The Shore Shark

Every summer I lifeguard down on the Jersey shore in this town called Beach Haven and there’s this legend on the beach I lifeguard on called Pearl Street about the shark in a series of shark attacks that occurred I believe in the summer of 1916.  So, it is said that an off-duty volunteer lifeguard at the time was enjoying the beach at dusk and wanted to watch the sunset. He had his dog with him maybe it was a poodle or a labrador…I don’t know what it was specifically. But he saw something flashing in the water and with his lifeguard instincts he of course assumed it was a victim in need of rescue. So he bolted into the water, swam out to the victim, and his dog ran into the water and chased after him until he got to the spot where he saw someone drowning… except there was nothing there. There was just crashing waves and some white water. He started to make his way in until he was stopped by a shark bite to his lower abdomen. His dog started barking ferociously and the lifeguard was screaming, still trying to make his way onto the beach. A couple of beach patrons ran into the water to assist the man who was bleeding profusely at this point, and they brought him onto the beach and dragged him to the closest motel… where he died on the front desk. His blood spilt down the desk, staining the hardwood floors. His soul supposedly haunts room 714, which was the date of this attack. And rumor has it the shark continued to some towns north from here, taking a few victims along way. And a popular book was written about this specific shark… called ‘Jaws.

N has spent his summers in Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey since he was born. The tiny town was established in the late 19th century and holds incredibly rich and often, dark history in the original structures that still stand. Many Victorian buildings still exist, which gives the beach town a unique flair. A popular pastime of teenagers on the island is to bike ride at night to the various, rumored-to-be-haunted locations and scare each other. Thus, the telling of ghost stories is prevalent in the childhoods of the children who grew up on the island. N learned this specific story from the lifeguard who passed down the torch to him on the Pearl Street lifeguard stand. This story is special because N himself is a lifeguard, and often while on duty he stares out into the ocean and considers what is lurking underneath the water.

Everyone knows the movie “Jaws,” so first it is interesting to me to hear the origin story of the shark, and it makes it even more interesting that I have a personal connection to it, knowing someone who swims in those exact waters. I definitely think the story has been stretched out and exaggerated a lot— especially the part about the lifeguard dramatically bleeding out onto a motel’s hardwood floor—by teenagers attempting to see who can scare each other the most. But I think it is interesting to try to pinpoint the exaggerated parts of an already-scary story that was attempted to make scarier because someone didn’t consider scary enough to begin with.