Imagine you’re driving through the crisscrossing streets of the Jersey Shore town Mystic Island, which is not actually an island at all, but rather a part of Little Egg Harbor Township, located just south of Tuckerton. It’s a planned community of small cottages built along a network of largely man-made canals and lagoons fed by the Great Bay. Once a summer vacation resort town, many of the homes are now year round residences. All of a sudden in front of you see a huge concrete block, larger even then the homes which surround it, sitting smack dab in the middle of the roadway you are traveling on. There are no fences or guardrails around it, no warning signs posted on or near it, and the pavement goes right up to its sheer cement face then encircles the monolith like an English roundabout. It doesn’t appear to be a building, per se, it’s got no roof or any doors of windows and it seems to be solid. The block, twenty feet high and just as wide, just sits there defiantly in the roadway, a giant square stone in the middle of a sandy asphalt circle.
It’s an odd and unlikely sight, for sure, but just what is it? Why was it constructed and what purpose could it possible serve? These are some of the questions befuddled motorists unfamiliar with the history of the town have asked themselves as they drive around and around the structure in confused wonderment.
There is not just one, but actually three of these enormous concrete blocks to be found in Mystic Island, and they are not only 20 feet high, they also extend 20 feet beneath ground level. They were once the massive anchors for what was known as the “Tuckerton Tower.” The Tuckerton Wireless Tower was 825 feet high and built in 1912 by the German “Hochfrequenzmaschinen Aktiengesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie” company (The High Frequency Machine Corporation for Wireless Telegraphy) to communicate with an identical tower in Germany, as well as ships and submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. In its time it was one of the two tallest structures ever built in the world (second only to the Eiffel Tower). It was one of the first and most powerful transatlantic radio stations ever constructed.
Mystic Island (then Hickory Island) was chosen because the ground was level, and in a desolate location. All the parts were built and tested in Germany, then shipped to the United States. Incredibly, the U.S. Government was unaware of the massive communication project until it was almost completed. Transmission from the tower began on Jun 19, 1914, less than two weeks before the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand launched Europe into the First World War.
Early in World War I, while the U.S. was still neutral, the government kept a close watch on the tower to ensure it was not broadcasting any military messages in violation of the Neutrality Act. This censorship was ineffective, however, as seemingly harmless messages could be delivered in code. It is believed by many, though far from proven, that the station sent out the order, “Get Lucy,” to a German U-boat as a coded order to sink the ocean liner RMS Lusitania, bringing the U.S. into the conflict over seas.
When America entered the war in 1917, the United States military immediately took over the tower and it was assigned to the US Navy, which used it until the end of the war. The remaining German personnel at Tuckerton became war prisoners and were replaced by Navy personnel. After the war, the Tuckerton Wireless Station was included in German war reparations paid to America. Shortly afterwards, it was sold to RCA, which operated it until 1948.
The main steel tower, which was anchored by three huge concrete blocks, was demolished on December 27, 1955. The massive blocks are still there in Mystic Island today, and still causing newcomers to the area to scratch their heads in weird wonder. One block is located in a backyard on North Ensign Drive, another is right in the middle of South Ensign Drive, and the third sits square in the middle of Staysail Drive. Many smaller anchor blocks, which once provided foundations for smaller towers, are still visible in Mystic Island’s lagoons.
Monolithic Mystic Memories
When I was a boy in the early 1960s my parents had a vacation home along the Great Bay in Mystic Island. There were hundreds of one-story homes and sand lots, all the same size and shape in a variety of pastel colors, which were lined along a vast grid of man-made lagoons. Everybody owned a boat.
Directly across the street from our house, at the edge of a corner lagoon, rose a giant concrete monolith, perhaps thirty foot square. It was one of several that dotted the landscape of the housing development.
As a ten-year old boy I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out a way to climb to the top of the monolith across the street. Five blocks away, another one had a staircase and a fence around the top so vacationers and tourists could satisfy their curiosity and get a bird’s eye view. But that, of course, could not have compared with the rush of getting to the top of one of the bare stairless stones. That would have been sweet, but it was absolutely impossible for a ten year old––they were just too big.
I haven’t been to Mystic Island for over thirty-five years but the standing stone across the street from my boyhood summer home certainly is one of weirdest memories I have of growing up in the Garden State. –Rick Cusick
Remembering Those Mysterious Monoliths of Mystic Isles
When I was a boy in the early 1960s my parents had a vacation home in Mystic Isles, New Jersey, just beyond Tuckerton, along the Great Bay. There were hundreds of one-story homes, all the same size and shape in a variety of pastel colors, that were lined along a vast grid of man-made lagoons that led to the bay. Everybody owned a boat.
The homes were built on sandlot streets and directly across from our house, at the edge of a corner lagoon, rose a giant concrete monolith, perhaps thirty foot square. It was one of seven, if I recall correctly, that dotted the landscape of the housing development. Apparently these cement squares were the base of giant conning towers that climbed up over Great Bay during World War II which were used to watch the coastline and look out for Nazi subs.
The wooden towers disappeared long before 1963 but the massive concrete squares bases remained. They looked like they could have withstood an atomic blast. As a ten year old boy I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out a way to climb to the top of the monolith across the street. Five blocks away, another one had a staircase and a fence around the top so vacationers and tourists could satisfy their curiosity and get a bird’s eye view. But that, of course, could not have compared with the rush of getting to the top of one of the bare stairless stones. That would have been sweet but it was absolutely impossible for a ten year old. They were just too big.
I haven’t been to Mystic Islands for over thirty-five years but several years ago a friend went down and took a photo of the stone across the street from my boyhood summer home. The Standing Stones of Mystic Isles certainly is one of weirdest memories I have growing up in the Garden State. –Rick Cusick
Current day photos ©Weird NJ / Mark Moran
This story is an excerpt from Weird NJ magazine, “YourTravel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” which is available on newsstands throughout the state and on the web at www.WeirdNJ.com. All contents ©Weird NJ and may not be reproduced by any means without permission. Weird NJ photos by Mark Moran.
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