A Dark and Quiet Truth.

The hour was late. (Or early, depending on your philosophical bent.)

It was anything but a dark and stormy night. The stars cast their luminescence upon the populace of Niagara as film of dry, humid air surrounded them.

Some individuals slept, their minds the plaything of Morpheus and his perverse sense of humor. In the waking world, the usual suspects engaged in the usual activities.

Visitors:

  • Risked their livelihoods at games of chance designed to benefit the House.
  • Drank until their bodies rebelled.
  • Paid young ladies for the pleasure of defiling their bodies.

Citizens:

  • Lay awake, their minds tormented by thoughts of a future yet to be or a past eternally relived.
  • Explored the depths of passion. (Although, truth be told, most were content to engage in the same unimaginative, yet highly-effective, routine.
  • Other labored to survive in a society where material wealth is linked to social standing.

Elsewhere, a young man stood on the brink – both metaphorically and literally.

Ironically, he was standing in the one place that was free of nature’s summer onslaught; wave after wave of cool air rose up from the rushing waters below, cooling his trembling form. Mother nature nourished his body, while inner demons tore his psyche to ribbons.

His hands gripped the rod iron railing for a moment and then, in one swift motion he lifted one leg, then the other, until he was standing over the precipice. It was at that moment that Fate intervened and drew another young man away from his midnight labors, crossing his path with that of a soul in torment.

The worker strolled leisurely, his head cocked back to take full advantage of the soothing night air, but once he caught sight of the form on the stone wall, his world ceased to move.

Whatever thoughts filled his consciousness vanished and were replaced by queries: “Is this really happening?”, “Am I seeing this?”, ran through is mind. And of course, “What do I do?” flashed repeatedly.

After an agonizing minute that felt like days, the worker moved forward, determined to talk the young man down.

Sometimes Fate and Mother Nature  become lovers, their coupling creating collateral damage that mere mortals wrestle with for the rest of their lives. Such was the case here, my friends, as the worker took a single step and shattered the stillness of the night when his foot broke the surface of a puddle left behind by a colleague’s efforts to wash the day’s leavings away from the cold stone below.

The young man turned his head to investigate the sound that interrupted his contemplation.

The worker froze.

Their eyes met all-too briefly; a moment longer and perhaps the worker could have uttered a silent plea to the stranger standing against the metal and stone wall before him. But the moment was gone. The die was cast.

The young man lurched forward, his form knifing through the night sky for less than sixty-seconds before shattering the watery surface of the raging river below.

And with that, he was gone, swallowed by the inconceivable power of the water that claimed him forever severing any links he had to the world above.

No one can say how long the worker remained there, lost in the horror that was no doubt imprinted upon his mind, but in time he returned to the world to contact the authorities. Perhaps they would recover the young man’s lifeless form, perhaps not; the river does not yield its treasures easily, but one thing was certain, life would go on.

A few short hours later thousands of tourists would stand in the every spot where a lost young man spent the last few minutes of his existence. They would point their cameras and phones and marvel at the majesty of the Falls while enjoying the company of their loved ones, completely oblivious to the drama that unfolded in the hours preceding their visit.

It would be as though the young man never existed at all. 

But he did.

The truth is this: Niagara plays host to millions of souls, some are transient – the city serves as a brief interlude from their day-to-day lives – others make this region their home. All are fragile and vulnerable to outside forces that prey on their mind and body, and some of these individuals surrender to these forces.

Many of these souls find themselves irresistibly drawn to the power of the Falls and so they surrender themselves to its watery embrace. When the pressures of life become too much there is something about losing oneself in the swirling forces of the Niagara River that outweighs one’s desire to live with seemingly never-ending pain.

But you won’t read about the souls the river claims in newspapers or online (not very often, at least.). Radio programs bypass their existence. Locals never speak of them.

These events are not isolated in nature, but they are quickly isolated from the public record by the Powers-That-Be.

Is this right? Is this a disservice to the fallen?

Mine is not to judge; I’ll leave that to history.

I am but a humble servant to the millions of travelers who see the Falls for their beauty, not their hidden power that calls out to those for whom the weight of the world has become unbearable.

About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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104 Responses to A Dark and Quiet Truth.

  1. This was your best post ever! It would be ignorant for me to say “another one, eh?’ But it’s the sad truth. Thank you for speaking the truth and like you’ve said, there’s a power in the Falls that draws people near, often claiming their souls.

    • The Hook says:

      I knew you’d have something of significance to offer, Jennifer. Thank you.

      • Of course I’d have something to say on this matter. When you’ve lived and worked in the ‘falls’ long enough you ‘see’ one yourself. It’s a sad reality which is often overlooked, ignored or plainly pushed aside. You’ve inspired me to write a post that I’ve been wanting to do for weeks but haven’t as it’s a touchy subject. So, screw it. Ill write it.

  2. Katie says:

    Hook, this is hauntingly well written. I like getting these glimpses of your more serious side, especially about something as important as this.

  3. Powerful post that has not doubt been ripping internally for a while.
    Observer. Like a sci-fi recorder weighing mankind. Witness to the fact that he did exist. And the brutality of life which roll on.
    Someone noted, you. Somewhere, that noted.

  4. 1jaded1 says:

    The description of the tortured soul you’ve painted is so vivid, and tragic. It’s also tragic that these souls are forgotten. I will always remember.

  5. twindaddy says:

    Hook, this is an amazing post and had you not just gotten FP’d last week I’d be banging down their Twitter doors to get this FP’d. It is THAT good.

    It’s also sad that these incidents get swept under the rug and those lost souls forgotten.

    • The Hook says:

      Certain people don’t want anything gumming up the works in regards to the summer tourist season, Twindaddy. It is sad but true.

      • twindaddy says:

        I know that. And it IS sad. You would think, though, that as common as that is they’d eventually put something in place to prevent it.

  6. Honie Briggs says:

    There’s an interesting similarity between the Falls and the lake near my home. It seems people come from all over to throw themselves into it, forever lost to this world, and if not for a class I took earlier this year, I would not have known the lake that supplies water to my home is also a last resort for tortured souls. It is not spoken of in hushed tones. It is not spoken of at all.

  7. JackieP says:

    It’s a sad world when commerce is more important then lives. Unfortunately I have seen this in other places also, especially ‘college towns’. The powers that be don’t want any messiness gumming up the money trail. Your post was poignant and simple. Well written with the empathy of a good soul.

  8. joesard says:

    The Hook strikes again and this time has really got us decked with this heart-breaking story which depicts how this society has kidnapped our souls to the point of inducing so many to claim their lives for the sake of values that are nothing compared to the beauty and joy of life.
    On this side of the pond the dreadful recession which has gripped Europe is spawning a daily death toll of suicides that hardly ever reach the proper attention of the media unless characterized by some sensational twist. Nobody bothers to try to dissuade desperate people from their silent intent which almost always generates even more despair and tragedy for the loved ones who are left behind.
    Thank you Hook, with the help of the internet, the power of your prose will save lives and that is possibly the best gratification and remuneration anybody could ever desire.

  9. sortaginger says:

    Reading this gave me the chills. How sad and scary, yet so many of us can relate to that feeling.

    Thank you for being their voice today.

  10. I got goosebumps…….that’s how powerful this post is. I was right there with both of the young men.

  11. I never thought of Niagara Falls in terms of suicide before…but it does make sense in a horrible way. A shame about how these people and the tragic ending to their lives are just ignored and isolated.

    Well written, Hook.

  12. wisejourney says:

    A deeply moving and haunting tale written with sensitivity …..that I am glad I read tonight.

  13. Jo Bryant says:

    Such a powerful post Hook. Not surprising really that they shove these souls in to a place where they are not visible. Not surprising but incredibly sad.

  14. Littlesundog says:

    Hook, that was powerful. I love this side of you…

  15. djmatticus says:

    Haunting… I haven’t yet had the opportunity to enjoy the power and beauty of the Falls in person, but having done the fair amount of adventuring I have managed so far, I can see it and feel it all the same.

  16. After reading this post, it is my turn to say, “You have a gift, my lovely friend.”

  17. unfetteredbs says:

    Wow…

  18. Wonderful post, Hook. Haunting, very well written and filled with emotion. I’ve been missing in action quite a bit and missed your Freshly Pressed fame. I’ll go check that out now.

  19. michd74 says:

    A very thought provoking and poignant post. Well done.

  20. stephrogers says:

    This was amazing and haunting. I will carry it with me playing over in my mind.

  21. I am glad that I am now ‘hooked’ so I can read how exquisitely you pen your words. The powerful emotion and sadness evident in the above. The lives that no one knows of cast into their watery grave, this was very well written and once I commenced I could not stop. Thank you.

  22. iRuniBreathe says:

    It’s true that we tend to desensitize to tragedy and even start to ignore it. Thank you for being a voice for one, if not many. And reminding us that there is a story in everyone.

  23. Jennifer says:

    I can only reiterate what has already been said. A sad day for all, and what of this poor man’s family. And the soul of the ‘watcher’. :-(

  24. Daile says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this post. So beautifully written. It gave me goosebumps Hook. I truly hope you don’t have to experience a moment like this again.

  25. rebecca2000 says:

    I saw this the other day and thought of you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K09Pbfg5OZ8

  26. This is beautiful; majestic, even. I am with Jennifer on this one.

  27. List of X says:

    A beautiful post. As for cover-up… The Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, as you might guess, is another popular place for suicides. At some point in the 90’s, when the death toll on the bridge began approaching 10,000, the newspapers stopped publishing the count, because there was a concern than there would be a small rush of people wanting to become the 10,000th victim. And I’m sure there are people unstable enough to want that.

  28. Chatty Owl says:

    Chillingly different.

  29. Great stuff – felt I was there and just as powerless to stop him jumping – always get that feeling when travelling on water at night.

  30. Kayjai says:

    Excellent writing, Hook.

  31. mairedubhtx says:

    This was a beautiful and powerful post, Robert. Well done. Thank you for posting this. We need to remember the bad things that happen at the Falls as well as the beauty of the Falls. People do take their lives there. They did when I was at university there and I know they still do. You have written a powerful reminder. Thank you for sobering us to reality.

  32. TBM says:

    I have to say this is one of your best posts. The words and images are haunting.

  33. ConnieMaria says:

    Very well written!

  34. Beautiful, beautiful!

  35. You weave your words so well, The Hook… Chilling story and because I have visited the Falls once [very young], it was like I lived it! I was really intimidated by this spectacular and forceful show by nature. It’s no wonder that this violent and constant flow does things to people’s minds. One thing I remember clearly is that I couldn’t even hear my thoughts from the water’s “whitenoise”, imagine being someone with troubles…

  36. Kate is says:

    This is beautiful prose. Thank you for putting this here to be read.

  37. After a very long day spent on the US side we crossed the Rainbow Bridge to return home. As we waited our turn through immigration I turned my phone on (too costly to use in the US). It was appropriate that a post from The Hook should welcome me home to NIagara.
    I wept. It was very quiet, emotional ride back to Pickering. The power of Niagara Falls is very real and very strong. It pulls me even from here. I have often stood at the brink and understood how a person could be pulled in having lost the will to fight the hypnotic flow. You humble me, The Hook, with your wordsmith. This piece will haunt me for some time.

  38. Pingback: When paradise turns deadly – Sardinia’s Somber Secret | My Sardinian Life

  39. Diane C says:

    I grew up in North Vancouver just blocks away from Lynn Canyon and the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (not the more famous and touristy Capilano Canyon Suspension Bridge). Every year, young people are lost to the waters of Lynn Canyon. Sometimes it is a misjudgment – swimming into what appears to be a quiet pool, but under the surface is a fast moving current, jumping from the rocks in the wrong place, climbing over the fences that are there to protect people from slipping to their deaths. Other times these are young people much like the young man in your story.
    They jump from rocks or the bridge knowing that once they have taken that step there is no going back. One of my classmates in elementary school (yes, elementary school) thanks to the horrors that his family had experienced at the hands of the priests and nuns at residential school, chose to take his life. His choice changed my life forever.
    Until that point, I had never understood that taking one’s life was possible or an option. Already depressed at 11, I battled suicidal thoughts for the next 20 years. I understand the young man about whom you wrote. We hear about teen suicide so often, yet the support for youth mental health never materializes from those that have the power and resources to do something about it. Thanks for talking about this Robert. You are right. Too often these sad occurrences are hidden from view.

  40. Nadia says:

    Wow. I wish I could add more to the conversation here, but you have left me speechless. Beautiful and profound.

  41. Lucia Maya says:

    I agree with all – this is some truly beautiful writing! Gorgeous.

  42. It’s something about heights – people want to jump off them. Even normal people are a bit tempted. I hope you didn’t see this yourself, HOok – that would be just awful! Beautiful post!

  43. Oh…this is serious…I have heard of too many suicides lately…one very close-friend of mine…I can empathize with the worker…Poignantly told! Yes…so many lost souls…I am hoping that there is another side that welcomes them…

  44. I need to contact you – do you have a private email where I can do so? The Falls has claimed yet another young life … this time it’s personal. Thank you.

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