Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916

Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916

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The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 were a series of shark attack
Shark attack
A shark attack is an attack on a human by a shark. Every year around 60 shark attacks are reported worldwide, although death is quite unusual. Despite the relative rarity of shark attacks, the fear of sharks is a common phenomenon, having been fueled by the occasional instances of serial attacks,...

s along the coast of New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 between July 1 and July 12, 1916, in which four people were killed and one injured. Since 1916, scholars have debated which shark species was responsible and the number of animals involved, with the great white shark
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

 and the bull shark
Bull shark
The bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, also known as Zambezi shark or unofficially known as Zambi in Africa and Nicaragua shark in Nicaragua, is a shark common worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers...

 most frequently being blamed. The attacks occurred during a deadly summer heat wave
Heat wave
A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity. There is no universal definition of a heat wave; the term is relative to the usual weather in the area...

 and polio
Poliomyelitis
Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route...

 epidemic in the northeastern United States
Northeastern United States
The Northeastern United States is a region of the United States as defined by the United States Census Bureau.-Composition:The region comprises nine states: the New England states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont; and the Mid-Atlantic states of New...

 that drove thousands of people to the seaside resort
Resort
A resort is a place used for relaxation or recreation, attracting visitors for holidays or vacations. Resorts are places, towns or sometimes commercial establishment operated by a single company....

s of the Jersey Shore
Jersey Shore
The Jersey Shore is a term used to refer to both the Atlantic coast of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the adjacent resort and residential communities. . The New Jersey State Department of Tourism considers the Shore Region, Greater Atlantic City, and the Southern Shore to be distinct, each having...

. Shark attacks on the Atlantic Coast of the United States
East Coast of the United States
The East Coast of the United States, also known as the Eastern Seaboard, refers to the easternmost coastal states in the United States, which touch the Atlantic Ocean and stretch up to Canada. The term includes the U.S...

 outside the semitropical
Subtropics
The subtropics are the geographical and climatical zone of the Earth immediately north and south of the tropical zone, which is bounded by the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, at latitudes 23.5°N and 23.5°S...

 states of Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

, and the Carolinas
The Carolinas
The Carolinas is a term used in the United States to refer collectively to the states of North and South Carolina. Together, the two states + have a population of 13,942,126. "Carolina" would be the fifth most populous state behind California, Texas, New York, and Florida...

 were rare, but scholars believe that the increased presence of sharks and humans in the water led to the attacks in 1916.

Local and national reaction to the attacks involved a wave of panic that led to shark hunts aimed at eradicating the population of "man-eating" sharks and protecting the economies of New Jersey's seaside communities. Resort towns enclosed their public beaches with steel nets to protect swimmers. Scientific knowledge about sharks before 1916 was based on conjecture and speculation. The attacks forced ichthyologist
Ichthyology
Ichthyology is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish. This includes skeletal fish , cartilaginous fish , and jawless fish...

s to reassess common beliefs about the abilities of sharks and the nature of shark attacks.

The Jersey Shore attacks immediately entered into American popular culture, where sharks became caricature
Caricature
A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.Caricatures can be...

s in editorial cartoon
Editorial cartoon
An editorial cartoon, also known as a political cartoon, is an illustration containing a commentary that usually relates to current events or personalities....

s representing danger. The attacks inspired Peter Benchley
Peter Benchley
Peter Bradford Benchley was an American author, best known for his novel Jaws and its subsequent film adaptation, the latter co-written by Benchley and directed by Steven Spielberg...

's novel Jaws
Jaws (novel)
Jaws is a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. It tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon a small resort town, and the voyage of three men to kill it....

 (1974), an account of a great white shark
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

 that torments the fictional coastal community of Amity. Jaws was made into an influential film
Jaws (film)
Jaws is a 1975 American horror-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. In the story, the police chief of Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a giant man-eating great white shark by closing the beach,...

 in 1975 by Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
Steven Allan Spielberg KBE is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, video game designer, and studio entrepreneur. In a career of more than four decades, Spielberg's films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as an...

. The attacks became the subject of documentaries for the History Channel, National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel, also commercially abbreviated and trademarked as Nat Geo, is a subscription television channel that airs non-fiction television programs produced by the National Geographic Society. Like History and the Discovery Channel, the channel features documentaries with factual...

, and Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel is an American satellite and cable specialty channel , founded by John Hendricks and distributed by Discovery Communications. It is a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav...

, including Blood in the Water
Blood in the Water (film)
Blood in the Water is a made-for-TV movie that aired on the USA Network in 2009. It was directed by Richard Bedser. It is based on a true-life series of shark attacks that became the inspiration for Peter Benchley's novel Jaws....

 (2009).

Attacks and victims



Between July 1 and July 12, 1916, five people were attacked along the coast of New Jersey by sharks; only one of the victims survived. The first attack occurred on Saturday, July 1 at Beach Haven
Beach Haven, New Jersey
Beach Haven is a Borough in Ocean County, New Jersey in the United States. The borough is located on Long Beach Island and borders the Atlantic Ocean...

, a resort town established on Long Beach Island
Long Beach Island
Long Beach Island is a barrier island and summer colony along the Atlantic Ocean coast of Ocean County, New Jersey in the United States...

 off the southern coast of New Jersey. Charles Epting Vansant, 25, of Philadelphia was on vacation at the Engleside Hotel
Engleside Hotel
Engleside Hotel was one of the most decorative and beautiful Victorian hotels that once stood on Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven , New Jersey...

 with his family. Before dinner, Vansant decided to take a quick swim in the Atlantic with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a breed of dog belonging to the Retriever, Gundog, and Sporting breed groups. Members of the breed may also be referred to as a Chessie, CBR, or Chesapeake. The breed was developed in the United States Chesapeake Bay area during the 19th century...

 that was playing on the beach. Shortly after entering the water, Vansant began shouting. Bathers believed he was calling to the dog, but a shark was actually biting Vansant's legs. He was rescued by lifeguard
Lifeguard
A lifeguard supervises the safety and rescue of swimmers, surfers, and other water sports participants such as in a swimming pool, water park, or beach. Lifeguards are strong swimmers and trained in first aid, certified in water rescue using a variety of aids and equipment depending on...

 Alexander Ott, who claimed the shark followed him to shore as he pulled the bleeding Vansant from the water. Vansant's left thigh was stripped of its flesh; he bled to death
Exsanguination
Exsanguination is the fatal process of hypovolemia , to a degree sufficient enough to cause death. One does not have to lose literally all of one's blood to cause death...

 on the manager's desk of the Engleside Hotel at 6:45 p.m.

Despite the Vansant incident, beaches along the Jersey Shore remained open. Sightings of large sharks swarming off the coast of New Jersey were reported by sea captains entering the ports of Newark
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

 and New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 but were dismissed. The second attack occurred 45 miles (72.4 km) north of Beach Haven at the resort town of Spring Lake, New Jersey
Spring Lake, New Jersey
Spring Lake is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 2,993....

. The victim was Charles Bruder, 27, a Swiss
Swiss (people)
The Swiss are citizens or natives of Switzerland. The demonym derives from the toponym of Schwyz and has been in widespread use to refer to the Old Swiss Confederacy since the 16th century....

 bellhop
Bellhop
A bellhop, also bellboy or bellman, is a hotel porter, who helps patrons with their luggage while checking in or out. Bellhops often wear a uniform , like certain other page boys or doormen...

 at the Essex & Sussex Hotel. Bruder was killed on Thursday, July 6, 1916, while swimming 130 yards (119 m) from shore. A shark bit him in the abdomen and severed his legs; Bruder's blood turned the water red. After hearing screams, a woman notified a lifeguard that a canoe with a red hull
Hull (watercraft)
A hull is the watertight body of a ship or boat. Above the hull is the superstructure and/or deckhouse, where present. The line where the hull meets the water surface is called the waterline.The structure of the hull varies depending on the vessel type...

 had capsized and was floating just at the water's surface. Lifeguards Chris Anderson and George White rowed to Bruder in a lifeboat and realized he had been bitten by a shark. They pulled him from the water, but he bled to death en route to shore. According to The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, "women [were] panic-stricken [and fainted] as [Bruder's] mutilated body … [was] brought ashore." Guests and workers at the Essex & Sussex and neighboring hotels raised money for Bruder's mother in Switzerland.

The next two attacks took place in Matawan Creek
Matawan Creek
Matawan Creek is a creek and partially a tidal estuary of the Atlantic Ocean. It lies in the east central sector of New Jersey across from Staten Island, New York....

 near the town of Matawan
Matawan, New Jersey
Matawan is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough population was 8,810. The name "Matawan" comes from a Native American Lenape word....

 on Wednesday, July 12. Located 30 miles (48 km) north of Spring Lake and 16 miles (26 km) inland, Matawan resembled a Midwestern
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

 town rather than an Atlantic beach resort. Matawan's location made it an unlikely site for shark attacks. When Thomas Cottrell, a sea captain and Matawan resident, spotted an 8 ft (2.44m) long shark in the creek, the town dismissed him. Around 2:00 p.m. local boys, including Lester Stillwell, 11, were playing in the creek at an area called the Wyckoff dock when they saw what appeared to be an "old black weather-beaten board or a weathered log." A dorsal fin
Dorsal fin
A dorsal fin is a fin located on the backs of various unrelated marine and freshwater vertebrates, including most fishes, marine mammals , and the ichthyosaurs...

 appeared in the water and the boys realized it was a shark. Before Stillwell could climb from the creek, the shark attacked him and pulled him underwater.

The boys ran to town for help, and several men, including local businessman Watson Stanley Fisher, 24, came to investigate. Fisher and others dove into the creek to find Stillwell's body, and he was also attacked by the shark in front of the townspeople. Fisher was pulled from the creek without recovering Stillwell's body. His right thigh was severely injured and he bled to death at Monmouth Memorial Hospital in Long Branch
Long Branch, New Jersey
Long Branch is a city in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 30,719.Long Branch was formed on April 11, 1867, as the Long Branch Commission, from portions of Ocean Township...

 at 5:30 p.m. Stillwell's body was recovered 150 feet (46 m) upstream from the Wyckoff dock on July 14.

The fifth and final victim, Joseph Dunn, 12, of New York City was attacked a half mile from the Wyckoff dock nearly 30 minutes after the attacks on Stillwell and Fisher. The shark bit his left leg, but Dunn was rescued by his brother and friend after a vicious tug-of-war battle with the shark. Joseph Dunn was taken to Saint Peter's University Hospital
Saint Peter's University Hospital
Saint Peter's University Hospital is a Roman Catholic hospital on Easton Avenue in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The hospital is a member of the Saint Peter's Healthcare System, Inc. a New Jersey nonprofit corporation sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen.-Overview:Saint Peter's...

 in New Brunswick
New Brunswick, New Jersey
New Brunswick is a city in Middlesex County, New Jersey, USA. It is the county seat and the home of Rutgers University. The city is located on the Northeast Corridor rail line, southwest of Manhattan, on the southern bank of the Raritan River. At the 2010 United States Census, the population of...

; he recovered from the attack and was released on September 15, 1916.

Reaction


As the national media descended on Beach Haven, Spring Lake, and Matawan, the Jersey Shore attacks started a shark panic. According to Capuzzo, this panic was "unrivaled in American history," "sweeping along the coasts of New York and New Jersey and spreading by telephone and wireless
Wireless telegraphy
Wireless telegraphy is a historical term used today to apply to early radio telegraph communications techniques and practices, particularly those used during the first three decades of radio before the term radio came into use....

, letter and postcard." At first, after the Beach Haven attack, scientists and the press reluctantly blamed the death of Charles Vansant on a shark. The New York Times reported that Vansant "was badly bitten in the surf … by a fish, presumably a shark." Still, State Fish Commissioner
Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is the state agency responsible for the regulation of all fishing and boating in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania...

 of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 and former director of the Philadelphia Aquarium James M. Meehan asserted in the Philadelphia Public Ledger that the shark was preying on the dog, but attacked Vansant by mistake. He specifically de-emphasized the threat sharks posed to humans:
The media's response to the second attack was more sensational. Major American newspapers such as the Boston Herald
Boston Herald
The Boston Herald is a daily newspaper that serves Boston, Massachusetts, United States, and its surrounding area. It was started in 1846 and is one of the oldest daily newspapers in the United States...

, Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
The Chicago Sun-Times is an American daily newspaper published in Chicago, Illinois. It is the flagship paper of the Sun-Times Media Group.-History:The Chicago Sun-Times is the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the city...

, Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer is a morning daily newspaper that serves the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, metropolitan area of the United States. The newspaper was founded by John R. Walker and John Norvell in June 1829 as The Pennsylvania Inquirer and is the third-oldest surviving daily newspaper in the...

, Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

 and San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
thumb|right|upright|The Chronicle Building following the [[1906 San Francisco earthquake|1906 earthquake]] and fireThe San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California, but distributed throughout Northern and Central California,...

 placed the story on the front page. The New York Times headline read, "Shark Kills Bather Off Jersey Beach". The growing panic had cost New Jersey resort owners an estimated $250,000 ($ in dollars) in lost tourism, and bathing had declined 75 percent in some areas. A press conference was convened on July 8, 1916 at the American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History , located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States, is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world...

 with scientists Frederic Augustus Lucas
Frederic Augustus Lucas
Frederic Augustus Lucas, Sc.D. was an American museum director.-Early years:Frederic A. Lucas was born March 25, 1852 at Plymouth, Massachusetts.-Career:...

, John Treadwell Nichols
John Treadwell Nichols
John Treadwell Nichols was an American ichthyologist.-Biography:Nichols was born as son of John White Treadwell Nichols in Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts. In 1906 he studied vertebrate zoology at Harvard College where he graduated to Bachelor of Arts...

, and Robert Cushman Murphy
Robert Cushman Murphy
Robert Cushman Murphy was an American ornithologist and former Lamont curator of birds for the American Museum of Natural History....

 as panelists. To calm the growing panic, the three men stressed that a third attack was unlikely, although they were admittedly surprised that sharks had attacked at all. Nevertheless, Nichols—the only ichthyologist
Ichthyology
Ichthyology is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish. This includes skeletal fish , cartilaginous fish , and jawless fish...

 in the trio—warned swimmers to stay close to shore and to take advantage of the netted bathing areas installed at public beaches after the first attack.

Shark sightings increased along the Mid-Atlantic Coast
Mid-Atlantic States
The Mid-Atlantic states, also called middle Atlantic states or simply the mid Atlantic, form a region of the United States generally located between New England and the South...

 following the attacks. On July 8, armed motorboats patrolling the beach at Spring Creek chased an animal they thought to be a shark, and Asbury Park
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Asbury Park is a city in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States, located on the Jersey Shore and part of the New York City Metropolitan Area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 16,116. The city is known for its rich musical history, including its association with...

's Asbury Avenue Beach was closed after lifeguard Benjamin Everingham claimed to have beaten off a 12 feet (4 m) long shark with an oar. Sharks were spotted near Bayonne, New Jersey
Bayonne, New Jersey
Bayonne is a city in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States. Located in the Gateway Region, Bayonne is a peninsula that is situated between Newark Bay to the west, the Kill van Kull to the south, and New York Bay to the east...

; Rocky Point, New York
Rocky Point, New York
Rocky Point is a hamlet in Suffolk County, New York on the North Shore of Long Island. As of the United States 2000 Census, the CDP population was 10,185.Rocky Point is a community in the town of Brookhaven.-Geography:...

; Bridgeport, Connecticut
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Bridgeport is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Connecticut. Located in Fairfield County, the city had an estimated population of 144,229 at the 2010 United States Census and is the core of the Greater Bridgeport area...

; Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

; and Mobile, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

, and a columnist from Field & Stream
Field & Stream
Field & Stream is a magazine featuring hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities in the United States. Together with Sports Afield and Outdoor Life, it is considered one of the Big Three of American outdoor publishing....

 captured a sandbar shark
Sandbar shark
The sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, is a species of requiem shark, family Carcharhinidae, native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific. It is distinguishable by its very high first dorsal fin and inter-dorsal ridge....

 in the surf at Beach Haven. Actress Gertrude Hoffmann was swimming at the Coney Island
Coney Island
Coney Island is a peninsula and beach on the Atlantic Ocean in southern Brooklyn, New York, United States. The site was formerly an outer barrier island, but became partially connected to the mainland by landfill....

 beach shortly after the Matawan attacks when she claimed to have encountered a shark. The New York Times noted that Hoffman "had the presence of mind to remember that she had read in the Times that a bather can scare away a shark by splashing, and she beat up the water furiously." Hoffman was certain she was going to be devoured by the "Jersey man-eater", but later admitted she was "not sure … whether she had had her trouble for nothing or had barely escaped death."

Local New Jersey governments made efforts to protect bathers and the economy from man-eating sharks. The Fourth Avenue Beach at Asbury Park was enclosed with a steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

-wire-mesh
Mesh
Mesh consists of semi-permeable barrier made of connected strands of metal, fiber, or other flexible/ductile material. Mesh is similar to web or net in that it has many attached or woven strands.-Types of mesh:...

 fence and patrolled by armed motorboats; it remained the only beach open following the Everingham incident. After the attacks on Stillwell, Fisher, and Dunn, residents of Matawan lined Matawan Creek with nets and detonated dynamite
Dynamite
Dynamite is an explosive material based on nitroglycerin, initially using diatomaceous earth , or another absorbent substance such as powdered shells, clay, sawdust, or wood pulp. Dynamites using organic materials such as sawdust are less stable and such use has been generally discontinued...

 in an attempt to catch and kill the shark. Matawan mayor Arris B. Henderson ordered the Matawan Journal to print wanted posters offering a $100 reward ($ in dollars) to anyone killing a shark in the creek. Despite the town's efforts, no sharks were captured or killed in Matawan Creek. The "Matawan Journal" reported the shark account incident in the front page of its July 13, 1916 issue with another article about the capture of a shark in Keyport a neighboring town in the issue of July 20, 1916.

Resort communities along the Jersey Shore petitioned the federal government to aid local efforts to protect beaches and hunt sharks. The House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 appropriated $5,000 ($ in dollars) for eradicating the New Jersey shark threat, and President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 scheduled a meeting with his Cabinet
United States Cabinet
The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, which are generally the heads of the federal executive departments...

 to discuss the attacks. Treasury secretary
United States Secretary of the Treasury
The Secretary of the Treasury of the United States is the head of the United States Department of the Treasury, which is concerned with financial and monetary matters, and, until 2003, also with some issues of national security and defense. This position in the Federal Government of the United...

 William Gibbs McAdoo
William Gibbs McAdoo
William Gibbs McAdoo, Jr. was an American lawyer and political leader who served as a U.S. Senator, United States Secretary of the Treasury and director of the United States Railroad Administration...

 suggested that the Coast Guard
United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...

 be mobilized to patrol the Jersey Shore and protect bathers. Shark hunts ensued across the coasts of New Jersey and New York; as the Atlanta Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the only major daily newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, and its suburbs. The AJC, as it is called, is the flagship publication of Cox Enterprises. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the result of the merger between The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta...

 reported on July 14, "Armed shark hunters in motor boats patrolled the New York and New Jersey coasts today while others lined the beaches in a concerted effort to exterminate the man-eaters … " New Jersey governor
Governor of New Jersey
The Office of the Governor of New Jersey is the executive branch for the U.S. state of New Jersey. The office of Governor is an elected position, for which elected officials serve four year terms. While individual politicians may serve as many terms as they can be elected to, Governors cannot be...

 James Fairman Fielder
James Fairman Fielder
James Fairman Fielder was an American politician of the Democratic party, who served as the 35th Governor of New Jersey, from 1913 to 1917, with a break of several months when he stepped down from office to avoid constitutional limits on serving successive terms.-Biography:He was born in Jersey...

 and local municipalities offered bounties to individuals hunting sharks. Hundreds of sharks were captured on the East Coast
East Coast of the United States
The East Coast of the United States, also known as the Eastern Seaboard, refers to the easternmost coastal states in the United States, which touch the Atlantic Ocean and stretch up to Canada. The term includes the U.S...

 as a result of the attacks. The East Coast shark hunt is described as "the largest scale animal hunt in history."

The attacks on Stilwell then Fisher are also retold in one edition of Irving Wallace
Irving Wallace
Irving Wallace was an American best-selling author and screenwriter. Wallace was known for his heavily researched novels, many with a sexual theme. One critic described him "as the most successful of all the many exponents of junk fiction perhaps because he took it all so seriously, not so say...

's The Book of Lists
The Book of Lists
The Book of Lists refers to any one of a series of books compiled by David Wallechinsky, his father best selling author Irving Wallace and sister Amy Wallace....

, in the late 1970s.

Identifying the "Jersey man-eater"


After the second incident, scientists and the public presented theories to explain which species of shark was responsible for the Jersey Shore attacks or whether multiple sharks were involved. Lucas and Nichols proposed that a northward-swimming rogue shark committed the attacks. They believed it would eventually arrive along New York's coast: "Unless the shark came through the Harbor
New York Harbor
New York Harbor refers to the waterways of the estuary near the mouth of the Hudson River that empty into New York Bay. It is one of the largest natural harbors in the world. Although the U.S. Board of Geographic Names does not use the term, New York Harbor has important historical, governmental,...

 and went through the north through Hell Gate
Hell Gate
Hell Gate is a narrow tidal strait in the East River in New York City in the United States. It separates Astoria, Queens from Randall's Island/Wards Island ....

 and Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound is an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, located in the United States between Connecticut to the north and Long Island, New York to the south. The mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook, Connecticut, empties into the sound. On its western end the sound is bounded by the Bronx...

, it was presumed it would swim along the South Shore
South Shore (Long Island)
The South Shore of Long Island, in the U.S. state of New York, is the area along Long Island's Atlantic Ocean shoreline. Though some consider the South Shore to include parts of Queens, particularly the beach communities in the Rockaways such as Belle Harbor, the term is generally used to refer to...

 of Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

 and the first deep water inlet
Inlet
An inlet is a narrow body of water between islands or leading inland from a larger body of water, often leading to an enclosed body of water, such as a sound, bay, lagoon or marsh. In sea coasts an inlet usually refers to the actual connection between a bay and the ocean and is often called an...

 it reaches will be the Jamaica Bay
Jamaica Bay
Jamaica Bay is located on the southwestern tip of Long Island in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, New York City, and the town of Hempstead, New York/hamlet of Inwood...

."

Witnesses of the Beach Haven attack estimated that the shark was 9 feet (3 m) long. A sea captain who saw the attack believed it was a Spanish shark
Grey nurse shark
The sand tiger shark or grey nurse shark is a species of shark that inhabits coastal waters worldwide. It lives very close to the shorelines and beaches of North America, hence the name, sand tiger shark. Despite a fearsome appearance and strong swimming abilities, it is a relatively placid and...

 driven from the Caribbean Sea
Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....

 decades earlier by bombings during the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

. Several fishermen claimed to have caught the "Jersey man-eater" in the days following the attacks. A blue shark
Blue shark
The blue shark is a species of requiem shark, family Carcharhinidae, that inhabits deep waters in the world's temperate and tropical oceans. Preferring cooler waters, blue sharks migrate long distances, for example from New England to South America. Although generally lethargic, they can move very...

 was captured on July 14 near Long Branch, and four days later the same Thomas Cottrell who had seen the shark in Matawan Creek claimed to have captured a sandbar shark
Sandbar shark
The sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus, is a species of requiem shark, family Carcharhinidae, native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific. It is distinguishable by its very high first dorsal fin and inter-dorsal ridge....

 with a gillnet
Gillnet
Gillnetting is a common fishing method used by commercial and artisanal fishermen of all the oceans and in some freshwater and estuary areas. The gillnet also is used by fisheries scientists to monitor fish populations. Because gillnets can be so effective their use is closely monitored and...

 near the mouth of the creek.

On July 14, Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

 taxidermist
Taxidermy
Taxidermy is the act of mounting or reproducing dead animals for display or for other sources of study. Taxidermy can be done on all vertebrate species of animals, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians...

 and Barnum and Bailey
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is an American circus company. The company was started when the circus created by James Anthony Bailey and P. T. Barnum was merged with the Ringling Brothers Circus. The Ringling brothers purchased the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907, but ran the circuses...

 lion tamer
Lion taming
Lion taming is the practice of taming lions, either for protection, whereby the practice was probably created, or, more commonly, entertainment, particularly in the circus. The term is also often used for the taming and display of other big cats such as tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, and pumas...

 Michael Schleisser caught a 7.5 foot (2.3 m), 325 pound (147 kg) shark while fishing in Raritan Bay
Raritan Bay
Raritan Bay is a bay located at the southern portion of Lower New York Bay between the U.S. states of New York and New Jersey and is part of the New York Bight. The bay is bounded on the northwest by New York's Staten Island, on the west by Perth Amboy, New Jersey, on the south by the Raritan...

 only a few miles from the mouth of Matawan Creek. The shark nearly sank the boat before Schleisser killed it with a broken oar. When he opened the shark's belly, he removed a "suspicious fleshy material and bones" that took up "about two-thirds of a milk crate" and "together weighed fifteen pounds." Scientists identified the shark as a young great white and the ingested remains as human. Schleisser mounted the shark and placed it on display in the window of a Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

 shop on Broadway
Broadway (New York City)
Broadway is a prominent avenue in New York City, United States, which runs through the full length of the borough of Manhattan and continues northward through the Bronx borough before terminating in Westchester County, New York. It is the oldest north–south main thoroughfare in the city, dating to...

 but it was later lost. The only surviving photograph appeared in the Bronx Home News.

No further attacks were reported along the Jersey Shore in the summer of 1916 after the capture of Schleisser's shark. Murphy and Lucas declared the great white to be the "Jersey man-eater". Skeptical individuals, however, offered alternate hypotheses. In a letter to The New York Times, Barrett P. Smith of Sound Beach, New York
Sound Beach, New York
Sound Beach was established in 1929 and is a census-designated place in Suffolk County, New York, United States. The population was 9,807 at the 2000 census.Sound Beach is a community in the north part of the Town of Brookhaven.-Geography:...

 wrote:
Another letter to The New York Times blamed the shark infestation on the maneuvers of German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 U-boat
U-boat
U-boat is the anglicized version of the German word U-Boot , itself an abbreviation of Unterseeboot , and refers to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in World War I and World War II...

s near America's East Coast. The anonymous writer claimed, "These sharks may have devoured human bodies in the waters of the German war zone and followed liners
Ocean liner
An ocean liner is a ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance maritime routes according to a schedule. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes .Cargo vessels running to a schedule are sometimes referred to as...

 to this coast, or even followed the Deutschland herself, expecting the usual toll of drowning men, women, and children." The writer concluded, "This would account for their boldness and their craving for human flesh."

Decades later, there is no consensus among researchers over Murphy and Lucas's investigation and findings. Richard G. Fernicola published two studies of the event, and notes that "there are many theories behind the New Jersey attacks," and all are inconclusive. Researchers such as Thomas Helm, Harold W. McCormick, Thomas B. Allen
Thomas B. Allen (Author)
Thomas B. Allen is an American author and historian. He resides in Bethesda, MD. He is also the father of science fiction writer Roger MacBride Allen. Allen is a contributing editor to National Geographic.-Publication and film:...

, William Young, Jean Campbell Butler, and Michael Capuzzo generally agree with Murphy and Lucas. However, the National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

 reported in 2002 that "some experts are suggesting that the great white may not in fact be responsible for many of the attacks pinned on the species. These people say the real culprit behind many of the reported incidents—including the famous 1916 shark attacks in New Jersey that may have served as inspiration for Jaws—may be the lesser known bull shark
Bull shark
The bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas, also known as Zambezi shark or unofficially known as Zambi in Africa and Nicaragua shark in Nicaragua, is a shark common worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers...

."

Biologists George A. Llano and Richard Ellis
Richard Ellis (biologist)
Richard Ellis is an American marine biologist, author, and illustrator. He is a research associate in the American Museum of Natural History's division of paleontology, special adviser to the American Cetacean Society, and a member of the Explorers Club. He was U.S...

 suggest that a bull shark could have been responsible for the Jersey Shore attacks. Bull sharks swim from the ocean into freshwater rivers and streams and have attacked people around the world. In his book Sharks: Attacks on Man (1975), Llano writes,
Ellis points out that the great white "is an oceanic species, and Schleisser's shark was caught in the ocean. To find it swimming in a tidal creek is, to say the least, unusual, and may even be impossible. The bull shark, however, is infamous for its freshwater meanderings, as well as for its pugnacious and aggressive nature." He admits that "the bull shark is not a common species in New Jersey waters, but it does occur more frequently than the white."

In an interview with Michael Capuzzo, ichthyologist George H. Burgess
George H. Burgess
George H. Burgess is an ichthyologist and fisheries biologist with the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida. He is the director of the International Shark Attack File and author/coauthor of numerous books and papers on sharks and other fish.George Burgess also appeared on...

 surmises, "The species involved has always been doubtful and likely will continue to generate spirited debate." Burgess, however, does not discount the great white:
The casualties of the 1916 attacks are listed in the International Shark Attack File
International Shark Attack File
The International Shark Attack File is a global database of shark attacks. It began as an attempt to catalogue shark attacks on servicemen during World War II. The Office of Naval Research funded it from 1958 until 1968. During that time a panel of shark experts developed a standard system for...

—of which Burgess is director—as victims of a great white.

The increased presence of humans in the water proved a factor in the attacks: "As the worldwide human population continues to rise year after year, so does … interest in aquatic recreation. The number of shark attacks in any given year or region is highly influenced by the number of people entering the water." However, the likelihood that one shark was involved is contested. Scientists such as Victor M. Coppleson and Jean Butler, relying on evidence presented by Lucas and Murphy in 1916, assert that a single shark was the attacker. On the other hand, Richard Fernicola notes that 1916 was a "shark year" as fishermen and captains were reporting hundreds of sharks swimming in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Ellis remarks that "to try to make the facts as we know them conform to the 'rogue shark' theory is stretching sensationalism and credibility beyond reasonable limits." He admits, "The evidence is long gone, and we will never really know if it was one shark or several, one species or another, that was responsible."

In 2011, further study was conducted in the Smithsonian Channel's The Real Story: Jaws. The documentary takes a closer look at the series of events from different perpectives. It was demonstrated in the Matawan Creek attacks, for example, of how the full moon of the lunar cycle which would have coincided with the attacks would have raised the salinity in the water by more than double just a few hours before high tide. This would have shown support for the theory that a great white could have been responsible. Other evidence such as Joseph Dunn's injury suggested that the type of bite was more likely made by a bull shark as opposed to a great white, leading some to believe more than one shark was likely involved in the five attacks.

Revising science


Before 1916, American scholars doubted that sharks would attack a living person in the temperate
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

 waters of the United States without provocation. One skeptical scientist wrote, "There is a great difference between being attacked by a shark and being bitten by one." He believed that sharks tangled in fishing nets or feeding on carrion
Carrion
Carrion refers to the carcass of a dead animal. Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems. Examples of carrion-eaters include vultures, hawks, eagles, hyenas, Virginia Opossum, Tasmanian Devils, coyotes, Komodo dragons, and burying beetles...

 might accidentally bite a nearby human. In 1891, millionaire banker and adventurer Hermann Oelrichs
Hermann Oelrichs
Hermann Oelrichs , was an American businessman, multimillionaire, and owner of Norddeutsche Lloyd shipping. The grandson of a German immigrant, Oelrichs was married in 1890 to Teresa Alice Fair, daughter of United States Senator and Comstock Lode millionaire James Graham Fair...

 offered a $500 reward in the New York Sun "for an authenticated case of a man having been attacked by a shark in [the] temperate waters" north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
Cape Hatteras
Cape Hatteras is a cape on the coast of North Carolina. It is the point that protrudes the farthest to the southeast along the northeast-to-southwest line of the Atlantic coast of North America...

. He wanted proof that "in temperate waters even one man, woman, or child, while alive, was ever attacked by a shark." The reward went unclaimed and scientists remained convinced that the eastern coast of the United States was inhabited by harmless sharks.

Academics were skeptical that a shark could produce fatal wounds on human victims. Ichthyologist Henry Weed Fowler
Henry Weed Fowler
Henry Weed Fowler was an American zoologist born in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania.He studied at Stanford University under David Starr Jordan...

 and curator Henry Skinner of the Academy of Natural Sciences
Academy of Natural Sciences
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, formerly Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, is the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the New World...

 in Philadelphia asserted that a shark's jaws
Mandible
The mandible pronunciation or inferior maxillary bone forms the lower jaw and holds the lower teeth in place...

 did not have the power to sever a human leg in a single bite. Frederic Lucas, director of the American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History , located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States, is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world...

, questioned whether a shark even as large as 30 feet (9 m) could snap a human bone. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer in early 1916 that "it is beyond the power even of the largest Carcharodon
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

 to sever the leg of an adult man." Lucas summed up his argument by pointing to Oelrichs's unclaimed reward and that the chances of being attacked by a shark were "infinitely less than that of being struck by lightning and that there is practically no danger of an attack from a shark about our coasts."

The Jersey Shore attacks compelled scientists in the United States to revise their assumptions that sharks were timid and powerless. In July 1916, ichthyologist and editor for the National Geographic Society Hugh McCormick Smith
Hugh McCormick Smith
Hugh McCormick Smith was an American ichthyologist and administrator in the Bureau of Fisheries.-Biography:...

 published an article in the Newark Star-Eagle
The Star-Ledger
The Star-Ledger is the largest circulated newspaper in the U.S. state of New Jersey and is based in Newark. It is a sister paper to The Jersey Journal of Jersey City, The Times of Trenton and the Staten Island Advance, all of which are owned by Advance Publications.The Newark Star-Ledgers daily...

 describing some shark species as "harmless as doves and others the incarnation of ferocity." He continued, "One of the most prodigious, and perhaps the most formidable of sharks is the man-eater, Carcharodon carcharias
Great white shark
The great white shark, scientific name Carcharodon carcharias, also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death, is a large lamniform shark found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans. It is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have approached...

. It roams through all temperate and tropical seas, and everywhere is an object of dread. Its maximum length is forty feet and its teeth are three inches (76 mm) long."

By the end of July 1916, John Nichols and Robert Murphy were taking the great white more seriously. In Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

, Murphy wrote that the "white shark is perhaps the rarest of all noteworthy sharks … their habits are little known, but they are said to feed to some extent on big sea turtles … Judging from its physical make-up, it would not hesitate to attack a man in open water." He concluded that "because it is evident that even a relatively small white shark, weighing two or three hundred pounds, might readily snap the largest human bones by a jerk of its body, after it has bitten through the flesh."

Robert Murphy and John Nichols wrote in October 1916:
After the Matawan attacks, Frederic Lucas admitted on the front page of The New York Times that he had underestimated sharks. The paper reported that "the foremost authority on sharks in this country has doubted that any shark ever attacked a human being, and has published his doubts, but the recent cases have changed his view." Nichols later documented the occurrence of the great white shark in his biological survey Fishes of the Vicinity of New York City (1918), "Carcharodon carcharias (Linn.) White Shark. "Man-eater." Accidental in summer. June to July 14, 1916."

Cultural impact


While sharks had been seen as harmless, the pendulum of public opinion quickly swung to the other extreme, and sharks quickly came to be viewed not only as eating machines, but also as fearless, ruthless killers.

After the first attack, newspaper cartoonists
Editorial cartoon
An editorial cartoon, also known as a political cartoon, is an illustration containing a commentary that usually relates to current events or personalities....

 began using sharks as caricature
Caricature
A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.Caricatures can be...

s for political figures, German U-boats, Victorian morality
Victorian morality
Victorian morality is a distillation of the moral views of people living at the time of Queen Victoria's reign and of the moral climate of the United Kingdom throughout the 19th century in general, which contrasted greatly with the morality of the previous Georgian period...

 and fashion
Victorian fashion
Victorian fashion comprises the various fashions and trends in British culture that emerged and grew in province throughout the Victorian era and the reign of Queen Victoria, a period which would last from June 1837 to January 1901. Covering nearly two thirds of the 19th century, the 63 year reign...

, polio, and the deadly heat wave threatening the Northeast. Fernicola notes, "Since 1916 was among the years that Americans were trying to break away from the rigidity and conservatism
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 of the Victorian period
Victorian era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...

, one comic depicted a risqué polka-dot bathing suit and advertised it as the secret weapon to keep sharks away from our swimmers." Another cartoon depicted "an exasperated individual at the end of a dock that displays a DANGER: NO SWIMMING sign and mentions the three most emphasized 'danger' topics of the day: 'Infantile Paralysis (polio), Epidemic Heat Wave, and Sharks in the Ocean'." The cartoon is entitled "What's a Family Man to Do?" With America's growing distrust of Germany
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 in 1916, cartoonists depicted U-boats with the mouth and fins of a shark assaulting Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam is a common national personification of the American government originally used during the War of 1812. He is depicted as a stern elderly man with white hair and a goatee beard...

 while he wades in the water.

In 1974, writer Peter Benchley
Peter Benchley
Peter Bradford Benchley was an American author, best known for his novel Jaws and its subsequent film adaptation, the latter co-written by Benchley and directed by Steven Spielberg...

 published Jaws
Jaws (novel)
Jaws is a 1974 novel by Peter Benchley. It tells the story of a great white shark that preys upon a small resort town, and the voyage of three men to kill it....

, a novel about a rogue great white shark that terrorizes the fictional coastal community of Amity Island. Chief of police Martin Brody, biologist Matt Hooper, and fisherman Quint hunt the shark after it kills four people. The novel was adapted as the film Jaws
Jaws (film)
Jaws is a 1975 American horror-thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. In the story, the police chief of Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a giant man-eating great white shark by closing the beach,...

 by Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
Steven Allan Spielberg KBE is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, video game designer, and studio entrepreneur. In a career of more than four decades, Spielberg's films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as an...

 in 1975. Spielberg's film makes reference to the attacks: Brody (Roy Scheider
Roy Scheider
Roy Richard Scheider was an American actor. He was best known for his leading role as police chief Martin C...

) and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss
Richard Dreyfuss
Richard Stephen Dreyfuss is an American actor best known for starring in a number of film, television, and theater roles since the late 1960s, including the films American Graffiti, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Goodbye Girl, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Stakeout, Always, What About...

) urge Amity's Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton
Murray Hamilton
Murray Hamilton was an American stage, screen, and television actor who appeared in such memorable films as The Hustler, The Graduate and Jaws.-Early life:...

) to close the beaches on the Fourth of July
Independence Day (United States)
Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain...

 after the deaths of two swimmers and a fisherman. Hooper explains to the mayor, "Look, the situation is that apparently a great white shark has staked a claim in the waters off Amity Island. And he's going to continue to feed here as long as there is food in the water." Brody adds, "And there's no limit to what he's gonna do! I mean we've already had three incidents, two people killed inside of a week. And it's gonna happen again, it happened before! The Jersey beach! ... 1916! Five people chewed up on the surf!" Richard Ellis, Richard Fernicola, and Michael Capuzzo suggest that the 1916 Jersey Shore attacks, Coppleson's rogue shark theory, and the exploits of New York fisherman Frank Mundus
Frank Mundus
Frank Mundus was a sport fisherman at Montauk, New York who is said to be the inspiration for the character Quint in the movie and book Jaws...

 inspired Benchley. The attacks are also briefly referred to in Benchley's novel White Shark (1994).

The 1916 attacks are the subject of three studies: Richard G. Fernicola's In Search of the "Jersey Man-Eater" (1987) and Twelve Days of Terror
Twelve Days of Terror
Twelve Days of Terror: A Definitive Investigation of the 1916 New Jersey Shark Attacks is a non-fiction book by Richard G. Fernicola about the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. The book was published in 2001 by Lyons Press. Fernicola offers an in-depth investigation of the shark attacks of 1916...

 (2001) and Michael Capuzzo's Close to Shore
Close to Shore
Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence is a non-fiction book by journalist Michael Capuzzo about the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. The book was published in 2001 by Broadway Books...

 (2001). Capuzzo offers an in-depth dramatization of the incident, and Fernicola examines the scientific, medical, and social aspects of the attacks. Fernicola's research is the basis of an episode of the History Channel
The History Channel
History, formerly known as The History Channel, is an American-based international satellite and cable TV channel that broadcasts a variety of reality shows and documentary programs including those of fictional and non-fictional historical content, together with speculation about the future.-...

's documentary
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

 series In Search of History titled Shark Attack 1916 (2001) and the Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel is an American satellite and cable specialty channel , founded by John Hendricks and distributed by Discovery Communications. It is a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav...

's docudrama
Docudrama
In film, television programming and staged theatre, docudrama is a documentary-style genre that features dramatized re-enactments of actual historical events. As a neologism, the term is often confused with docufiction....

 12 Days of Terror
12 Days of Terror
12 Days of Terror is a 2004 docudrama made for The Discovery Channel, directed by Jack Sholder and starring Colin Egglesfield, Mark Dexter, Jenna Harrison and John Rhys-Davies.-Plot:...

 (2004). Fernicola also wrote and directed a 90-minute documentary called Tracking the Jersey Man-Eater. It was produced by the George Marine Library in 1991; however, it was never widely released.

In 2008, Shore Thing, a short fictional film inspired by the attacks, directed by Lovari
Lovari
Lovari is a subgroup of the Romani people , who speak their own dialect, influenced by Hungarian. They live throughout Europe, in Hungary, Romania, Poland, France, Germany, Italy, Greece.-References:**...

 and James Hill was released and appeared in several U.S. film festivals. In December 2009, it received an award for Best Suspense Short at the NY International Independent Film & Video Festival.

In 2009, Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel is an American satellite and cable specialty channel , founded by John Hendricks and distributed by Discovery Communications. It is a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav...

's Shark Week
Shark Week
The Discovery Channel's Shark Week, which first aired on July 27, 1987, is a week-long series of feature television programs dedicated to sharks. Shark Week is held annually, normally running in July or August. Shark Week was developed to help the average person have a greater respect for sharks....

 had a two-hour documentary about all the attacks and the days after, titled Blood in the Water
Blood in the Water (film)
Blood in the Water is a made-for-TV movie that aired on the USA Network in 2009. It was directed by Richard Bedser. It is based on a true-life series of shark attacks that became the inspiration for Peter Benchley's novel Jaws....

.
The attacks at Matawan are the subject of the National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel, also commercially abbreviated and trademarked as Nat Geo, is a subscription television channel that airs non-fiction television programs produced by the National Geographic Society. Like History and the Discovery Channel, the channel features documentaries with factual...

 documentary Attacks of the Mystery Shark (2002), which examines the possibility that a bull shark was responsible for killing Stanley Fisher and Lester Stillwell.

In 2011, Smithsonian Channel's The Real Story: Jaws examines the series of events in detail and explores the varying perspectives.
Experimental progressive post-metal band Giant Squid based their 2005 album "Monster in the Creek" on the attacks and the cover art featured a photo of the Matawan creek.

Further reading


  • Capuzzo, Michael. "Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence". New York, N.Y. Random House Inc, 2001. ISBN 0-767-90413-1.
  • Fernicola, Richard G. In Search of the "Jersey Man-Eater": An Exhaustive Investigation of the Infamous Shark Attacks that Plagued the New Jersey Shore during the Summer of 1916. Deal, N.J.: George Marine Library, 1986.
  • Fleming, Thomas J. New Jersey: A History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1984. ISBN 0-393-30180-X.
  • Genovese, Peter. The Jersey Shore Uncovered: A Revealing Season on the Beach. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8135-3315-5.
  • Henderson, Helen. Matawan and Aberdeen: Of Town and Field. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-7385-2403-4.
  • May, Nathaniel. Shark: Stories of Life and Death from the World's Most Dangerous Waters. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2002. ISBN 1-56025-397-5.
  • Nichols, John T. Fishes of the vicinity of New York city, by John Treadwell Nichols, with an introduction by William K. Gregory. New York, Printed at the Museum, 1918. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/bibliography/1951.
  • Stansfield, Charles A., Jr. Vacationing on the Jersey Shore: The Past and Present, with a Guide to the Beach Resorts. Mechanicsburg, Penn.: Stackpole Books, 2004. ISBN 0-8117-2970-2.


External links