Sharksonline's Blog

Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916

Posted on: August 26, 2010

In 1916 of the coast of New Jersey between July 1 and July 12. There were five attacks by a shark on people and only one of the attack victims that was attack lived to tell the story. But sadly many sharks were killed for one sharks mistake. At the time of the attacks there was a deadly summer heat wave and many took to the beach or to a creek to cool off and only one shark that we know of that can live in fresh water and salt water is the bull shark. But most said it was the great white shark but at the time they had no idea that Bull sharks can live in both different waters.


The first attack occurred on Charles Epting Vansant age 25 Saturday, July 1 of 1916 at Long Beach Island off the southern coast of New Jersey. He was on vacation with his family. Before dinner Charles Vansant decided to take a quick swim in the Atlantic with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever that was playing on the beach. Shortly after going in the water Charles Vansant started shouting. But people believed he was calling to the dog. But when a lifeguard rescued him he’s left thigh was stripped of its flesh. And he bled to death on the manager’s desk of the Engleside Hotel at 6:45 p.m.

Sightings of large sharks swarming off the coast of New Jersey were reported by sea captains entering the ports of Newark and New York City 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. The victim was Charles Bruder age 27. 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 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 on the way to route to shore.

When Thomas Cottrell a sea-captain and Matawan resident spotted an 8 ft (2.44m) long shark in the creek but the town dismissed him.

The next two attacks took place in Matawan Creek near the town of Matawan on Wednesday, July 12 Around 2:00 p.m. local boys including Lester Stillwell age 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 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 age 24 came to investigate. Fisher and others dove into the creek to find Stillwell’s body and he too was 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 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 age 14 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 in New Brunswick where the Ringling brothers visited him on numerous occasions he recovered from the attack and was released September 15, 1916.

All of this info is from


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