Site of the New Jersey Shark Attacks of 1916 – Matawan, New Jersey - Atlas Obscura

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Site of the New Jersey Shark Attacks of 1916

The creek where a shark wreaked terror upon New Jersey, and served as the inspiration for "Jaws." 


In July of 1916, New Jersey became the site of a series of vicious shark attacks that would span 12 days and take the lives of four people and severely injuring one.

With previous deadly attacks in Beach Haven and Spring Lake, New Jersey, the shark made its way north and down a freshwater creek in Matawan, New Jersey on July 12, where it would attack and kill 12-year-old Lester Stillwell and 24-year-old Stanley Fisher within an hour of each other. Matawan hadn’t prepared itself for attacks like other shoreline towns in New Jersey, as they were so far inland along a freshwater creek. 

The suspected man-eater would be caught two days later in the nearby Raritan Bay. To be sure it was the killer, the over 300-pound monster was dissected, and 15 pounds of human remains were found in its stomach.

It has been determined that the shark was a bull shark, the only shark that can survive in both fresh and saltwater. The incident was a heavy inspiration for Peter Benchley, who would write his 1974 novel Jaws set on Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod in the fictional town of Amity.

Know Before You Go

While it's unclear if it's a permanent addition, the site of the shark attack is currently marked by a painted shark.

The town of Matawan also has two separate memorials to the victims. One is located in Memorial Park just off Broad Street (40.4185911,-74.2269617), and the other at the end of Dock Street (40.4228532,-74.2228817).

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