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The Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916

On July 12, 1916, three people were attacked by a shark in Matawan Creek, with two dying from their injuries.  These attacks followed previous and unprecedented shark attacks off of Spring Lake beach on July 6, and Beach Haven, in Ocean County, on July 1.  Both victims of those attacks died.  The Matawan incident was particularly shocking, as it took place 11 miles inland, in a freshwater creek, where sharks are rarely seen.  Experts at that time believed sharks simply did not exist in these waters, and that sharks were not to be feared.  Eventually, a 300-lb. bull shark (which is the only shark that can survive in salt or fresh water) was caught, and it was reported to have human remains found in its stomach, although this was not confirmed. The relationship between Americans and sharks would never be the same again.


Gambino, Megan.  (2012).  The Shark Attacks That Were the Inspiration for Jaws.  Smithsonian Magazine, August 6, 2012.  Available:

Corrections.  (2001).  The New York Times, September 8, 2001, Section A, P. 2.

Klein, Christopher.  (2016).  The Real-Life “Jaws” That Terrorized the Jersey Shore.  July 1, 2016, Updated September 1, 2018.  Available:

Donahue, Brian.  (2016).  The 1916 shark attacks: Matawan, N.J.’s 100-year struggle with a bloody legacy., June 15, 2016, Updated January 16, 2019.  Available:

3 thoughts on “The Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916”

  1. I bought my son a book on these attacks on the Jersey coast, I think it was called Close to Shore. He loves his kyack and one day came home to tell me he went out and found a pier where one of these attacks occured on the Matawan Creek. He showed me a map and how he identifed where it would be located from the book and how he got their. Hard to beleive a shark could make it’s way that far inland.

    1. It is hard to believe, and that’s one reason I believe it when Peter Benchley says these events were not the source for Jaws. If Jaws was based on these events, it would have been even scarier, because you’d still have your “get off the beach” scare from the first two attacks, but you’d also have the widespread panic of people realizing that their streams and rivers were infested with predators. Nice job to get your son interested in history AND reading! (and kayaking!) Gold Star Dad!

  2. Thank you for that!! I’ve read to all my boys since they were infants and our focus was history in general, although they did get me to read the Harry Potter series, LOL… I have a picture he sent me of the dock he took that day but I can’t load it here…

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