New Brunswick

Carleton County hamlet boasts its own 'magnetic hill'

The optical illusion known as Magnetic Hill is one of Moncton's claims to fame, but it's not the only one in the province. Shepherd Hill, in the Carleton County community of Johnville, is magnetic too.

Shepherd Hill may not be as popular as the Moncton tourist attraction, but it's still 'quite an illusion'

Johnville native Marven McQuade was a skeptic, but after testing out Shepherd Hill himself, he's now a believer. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Put your car in neutral. Take your foot off the brake. Coast backwards, uphill.

That optical illusion became a ticket for tourism and Moncton's Magnetic Hill's claim to fame.

But there is a second Magnetic Hill. It's on Shepherd Hill, on the other side of the province in Johnville, about 37 kilometres north of Hartland.

Johnville native Marven McQuade said he'd heard the rumours over the years about Shepherd Hill in Carleton County, but he had never really checked it out.

He took us there, and in the beginning, no one was really impressed. It didn't really even look like a hill. It looked more like a flat piece of land.

It's quite an illusion!- Marven McQuade, Johnville resident

But as he put his truck into neutral, and took his foot off the brake, he began quickly rolling backwards.

Looking in his side mirror, he couldn't help but exclaim. "No foot on the gas. We're backing uphill!"

He is now a believer.

We all know about Moncton's Magnetic Hill. But did you know New Brunswick has another stretch of road where cars can roll uphill? 1:19

"It's quite an illusion!"

Moncton's Magnetic Hill became famous in 1933, after three Telegraph-Journal staffers wrote a story about it.

The story of a second magnetic hill came from an old newspaper article posted on the Hartland "Memories Page." The headline read, "Second Magnetic Hill Reported Back of Bath."

It told the story of a Joe Martin of Hartland, who had been on the road to change a flat tire.

"He couldn't believe his eyes as his car rolled off the jack and began to roll back up what certainly seemed to be a 40-degree grade."

Shepherd Hill doesn't even look like much of a hill, but vehicles still appear to roll backward when in neutral. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

One reported north of Plaster Rock in '50s

No one is certain of the date of the article — not even the Provincial Archives.

The archives manager of reference services, Heather Lyons, couldn't find it in their collection. Instead, she found other articles about other "magnetic" hills.

In 1948, another hill was discovered near the first. In 1949, Brownsville, Que., claimed it had one, and in 1953, someone claimed there was one north of Plaster Rock.

"And there were many places who were either trying to prove they had a magnetic hill or that one was already in existence and they wanted to talk about that," said Lyons. "It ranged from Nova Scotia to Maine and all the way to Scotland. People were talking about this."

Marven McQuade believes news of Johnville's 'magnetic hill' will put the small community 'on the map.' (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Back on Shepherd Hill, a truck approached us. It was two local people, Brian De Merchant and Kirk Sherwood. De Merchant said he had heard something about the road when he was kid. 

They played along with us, put their truck in neutral, and released the brake. Both men broke into laughter as they began coasting backward, uphill.

McQuade watched them go. Then he said, "I suspect I'll be bringing a lot of people up here … you're going to put us on the map."

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