East is east and west is west,” the old song goes, but this perception of
the world-whether applied to cultural differences or compass directions-does not
always hold true. There seems to exist a subjectively experienced phenomenon
about which very little has been written. It can be described as shifting of
subjective direction in susceptible people. It occurs often to individuals who
are, for the most part, totally unprepared to experience it.
Evidence suggests that this phenomenon occurs near what are known as
“leys,” an English word describing places found on every continent which
prehistoric inhabitants considered sacred and which they used for various
rituals. In the United States, such places are known as power spots or sacred
sites. The basic cause of the direction flip phenomenon might be linked with
as-yet-undefined earth energies associated with these sacred sites.
There are two common types of subjective direction flip. Go into a movie
theater, for instance, situated on a northeast corner in your home town.
Emerging a couple of hours later, you might discover that the theater now seems
to be situated on the southwest corner, exactly opposite to where it was when
you entered. The direction anomaly in this instance is not lasting, for the
environs “flip back” while you walk to your car or wait on the corner for a
bus. If you discuss the incident with friends, no one offers an explanation
except to say, “Yes, that happens sometimes.”
Getting Turned Around
Another example: a school-age youngster lags behind his parents while hiking
in a forest. Deep in the woods, the child protests that he’s tired and asks to
go back alone to camp along a well-marked trail. The parents, thinking the child
can find the way back unaided, give permission. But the child does not make it
back to camp, and a massive search effort is started. After an anxious time, the
child is found, in an area which is exactly opposite to the direction of the
camp. What happened?
Adults who are familiar with the forest will tell you that at times their
subjective directions do get turned around. They have learned to verify north by
observing the moss on trees, or to tell west by the setting sun. The child, on
the other hand, had apparently experienced a 180-degree direction flip without
realizing what had happened.
It is common for many people to lose their directions, whether in the forest
or a city. I have friends who can’t tell north from south anywhere, but in
their home cities they memorize which directions various streets run, or they
use landmarks to get around.
It is apparent from the examples above that most people do not have a
built-in sense of direction. Most people’s sense of direction is acquired
early in childhood. But put people in unfamiliar surroundings, and their sense
of direction vanishes until they acquaint themselves with new landmarks.
Some people, however, do seem to have an in-built directional sense that does
not depend upon reference to geographical landmarks. These people are most
likely to notice subjective direction flips. They obtain their directional sense
in several ways. Some are born with it. Others have an interest in astronomy and
learn east, west, south, and north in relationship to the movement of the sun,
moon, and other heavenly bodies. Many develop a sense of living on a planetary
body in space. To them, north is “up,” toward the top of the world, south is
“down” toward the bottom of the planet, and east and west are where the sun
rises and sets on their spinning earth.
It also helps to grow up in a town where directions are precise; that is,
where most streets run precisely north and south, east and west. Many New World
cities, especially modern ones, are built in this way. The rare exceptions of
five- or six-point intersections only serve to reinforce a sense of the four
cardinal points of the compass. In contrast, the streets of many Old World
cities are curved and crooked; the streets in Dublin, Ireland, for instance,
were originally cow paths. (The Irish are noted for being unable to give precise
directions. The old joke about Irish telling visitors, “You can’t get there
from here” is an actual fact which I’ve experienced myself.)
My Own Experiences
My own perception of direction flips began in childhood with flipping movie
theaters in Long Beach, California. In 1956, our family moved to a hillside home
on the western edge of Pasadena. Having grown up in Long Beach, which has
precisely laid-out streets, I had a definite “feel” for north, south, east,
and west. An early interest in amateur astronomy also helped.
I did most of our shopping in the adjoining town of South Pasadena, which was
reached by traveling southeast. For the first six weeks, I invariably got lost
driving home because the directions never seemed right. It was not a temporary
situation like flipping movie theaters; this was something permanent. By rote, I
learned a couple of dependable routes between South Pasadena and our home, and
the problem faded.
Later, when our children started school in central Pasadena, I ran errands in
the larger city-and consistently got lost again. In large sections of central
Pasadena, north seemed to be east, south seemed west, and so forth. The
90-degree skewing began in the middle of Pasadena and continued south.
Ninety-degree skewing of subjective directions is common but seems largely
unrecognized. Ask friends and acquaintances if it happens to them. Some will
look at you blankly, and then, suddenly realizing, excitedly describe
difficulties they experience finding their way around certain sections where
they live. A member of our square-dancing club lived in La Crescenta, north of
Pasadena proper. For him, the whole line of hillside cities above Pasadena, from
Montrose to Sierra Madre, are subjectively skewed 90 degrees. Since these cities
adjoin that part of Pasadena where, for me, north seems east, and since all of
those hillside towns are skewed 90 degrees for me as well, I share his plight.
Other friends I’ve asked about this situation aren’t concerned or puzzled.
They reply, “The mountains are to the north in Pasadena. What’s the
problem?” These are people with no inherent sense of direction.
Louise Ludwig, Ph.D., is a psychologist and a retired Los Angeles university
professor. She experiences a recurring problem whenever she visits Victorville,
a town in the Mohave Desert in eastern California. When she was 16, she and her
family moved from Colorado to California, traveling southwest by car. As they
drove through Victorville, she felt as though the car was taking an abrupt
90-degree turn toward the northwest, even though the highway was perfectly
straight. In subsequent years, she vacationed rather frequently in Victorville,
and invariably, while proceeding northeasterly and approaching town center, she
abruptly feels she is going 90 degrees opposite from where she was headed. After
initial disorientation, Dr. Ludwig accepted the phenomenon but never lost her
curiosity about it.
More unusual than the 90-degree direction skewing is the unsettling
180-degree flip. These unforeseen occurrences are apparently of two types:
First, the temporary flip such as occurs with movie theaters and other buildings
described above, and second, abrupt 180-degree flips which do not entail
entering and leaving buildings but which seem built into the terrain. Unlike the
90-degree type (which also seem permanently “built into” the terrain and
extend for many miles), subjective 180-degree flips seem associated with small
areas. In my experience, the terrain involved is never more than a couple of
hundred yards in diameter and often much less. When one leaves the affected
area, subjective directions just as abruptly flip back to normal.
For example, in 1968 our family joined the Gerrish Swim Club in Pasadena,
several miles northeast of our home. We settled down to enjoy the summer,
grateful that our five small daughters had an outlet for their energy. Soaking
up the sun one day, I realized that the mountains seemed to be due south from
the swim club. This astonished me. I knew logically that in Pasadena the
mountains lay to the north, as so many of my fellow Pasadenans constantly
At Gerrish Swim Club, however, the sun and moon set in what was, to me, the
east. When we stayed late in the evening, the North Star was in the south and
Scorpio sprawled along the northern horizon! Being curious by nature, this was
quite unsettling to me, but no one else seemed bothered by it. I tried
repeatedly to make Gerrish Swim Club flip back into place, but it wouldn’t.
Through experimentation, I found that the “flip” occurred in the street and
parking lot in the front of the club. To this day, the Swim Club is subjectively
but permanently skewed 180 degrees.
Many readers are no doubt familiar with what are called leys in Great
Britain, Native American sacred sites in the United States, and by other terms
in various other countries. The English term is applied to megalithic stones and
other ritual sites which lie along straight lines, to which the common term ley
line is assigned. If the straight lines that connect prehistoric sacred sites
are longer than about 80 miles, they are no longer true straight lines as drawn
on a map, but “great-circle” segments due to the curvature of the earth.
Researchers who have studied the ley-line phenomenon hypothesize that it
might be linked with undefined earth energies associated with prehistoric ritual
sites. The only mention of subjective direction flip associated with leys that I
have come across is in John Michell’s Secrets of the Stones. It describes how
a group of researchers were camped by an English megalith, conducting
experiments in an attempt to monitor geomagnetic energies. At a late hour, one
of the team headed north back toward his home. Within a few minutes, he was seen
walking back toward the site. His amazement matched that of his colleagues. His
only explanation was that somehow he had become “turned around.” The only
difference between this researcher and anyone else who gets turned around is
that his experience was possibly related to the megalithic site on which
experiments were being conducted. But what possible connection could there be?
I knew nothing about ley research when I had my own 180-degree flip
experience. But in 1983, during a three-month concentrated study of possible
patterns in UFO close encounters, a few hints began to emerge that might
eventually serve to clarify the mysteries of UFO flight patterns, ley sites, and
subjective direction flips. In this study, I hoped to discover whether Southern
California UFO close encounters might fall in straight line patterns, such as
had been found in earlier studies by Aime Michel in France, Dr. David Saunders,
Dr. Jacques Vallee, and other UFO researchers in various countries. In preparing
a paper on this subject for the 1983 Annual MUFON Symposium, I selected several
dozen UFO close encounters where the location was documented within 500 feet,
and plotted these locations on a U. S. Geological Survey map. Because of the
apparent relationship between sacred sites of Native Americans and their legends
relating to UFOs, I also plotted several sacred sites which are situated in and
around Los Angeles.
The study confirmed the earlier work of Vallee, Saunders, James and Carol
Lorenzen, and others. Southern California close- encounter UFO cases, including
reported landings and occupant sightings, did fall into straight line
patterns-ruler-straight across the map-each line connecting four or more events.
All of the Southern California sacred sites I plotted fell along the same
straight lines. This fact might indicate a possible link between UFO close
encounters and Native American legends about sky visitors, as well as legends of
sky roads along which the sky visitors reportedly traveled in the distant past.
UFO encounters, of course, have nothing to do with the subject at hand-that is,
subjective direction shifts-but the sacred sites certainly seem to, as explained
One of the sacred sites plotted was Eagle Rock, a pudding-stone formation
about 60 feet tall situated on the western border of Pasadena. I often walked
there for exercise and found that just being in the vicinity of this so-called
power spot gave me a feeling of great tranquility. Sitting close to the caves in
the northwest side of the rock, I found it easy to slip into meditative states
where answers to troubling problems came spontaneously. This all began before I
even knew what a sacred site was. Situated several hundred feet to the north
from the rock itself is a pudding-stone water reservoir. In 1984, the first time
I walked up the winding road that leads to Eagle Rock Reservoir, I was surprised
to see that a certain golf course, which I knew was situated a couple of blocks
east of the reservoir, seemed to lie to the west. I realized that, near the
reservoir, my subjective directions became abruptly skewed 180 degrees. The flip
occurred in the process of walking up the curved road and was permanent; it
happened every time I walked to the reservoir. I wondered if there was any
significance to the fact that a sacred site was within a few hundred feet of
another place where subjective directions, at least for me, did a sudden
With a few hiking buddies who understood the value of research, I began to
explore other Native American sites around Los Angeles that lay along the
straight lines, as well as other sacred sites which came to our attention after
the 1983 study. Hiking toward the sacred sites, subjective directions were
sometimes skewed 90 degrees, but as we neared the sites, directions turned true.
At every sacred site, subjective directions were true-a constant factor. Another
determinant was the presence of peaceful, tranquil emanations in the immediate
vicinity of the site. Most of my research companions were sensitive to these
feelings as well; this served as confirmation-a precaution against imagination
coming into play. Among the four or five hiking buddies who participated in this
research, most appeared not to experience the abrupt direction flips.