1 Jul: When Sharks ATTACK!

The real-life ‘Shark Week’ that inspired Peter Benchley’s novel Jaws kicked off with the shocking mauling of 23 year-old Charles Vansant off the coast of Beach Haven on 1st July, 1916. 

At first, the public refused to believe that a shark could be responsible.But five days later, another attack occurred at Spring Lake, claiming the life of Swissman Charles Bruder, whose legs were completely severed. 

The spate of shark attacks that followed this became known as ‘12 Days of Terror’, capturing national attention, and leading President Woodrow Wilson to authorise federal aid to ‘drive away’ the sharks from New Jersey. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly unpick the early hypotheses, from killer whales to sea turtles; explain why so many beachgoers couldn’t swim; and consider how one shark ended up in the hands of a Barnum & Bailey lion tamer… 

CONTENT WARNING: gore, description of death by shark attack

Further Reading:

• ‘The Real-Life ‘Jaws’ That Terrorized the Jersey Shore’ (HISTORY, ): https://www.history.com/news/the-real-life-jaws-that-terrorized-the-jersey-shore

• ‘Spielberg tells of guilt over harm hit film Jaws may have done to sharks’ (The Guardian, 2022): https://www.theguardian.com/film/2022/dec/18/steven-spielberg-tells-of-guilt-jaws-film-sharks

• ’SHARK ATTACK Caught on Camera!’ (Discovery, 2023):