100 years later, locals recall terror of deadly Jersey Shore shark attacks

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ABC'S Nora Muchanic has the story. (WPVI)

It was 100 years ago that the Jersey Shore was in a panic, terrorized by sharks that killed four people in 12 days.

It started on Long Beach Island on July 1, 1916, in the water just off the former Engleside Inn in Beach Haven.

Twenty-five-year-old Charles Vansant, of Philadelphia, was swimming with his dog when he was attacked.

"Folks on the beach managed to get him out of the water," said Jim Vogel, of the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History. "They carried him back to the reception desk of the Engleside hotel where, unfortunately, he bled out."

Five days later, 27-year-old Charles Bruder was killed in the water off Spring Lake. Then on July 12 in Matawan, terror struck again.

That's when 11-year-old Lester Stillwell was attacked while swimming in a creek with friends. While searching for the boy's remains, local businessman Stanley Fisher was mauled by a shark and died. Another boy was also attacked near Matawan, but survived.

"Four fatalities, five attacks in a 12-day period created such an atmosphere of fear and paranoia," the museum's Deb Whitcraft said.

The shark attacks made headlines around the world and inspired several books, which many believe led to America's fascination and fear of the man-eating creatures depicted in movies like the unforgettable "Jaws."

"They always put fear in people's minds because they're an eating machine," the museum's Mike Egolf said.

As you can imagine, the shark attacks caused swimmers to panic, and some towns even built metal cages around swimming areas to keep bathers safe.

"I try not to live my life in fear, but I am aware that there are sharks," Old Bridge resident Dana Sopko said.

We know much more about sharks now than they did in 1916, but a century later, the fear of the creatures has not subsided.
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