Watchung Water Tower, Mountainside NJ
Suicide Tower is located in Watchung Reservation.
The History of Watchung Reservation:
Watchung Reservation is the largest nature reserve in Union County. The original inhabitants of Watchung, the Lenape, referred to the mountains as the Wach Unks, or ‘high hills’. Evidence of the Lenape presence in Watchung can be seen in numerous camp sites that have been uncovered, mainly along the rivers coursing through mountains and in the small caves abundant in the volcanic rock.
Myths in the Reservation:
The Watchung Reservation in its entirety is notorious for ghost sightings and strange occurrences. Within the Watchung Reservation lies Surprise Lake, in which stories circulate around “the Leaper”, a strange man who has been seen hopping around the trails. Also, by the lake, a woman reported having seen old, abandoned animal pens surrounded by traces of blood. During the 1700s, when the region was becoming more settled, there were tales of satanic and pagan worshipers conducting ceremonies in many areas of the reservation. A group of teenagers in 1986 told authorities that they had heard moaning and screaming coming from a part of the forest, and later a group of Eagle Scouts reported having come across an ancient altar, bone-like structure complete with bloodstains. Urban legend holds that there is a part of the Reservation known as the Magic Forest, where pagan and Devil worshipers had gone to practice dark magic and conduct ceremonies back in the years of early settlement. Just beyond the Magic Forest, is the Witches’ Enchanted Forest, which according to legend, used to be home to a coven of witches. Legend has it that the descendants of the witch coven still meet every full moon in the Enchanted Forest to conduct ceremonial rituals. Another account holds that while coming back on one of the hiking trails in the Enchanted Forest on a full moon, a group of friends heard eerie chanting and saw shadowy figures dancing in the Forest. All of this is a story for another blog post.
Story of Suicide Tower - 4 Youths Find a Body:
The first indication that there had been trouble and violence came at 11:15 p.m. on January 16, 1975, when four teenagers found a body at the base of the unused water tower in the Watchung Reservation, a wilderness preserve. The tower, which is a shaft encircled by a staircase, is often used to view the lights of New York City. Park policemen were summoned and identified the body from papers as that of young Sanders. He had slashed his left wrist and apparently had fallen from the 150‐foot tower. The boy was dressed only in khaki pants and a light shirt, and the police surmised he had been in a state of panic when he ran from his home in freezing weather. The bodies of Mr. and Mrs. Sanders were discovered when the police arrived at the house to tell them of their son's death. Mr. Sanders had been struck several times in the back of his head with a two‐foot axe. His body lay in the kitchen, where he had been working on reports for the bank. The body of Mrs. Sanders was found in the dining room. She was dressed in nightclothes, and the police theorized she had come down to investigate noises. She, too, had been struck in the head. Since the incident, the spiral staircase has been removed, and it has earned the name of “suicide tower”.
As a young kid I grew up going on short hikes up to this tower with my grandmother and or brother. As I got older, I would walk my dog up to the tower alone or bring some friends up there who have never been. I was not aware of the story described until about a month or two ago. The story that I grew up hearing was that a group of teenagers made a suicide pact and jumped off together. The walk up to the water tower was always spooky and gave me chills, even the other trails scattered in the Watchung Reservation did too. I still continue to go on walks there to this day.
Overall, this is a great spot of a cute little photo shoot. In the fall towards sundown you can see the New York City skyline; however, I wouldn’t recommend going just for that though because it is not that magnificent. There are two ways to get there: take the Serria Trail and pass a cool pavilion on the way or park in the neighborhood just a few feet away from the tower.
WR Tracy Drive Parking Location : 40°41'11.1"N 74°21'40.0"W
Prospect Ave Illegal Parking Location: 40°41'27.8"N 74°21'19.6"W
Water Tower Location: 40°41'24.5"N 74°21'22.2"W