Oregon Vortex, and the mysteries therein, hit the market for &

36;3.5 million

GOLD HILL ' Some would-be buyers would label it a rustic fixer-upper.

Consider the dizzyingly askew walls. No team of master carpenters with a keg of plumb bobs could straighten out this old house.

And what's with the water running uphill? That would drive a plumber to drink.

But those unique qualities are precisely what sets apart the House of Mystery at the Oregon Vortex, says Jerry Ehlers, a broker with John L. Scott Real Estate in Medford.

— The firm has listed the nearly 22-acre site ' lock, stock and vortex ' at &

36;3.5 million.

There are other vortexes, but this is the granddaddy of them all, Ehlers said. It has had a lot of exposure out there. This place is so well known.

How does one go about putting a price on a vortex?

It certainly wasn't the typical property where you run an analysis and the numbers have to work out for an investor, he replied. But it's a fascinating place, really different.

Opened to the public in 1930 by the late John Litster, the site has drawn curious visitors from throughout the world.

Litster, who purchased the property in 1918, felt the site contained unique properties, possibly distorting light.

Visitors say the vortex makes people look taller or shorter than they really are, depending on where they're standing. Others report that a compass goes haywire at the vortex.

A pamphlet for the site describes the three-quarter-acre vortex as a spherical field of force, half above the ground and half below, and, by reason of this, the effected area is a circle.

The oldest building at the site, the one leaning precariously and now dubbed the House of Mystery, was built around 1890 by a mining company. A slide shortly after the turn of the 20th century caused it to lean at an angle.

Located half a dozen miles northwest of Gold Hill on Sardine Creek Road, the site is open every day, beginning at 9 a.m., from March — through Oct. 15.

It's a roadside attraction born in an era when Americans first began to hit the open road in their automobiles.

Several replicas of the Gold Hill mystery house have popped up, including the Mystery Spot built in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1941.

The Oregon Vortex has been owned and operated by the Cooper family since 1960. Maria Cooper, 60, facility director, says it was a difficult family decision to sell the property.

We hope that it will go to someone who really appreciates what is here, and will keep it in its natural setting, she said. We want someone to carry it on.

A 1961 graduate of St. Mary's High School in Medford with a master's degree in counseling from the University of Hawaii, Cooper wants to retire to do charitable work.

It was hard to put a price on it, she said. But there isn't much overhead and so much potential.

This would be good for a young family, or someone who wants to do experiments here, she added.

The two-bedroom caretaker's home on the property has perfectly straight walls.

In recent years, the vortex has been featured on numerous television shows, including Unsolved Mysteries, the Discovery Channel and an X-Files episode.

While the site is not a common destination for local residents, it draws people from across the nation and around the world, she said.

We get thousands of people every summer, she said.

One recent visitor was Catharine Rambeau, 68, of Lantana, Fla. She dropped in while riding a motorcycle cross country.

I had heard about it and wanted to see it, she said. I'm old enough to have seen some things in my life for which there is no explanation.

It's very, very strange, she concluded. I don't know what the hell is going on there, but I liked it. It's good for people to have their perceptions absolutely screwed up.

For real estate broker Ehlers, whose wife, Donna, also a broker, visited the Oregon Vortex as a young girl growing up in Klamath Falls, the parcel is unlike anything he has ever offered.

We figure there must be an investor out there that wants to invest in this for the uniqueness of it, he said. And it is pretty darned unique.

Since it went on the market late in May, two inquiries have come in for additional information, he said.

I'm a guy that loves challenges as well as fun, Ehlers said. This property has both.

Maria Cooper, 60, says she?s ready to sell the House of Mystery at the Oregon Vortex, which has been in her family since 1960. The roadside attraction dating from 1930 is listed at $3.5 million. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli