Since its original publication in the #14 issue of Weird NJ, the story of the Matawan Man-Eater has gotten quite a taste of notoriety. The story of this rogue Great White has since been the subject of a History Channel documentary, and is now the focus of two separate books that are currently on the market. WARNING: If you are planning a vacation down the Jersey Shore this summer, do NOT read the following article!
THE MATAWAN MAN-EATER: THE REAL NEW JERSEY "JAWS" OF 1916
matawan man-eater 1Nearly 60 years before Peter Benchley's novel "Jaws," a real man-eater lurked the waters of the New Jersey coast. It was July 11th, 1916, and in Beach Haven the tourist season was in full swing. The beaches were filled with sunbathers and the ocean with swimmers. Everything seemed like just another hot July day. But this day would be different from any other. A young Penn graduate named Charles E. Vansant, a resident of Beach Haven, died after having been attacked by a shark while out swimming. A lifeguard pulled him in and tried to stop the profuse bleeding, but Charles could not be saved. Scientists of the area wrote this off as a singular freak occurrence. They could not have been more wrong.
Five days later the shark would strike again, 45 miles to the north, near the Essex and Sussex Hotel in Spring Lake. Bellboy Charles Bruder would become the second fatality. He was swimming out beyond friends when he was heard screaming "A shark bit me! Bit my legs off!" These are the last words Charles would ever utter. Mesh barriers went up almost immediately around swimming areas. Still, it was too late to save the rest of the tourist season. What would happen next would elevate the panic to a new level.
Thirty miles farther north, residents of Matawan, a small town 11 miles inland from the open ocean, naturally felt that they were safe from attacks. Swimmers here were confined to the Matawan creek, a narrow tidal creek that wound its way to the bay. A retired fishing boat captain, Thomas Cattrell, was walking home after a successful day of fishing. When he crossed over Matawan's new trolley drawbridge he noticed something that seemed almost impossible: a huge shark was heading up the inland waterway. He couldn't believe his eyes, but confidant that what he saw was very real, Cattrell ran into Matawan to warn everyone.READ MORE HERE