Six decades before a fictional great white shark struck terror into the hearts of moviegoers, a series of real shark attacks at the New Jersey shore had a similar effect. While the state's beaches are usually protected by cold-water currents, which dangerous sharks tend to avoid, the warm Gulf Stream apparently shifted close to the Jersey beaches in 1916-bringing with it the deadly shark, or sharks. An excerpt from The Post of July 13, 1916:
Matawan, N.J. July 12- Lester Stillwell, 12 years old, was killed by a man-eating shark while bathing in an arm of Raritan Bay, near here, this afternoon. Stanley Fisher, 24 years old, who went to his aid, was so badly injured in the struggle with the sea monster that he died while being taken to a Long Branch hospital. Joseph Dunn, 12 years old, bathing some distance away in the same inlet, was attacked by a shark, and one of his legs was so lacerated it probably will have to be amputated.
This is the third time within two weeks that sharks have claimed the lives of bathers along the New Jersey coast. Charles E. Van Sant, a youth of Philadelphia, was killed by a shark off Beach Haven, N.J., on July 2. Charles Bruder, of Spring Lake, N.J., was attacked and both his legs taken off by a shark on July 6. He died while men who went to his rescue were carrying him ashore.
Four large sharks, believed to be of the man-eating variety, were reported seen off Asbury Park, N.J., on Monday, and on the same day a shark chased a canoe in which Everbrook Carter, nephew of Republican Nominee Charles E. Hughes, was paddling at Bridgehampton, Long Island.
A dozen or more boys, who also were bathing in the inlet, heard Stillwell's screams for help. Fisher, who was standing on the bank, went to the rescue. He had gone only a few feet when the shark attacked him, tearing a piece out of one thigh.
In spite of his wound, Fisher caught the boy up in his arm, and had started for shore, when the shark renewed the attack. Burdened as he was, Fisher was helpless, and the shark snapped off his leg. Fisher released his hold on Stillwell, and himself sank beneath the surface, unconscious.
Heedless of the danger, another boy sprang into the inlet, and dragged Fisher out. No trace of young Stillwell was found, and it is believed he was devoured by the shark.
The Dunn boy, according to persons who were standing on the bank of the inlet, also was attacked soon after going into the water. An elder brother and another boy went to his rescue. They succeeded in driving off the shark, but not until after the younger Dunn's leg had been torn almost to shreds from the knee down. He is expected to recover.