ANSTED - The charm of the Mystery Hole has remained mysterious throughout the decades.
Current owners Sandy and Will Morrison intend to keep it that way as the unique tourist attraction celebrates its 40th anniversary. The couple want it to be just as it was when it first opened.
"Why did we buy it?" Will says as he echoes a question. "Just look at this place."
The Mystery Hole is located in a bend of U.S. 60 near Hawk's Nest and has a Volkswagen jammed into the side of it. The metal portion of the structure is a Quonset hut, and the main entrance is wood. Aside from the VW Bug, a gorilla and a clown atop the building also attract attention.
There is a souvenir and gift shop through the main door with an interesting array of items, from tie-dyed T-shirts, fly swatters and Frisbees to coffee mugs, key rings and coal figurines. However, the most popular item is the Mystery Hole bumper sticker.
Those brave enough to take the underground tour may have flashbacks of Halloween haunted houses.
A sign warns, "People with high blood pressure or heart ailment, please do not enter."
It's a bit difficult to describe what happens along the tour, and Will makes sure no electronic devices are allowed inside that could record the happenings. A video showing up online could hurt business, he said.
However, it's hard to believe there could be any substitute for being there in such a charming atmosphere.
Those brave enough to enter the gate of wood and chains are in for a fun, if not startling, experience. Visitors meet characters such as Miss Mystery Hole, Miss Hawk's Nest and Miss New River Gorgeous, frozen in time throughout the decades. Inside the "He-She Room" is the head nut who is sure to make visitors jumpy. Other tour highlights include a room that throws one's equilibrium into a whirl, a ball that rolls uphill and water that does the same, and the hillbilly chair that can be used on the floor or the wall.
The tour ends in the souvenir shop where assorted merchandise is available for commemorating the experience.
The Morrisons are from Michigan and never saw the Mystery Hole until they visited the establishment with a realtor and bought the whole shebang.
It had been closed for a while due to the death of the original owner, and they had some refurbishing work to do before reopening it. Will, who has family living in the area, said he passed the building many times growing up but never went inside as a kid.
"We saw it Thanksgiving 1998 for the first time, purchased it Feb. 20, 1999, and opened Memorial Day weekend," Will said.
Will, 53, and Sandy, 51, have homes in Erie, Mich., and near Ansted. His other business was building storage buildings, and she has worked in retail. Their focus now is mainly on the Mystery Hole, where the season runs from April through October.