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A suicide at Eastlake Park in early Phoenix

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In the early 1900’s one of the most popular recreation sites in Phoenix was Eastlake Park. The park featured a lake for boating, a baseball diamond and stadium, a swimming pool, picnic grounds and game areas. It was located at 16th Street and Jefferson and accessible by street car.

But in March 1913, tragedy struck Eastlake Park. J. N. Rodenburg Jr. of Prescott, Arizona was found dead on the bank of the north arm of the lake at Eastlake Park early one afternoon. The grisly discovery was made by a woman visiting the park that lived nearby. Rodenburg is only 34 years old.

When the coroner arrived on the scene, the body had not yet become rigid. It was determined that death had taken place not long after the noon hour. Any mystery there might have been about the death was averted by the finding a note in the man’s journal in his coat pocket.

“To Whom It Many Concern—Friends and Foes: A life of sadness is about to be extinguished. Since October 14, 1911, I have sorrowed the loss of that which is most dear. I have made gross attempts at a ‘forced happiness’ but down deep it was too much to carry. I have gone the limit in my attempts to overcome that loss which was most dear, and now let the curtain fall on a broken and ruined life. Wire J. N. Rodenburg Sr. Prescott, Ariz., and let him know at once, to care for ‘Toots.’ Notify Brother Harry DeWinton of the Carpenters Union, and have Maus and Mohn take care of my remains until my father gets here. Good-bye to all who are dear to me; some who will know who are very dear may they forget and forgive. To my foes, the same request. ‘Going from this unhappy, yet feigned happy existence.’ J. N. Rodenburg Jr.”

There was no weapon found in the area of the body and it was supposed that poison was the means of death chosen by the young man. Rodenburg was a carpenter and had been work in Phoenix for a short time. He had separated from his wife and that was no doubt the loss, and grief that drove him to his death. His wife remained in Prescott where father resided, but his little boy was with him here attending school.

Does the spirit of Rodenburg still wander through Eastlake Park? Some theories believe that a ghost who has committed suicide realize what they have done and immediately regret their choice and want to return to the living. Some are afraid to face judgment for their suicide and remain earthbound to avoid punishment by a higher being…or perhaps their punishment is to watch the pain their act had cause their loved ones.

There is no longer a lake at Eastlake Park, but the park is still located near 16th Street and Jefferson. The park is open from 5:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.
1540 E. Jefferson Street
16th Street & Jefferson St.
(602) 262-6759
(602) 262-6111 (South Division Office)

Arizona Haunted Sites Examiner: Debe Branning


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