The New Jersey shark attacks that started it all
With the increased near-shore shark sightings this summer around the Jersey Shore it brings to mind that this is where the whole shark craze began. Peter Benchley's novel "Jaws," which later turned into a blockbuster movie and cultural phenomenon, had its origins here in New Jersey, a little over 100 years ago.
For those who don’t know the story, it was a really bad year for shark attacks in New Jersey in the summer of 1916. The first attack occurred on July 1 in Beach Haven.
A vacationer from Philadelphia was killed about 130 yards offshore by a shark. Not even a week later on July 6 a Swiss hotel waiter was attacked by a shark at Spring Lake. About 10 days later on July 16, a young boy was attacked by a shark in the Matawan creek in Matawan, near Keyport. The 11-year-old boy was swimming with friends when he was attacked by a shark.
A businessman from in town, along with others, heard about the attack. That man, Watson Stanley Fisher, went into the creek to recover the boy and was quickly attacked by the shark as well. Both he and the boy, Lester Stillwell, died from their wounds. A fifth victim, a 14-year-old boy from New York City, was bitten seriously on his leg a half hour later in the same creek but survived.
Experts to this day debate whether it was a bull shark or a great white. You have to remember this was back in 1916 before radio and TV. They were newspapers that carried the news and scared away a lot of tourists from the Jersey Shore that fateful summer.
The movie Jaws may have been set in the fictional island town of Amity, New York and filmed on Martha's Vineyard, but the whole thing started here in New Jersey.
This summer like every other in recent memory, have dozens of specials on TV about sharks. Shark Week has become a cultural phenomenon. And to think it all started from that bloody terrible summer in New Jersey 1916.
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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy only.
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