How America's First Shark Panic Spurred a Century of Fear
In the twilight of July 1, 1916, 25-year-old Charles Vansant bled to death in a beachfront hotel in New Jersey. Several men had pulled his maimed body from the water.
Five days later, bellhop Charles Bruder, 27, was killed during an afternoon swim along the Jersey Shore. Beachgoers gathered around his legless remains.
The following week, 10-year-old Lester Stilwell was swimming in Matawan Creek (also in New Jersey) with his friends when he was eaten alive. Naked and covered in mud, the terrified boys ran down Main Street screaming that there was a shark in the water.
But people were skeptical. They thought Stilwell, who was epileptic, had drowned. Some had been dismissive of the newspaper reports that said sharks had killed swimmers