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Literature / The Watertower

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"Nobody in Preston could remember when the water tower was built, or who had built it, but there it stood on Shooter's Hill - its iron legs rusted, its egg-shaped tank warped and leaking - casting a long, dark shadow across the valley, across Preston itself.
—Opening text

The Watertower is an Australian picture book written by popular children's author Gary Crew and illustrated by Steven Woolman. It was first Published in 1994.

The story follows two teenage boys - Spike and Bubba - who live out in a country town called Preston. They live nowhere near the beach and there's no pools around, so to cool off they decide to go for a dip in the enigmatic water tower. Bubba loses his shorts and is too embarrassed to go home, so Spike runs home to get him another pair. While Spike is gone, Bubba begins to suspect that there might be more to the water tower...

In 2004, a sequel was published called Beneath the Surface, casting a clearer light on what the water tower is really for, while still keeping some of its mystery.



  • Abandoned Area: Played with. The water tower isn't well-guarded and just barely kept from falling into disrepair. The sequel reveals that whoever put it there wanted people to think it was this.
  • The Corruption: Bubba's fate at the end. It's implied the adults in Preston have gone through this as well.
  • Creepy Gas Station Attendant: The local adults have this vibe about them.
  • Crop Circles: The circular design on the water tower as well as the book's aesthetic all allude to this.
  • Daylight Horror: Since the story kicks off with Spike and Bubba wanting to go for a swim, the entire story is set during the day.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Both stories end on an unresolved note.
  • Face Your Fears: Bubba's sudden transition is chalked up to this. Spike isn't entirely convinced.
  • Green and Mean: The cover art uses green and black to make the water tower look even more alien than it already does. The tower's interior uses the same palette.
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  • Night Swim Equals Death: Subverted. The sotry takes place during the day and nobody dies...we think.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: It's never revealed exactly what made Bubba go from scared to confident. Beneath the Surface reveals that the water itself is what changes people.
  • Parental Neglect: Bubba's mother is simply described as not caring where he goes.
  • Primal Fear: Everything about the water tower is meant to tap into something scary. It's secluded, the inside is dark, the entrance is very high up etc. Bubba gets a sense of paranoia and tries to get away from it, not understanding why he's so afraid.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Alluded to at first and expanded upon in Beneath the Surface. The water turns everyone who drinks it into something sinister, despite little change in their appearance.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The steely eyes of the locals is a big hint that they know the tower's secret.

"Deep in the tank, the water eddied and swirled"