Thursday, June 28, 2018
Ep. 264 - Haunted Asbury Park
Moment in Oddity - Napoleon Attacked by Bunnies
In July of 1807, Napoleon decided he wanted to celebrate the signing of the Treaties of Tilsit with a rabbit hunt. The treaty ended the war between the French Empire and Imperial Russia. The job of organizing the hunt fell to his Chief of Staff Alexandre Berthier. Berthier collected a group of hundreds of rabbits and invited the military's biggest brass to an outdoor luncheon followed by the hunt. The rabbits were kept in cages along the grassy field. When Napoleon announced that he was ready to begin the hunt, the bunnies were released. The hunt was on! But it wasn't on for Napoleon and his band of merry military men. It was on for the rabbits. Rather than fleeing for their lives, that pack of bunnies turned on their aggressors. The main target was the Emperor himself. The pack of bunnies swarmed his legs and started to climb up his jacket. The little furballs started attacking other members of the party and despite the mens' best efforts to beat back the demonic bunny horde with crops, sticks and muskets, the attack would not stop. Retreat was called and Napoleon ran to the safety of his carriage. The rabbits continued after him and started to breach the carriage. This called for a full on retreat. Napoleon's carriage pulled away and the bunny attack stopped. Apparently, the issue was that Berthier had bought farm rabbits rather than capturing wild ones and these tamer bunnies associated people with food instead of danger. The idea that Napoleon may have faced his greatest defeat resulting in retreat, from a group of bunnies, certainly is odd!
This Month in History - Jacques Cousteau is Born
In the month of June, on the 11th, in 1910, undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau was born in France. He graduated from France’s naval academy in 1933 and was commissioned a second lieutenant. Cousteau served in World War II as a gunnery officer and later joined the French Resistance where he did espionage work, which eventually saw him awarded the Legion of Honour for his espionage work. He began conducting experiments with underwater filmmaking during WWII. He loved the ocean and underwater diving. In 1943, Cousteau and French engineer Émile Gagnan developed the first fully automatic compressed-air Aqua-Lung, which was a scuba apparatus. Cousteau also helped to invent underwater cameras and the diving saucer, which was an easily maneuverable small submarine for seafloor exploration. He is best known for his Emmy Award winning television series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, which premiered in the U.S. in 1968. He died in 1997 from a heart attack.
Asbury Park (Suggested by and Research Help: Melissa Edwards)
In honor of Pride Month, listener Melissa Edwards suggested featuring Asbury Park in New Jersey. This is a hot spot for the LGBTQ community and is one of the smaller cities located on the Jersey Shore. This beach is ranked the sixth best beach in New Jersey and began attracting the gay community in the 1950s. In 1999, a gay discotheque called the Paradise Nightclub, opened near the beach and The Empress Hotel, which opened in the 1960s, is New Jersey's only gay-oriented hotel! The music scene in Asbury Park is thriving and a place that has launched the careers of rockers like Bruce Springsteen. There is a paranormal underbelly here though, with a history of tragedies and spirits stuck in place. Join me and Melissa as we share the history and hauntings of New Jersey's Asbury Park.
New York brush manufacturer James A. Bradley developed the Asbury Park area in 1871 and the city was named for Francis Asbury, the first American bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. Bradley paid $90,000 for the property. The development of the town was progressive for the time. Electrical lighting, rather than gas, was installed by the Atlantic Coast Electric Company. There were trolley systems, an artesian well and pavilions along a boardwalk. The setting was perfect for tourism and people flocked to the shore area. More than 600,000 people vacationed there every year arriving via the New York and Long Branch Railroad from New York City and Philadelphia. One of the things that tourists got to enjoy were Steeplechase amusements that were built in 1880 by Coney Island impresario George C. Tilyou (Tilly you). One of the remnants of this bygone era is the Tillie face, which is a somewhat creepy iconic image. *Rabbit Hole* Tillie is a large male face with a really broad smile and black period-styled hair. He is the mascot of Asbury Park. His origins can be traced back to Coney Island and is said to be based on George's brother Edward. No one knows for sure if the face is suppose to represent a leering sexual face or just a fun smile. Leslie Worth Thomas was the artist who painted the original Tillie in Asbury Park. The Palace Merry-Go-Round was installed by Ernest Schnitzler at the corner of Lake Avenue and Kingsley Street in 1888 and other attractions were added through the years. This all became known as Palace Attractions.
The Convention Hall and Casino building was built in 1929 in the Beau Arts style by architect Warren Whitney of New York and drew visitors for shopping, gambling, movies, theater, and concerts. And the concerts that were held here featured an array of jazz and blues and rock entertainment from John Philip Sousa and Arthur Pryor in the early days to Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny, The Clash and The Ramones in the modern era. This wasn't the only place music was making history. There were clubs all along Springwood Avenue on the city’s Westside and this is where Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and Billie Holiday performed.
Not all of Asbury Parks history is flashy fun and great music. Disaster would come with the wreck of the ocean liner SS Morro Castle on September 8, 1934. The fiery wreck beached itself just yards away from the Asbury Park Convention Hall. As hard as it is to believe, the city turned the wreck into a tourist attraction. The SS Morro Castle was a luxury cruise ship named for the Morro Castle fortress at Havana Bay. The ship launched in 1930 and it would not sail for for very long. On the night of September 7, 1934, the captain of the Morro Castle, Robert Willmott, had dinner in his cabon, complained of stomach problems and died of what appeared to be a heart attack. In the early hours of the next morning, a fire was detected in a storage locker within the First Class Writing Room on B Deck. The fire was strong and had the entire ship engulfed in 30 minutes. A single SOS signal made it out before the wires were burned through and the wheelhouse lost the ability to steer the ship shortly after that. Passengers and crew abandoned ship when the only choice was to jump or burn. Only six of the ship’s twelve lifeboats were launched. The lifeboats could hold a total of 408, but only 85 passengers made it into them. Many people died from impacting the water as they jumped. The abandoned Morro Castle drifted ashore and stopped in shallow water off Asbury Park.
The fire had burned the hull out and continued to smolder for two days. The ship was declared a loss and 135 passengers and crew had lost their lives. While the ship sat waiting to be scrapped, it became a tourist destination. They even sold stamped penny souvenirs and postcards. An inquiry followed the disaster and Chief Radio Operator George White Rogers was declared a hero for sending out a distress signal even though he had no order to do so and his life was in danger. Later, however, Rogers came under suspicion for having started the fire. This happened when he came under suspicion of having tried to kill a police colleague with an incendiary device. His crippled victim, Vincent ‘Bud’ Doyle, spent the better part of his life attempting to prove that Rogers had set the Morro Castle fire as well. Rogers was later convicted of killing some neighbors for money and he died in jail. The cause of the Morro Castle fire was never determined.
From Melissa: "I can say the word TITANIC and mostly if not everyone will immediately know what I am talking about, even it is just a scene of Jack and Rose on the bow of ship but very few people will have any clue what I am talking about when say the name Morro Castle. The SS Morro Castle is the Titanic of the Jersey shore that came ashore in Asbury Park as a towering inferno on September 7, 1934. The SS Morro Castle is just not your run of the mill shore shipwreck, it is an intriguing story of murder, arson, rum running, cowardice, heroism and possible psychopath thrown in for good measure.
In 1934 The USA was in the throws of the Great Depression and Prohibition was still in full effect. Rest and relaxation was not at the top of anyone’s list, nevertheless, the Asbury Park was still an obtainable haven for those looking for a brief escape. For those that were better off there were opportunities for a more luxurious escape. As mentioned previously Prohibition was still effect, however, there was a loophole and those with the financial means would take advantage of this would be to board a luxury passenger liner like the SS MORRO CASTLE and take advantage of freedoms that international waters provided just a few miles offshore.
In 1934, the SS MORRO CASTLE was a 4-year-old luxury passenger liner that would shuttle the elite from New York to Havana Cuba. With lessons learned from the Titanic disaster that occurred a mere 22 years earlier safety was paramount in the construction of this ship. The Morro Castle was not only practically sink proof but all fire proof. On September 7, 1934 she, her 538 passengers, and their return cargo of tanned and treated animal hides were approaching their final destination on their return from such a junket. As was customary on the last night prior to docking in their homeport, there would be a grand party for all those aboard, on last hurrah before returning to everyday life.
How could a state of the art 4 year old ship could burn barely six miles off shore, it actually has to do with a lawsuit. Just a year to prior to the ship’s demise, during a routine fire drill, water leaked from a fire hydrant. A passenger slipped on the water, injured her ankle, and was awarded a settlement of $25,000.00. During this time the yearly salary for a dentist was $1000, this left the ship line in quiet a predicament. No one knows if the Captain or the ship line that gave the order, but from that point on there were no more fire drills or lifeboat drills aboard the Morro Castle. As mentioned previously there was a cargo of treated leather hides aboard that gave off a foul odor that would trigger the fire alarms and the air ventilation systems would circulate the smell, since passengers complained therefore the fire detection system on the ship was shut off.
Much like a modern day cruise, passengers would don their finest for the Captain’s that evening, however prior to the commencement of the evening’s events the beloved Captain Robert R. Willmott, was found dead from an apparent heart attack in his cabin. I have actually heard his cause of death was listed as “indigestion,” which at that time was one of the catch all phrases for a death of an unknown origin. Due to this the events for the night were cancelled and guests retired to their cabins for the evening.
It is said that upon his death the captain’s body was placed in a refrigeration unit, however, when the wreck of the Morro Castle was cleared and the Captain’s remains were brought ashore they were located in a different area and all that was left could be contained within a small box the size of a suit case. Speculation surrounded circulated that the Captain’s body may have been moved or tampered with in an attempt to cover a potential murder or poisoning. Due to the nature of the Captain’s remains an official autopsy could never be conducted so we will never really have an answer to the actual cause of death.
Chief Officer William Warms became the acting captain for the remaining length of voyage. It is said that William Warms did the best he could given the circumstance. As if the recent events were not enough a full-blown gale or what we would now refer to has a nor ‘ester or tropical storm began to pick up. Thus, making the task of guiding the Morro Castle to port even more daunting for Barnes.
This tragedy is truly incident after incident of bad luck or Murphy’s Law. The Morro Castle’s cabins and most of the interior was built entirely of wood, picture the same style as the Titanic, with would deck floors, wood paneled walls and décor. We think about it today and it doesn’t seem to make any sense but it is because incidents like the Morro Castle tragedy we have learned.
It was also customary at the time for the crewmembers to constantly paint the ship’s hulls and decks. They would start at the bow and go to the stern and work their way back at fourth. They used paints that were oil based. In the sun the paints would sometimes melt or soften due to the heat we can kind of see where this is going. In the late night / early in the morning on September 8th, William Warms was alerted that a fire had broken out in a hidden storage area in the library of the ship. Not knowing the actual extent of the fire due to the location and the lack of training the crew received Warms sent a small staff to deal with the fire the lack of sufficient response would ultimately prove to be fatal. Due to the construction of the ship and the presence of many different accelerants the fire ripped through the ship, leaving the staff with little more choice than to run through what parts of the ship they could access, yelling for passengers to put on their life jackets and make their way to the deck. Many passengers were dead before they were even made aware of the fire as they were trapped below decks or overcome by heat and fumes.
Here is where things take another bizarre turn. Chief Engineer Ebon Abbott, became the right hand man of the now captain William Warms. Minutes into the rescue effort he was observed hoping aboard a life bottom and ordering it lowered with only 8 other passengers aboard. He would later be prosecuted and jailed for his actions.
Now William Warms was left to depend on Chief Radio Officer George Rogers as their only hope for assistance and rescue. These radio officers were outsourced at the time and the background checks where not done the way they are now a days. George Rogers had an extremely questionable past included incidents of pyromania, assault, and severe anti social behavior. Despite hi talents as a radio operating crew claimed that Rogers was difficult to work with and would fight regularly with coworkers. It is thought that George has been given noticed that this would be his last voyage when he docked due to his inability to work well with others. This decision would have been that of Captain Willmott, therefore leading many to believe that perhaps his death was not an accident and the incidents that surrounded the Morro Castle Disaster was not just an ill fated series of unfortunate events but rather a cold and calculate mass murder.
George Rogers was given the order to issue an SOS on behalf of the ship. Rogers waited an entire 38 minutes before sending out the plea. This would prove to the death sentence for the Morro Castle. You can look at pictures of the wreck and get a sense of actually how hot and intense the fire was. It twisted metal and the decks. The paint was completely burnt away and even the glass that provided the porthole windows melted in the blaze. The heat from the blaze warped the deck cross beams emitting a haunting moaning sound that would come to haunt the area until this day.
Staff and crew members worked tirelessly to fight the blaze in an attempt to save the ship and its crew while they waited for assistance that was mortally delayed by George Roger. Crew members would pass hoses from one deck to another to try and quell the flames. However it would all be in vain, because once the fires reached the engine room, the engine ceased to operate. As a result the ship lost its ability to pump water and its ability to fight the fire. As mentioned earlier there was a nor ‘ester that was coming at the ship from the north and for whatever the now Captain Warms continued to steer the ship directing into the storm and gale force winds. This only fueled the blaze. Some say that the Captain was still trying to make port in New York on time; others still remained puzzled to this day. The temperatures onboard the deck of the ship became so hot that it was melting the soles on the shoes of the crew and passengers leaving those onboard with very little option other than to jump from the ship and swim towards shore.
Due to the ongoing storm authorities struggled to send out rescue boats, local fisherman took it upon themselves to make their way to the struggle vessel and ended up saving more lives than official could. A local family, the Bogan’s, (I went to school with a Bogan who was a member of this family) who still have a marina in Brielle voluntarily went out and saved 67 people in their boat the Paramount. These actions were what responsible for saving most of the passengers the lifeboats that came ashore where launched either half full or chock full of crew members, in shame many crew members tried to mask their identify but their white and black clothing gave them away.
The wreckage trail for the Morro Castle stems from Spring Lake about 6 miles away to its final beaching area in Asbury Park. Original salvage efforts were made by attempting to tow the Morro Castle to New York. These efforts failed when the tow lined snapped cause the ship to drift to its final resting place in Asbury Park beached right outside of Convention Hall.
The bodies and the victims started washing up along the shore. While the crew that escaped were labeled as cowards as they came ashore. The crew that stayed aboard including George Rogers were hailed as heroes.
Despite it being the end of the tourist season, 100s of thousands of people came to Asbury Park to see this burring ship. Bodies were laid out in the convention center as a makeshift morgue. People would pay to come in a view the bodies as they waited to be identified. The city tried to cut a deal with the ship owners to keep the ship at the shore because it was great for business. However, as the cargo of hides in the hull began to rot it was decided to have it removed because the stench was simply overwhelming. The loss of the SS Morro Castle and those that perished was not in vain. Due to this tragedy the law was changed that in a disaster an SOS had to be sent out immediately. Guidelines were also put into place limiting the amount of wood and flammable materials including oil based paints that could be used on ships. Mandatory fire drill and lifeboat drills were also introduced.
As the dust and fanfare settled authorities searched for answers and suspicions immediately fell on George Rogers. Despite his checkered past and his failures through the ordeal, his role in the death of the Captain and the fire were never proven. Rogers used his role in the Morro Castle incident to further his career. He was hired by the Bayonne Police department to help set up their wireless communication systems between headquarters and their patrol vehicles. He then had a problem there where he was not getting along with members of the force. His supervisors found him odd and when questioned about his role and involvement in the disaster would often give replies and statements that were synonymous with that of an arsonist who may have set the blaze. It was said that George may have felt that he said too much and he ended up rigging a heating element to his supervisor’s fish tank to explode when it was plugged in. As a result the police supervisor broke his leg, lost part of his arm and received other injuries. George Rogers was charged with attempted murder and was jailed for his actions. When he was released George got in an argument with his neighbor over money that the neighbor had lent George. Instead of paying the neighbor back George decided it was easier to bludgeon the neighbor and his daughter to death. George Roger was sentenced to prison where he died taking his answers and insight with him. The mystery of the Morro Castle may never be solved, therefore making it one of the Jersey Shore’s most infamous shipwrecks.
I have heard many tales of people experiencing different types of paranormal activity in this area. There is even a local paranormal store that runs regular ghost tours of the area. I myself have several experiences in several different locations in the town but one of the striking really didn’t hit home until much later. This was before I really knew anything about the Morro Castle. I look back on it now and it was probably a stupid idea but one night in the summer my friends and I went down to the beach to watch an epic summer lightning storm. We started out sitting in the care and we got braver and ventured out to the sand. It was intensely hot, there was that weird stillness and electricity to the air that often accompanies these time of heat/electric storms. We watched as there were those flashes of lightening that turn the sky purple and for a brief second make it look like noon time. After a few of these, I began to smell the scent of smoke. I asked one of my friends if they smelled it. It didn’t smell like cigarette or cigar smoke and the area of the beach that we were on was further away from bars and crowd area. My friend said maybe it was a grill or bonfire. I shrugged it off as the storm began to intensify we made our way back to the car. I kept looking over my shoulder at the balcony area of Convention Hall that juts out of the water and kept seeing these strange shapes my mind almost like when you see shapes in the clouds, kept trying to make logical sense of what I was seeing because I was not even sure of what I was seeing. I kept trying to tell myself it was a large bird or a flag or kite or something from a concert attached to a wire blowing it the wind and water. I didn’t think of it too much after that.
It wasn’t until many years later when I was visiting the boardwalk with my adoptive Family Peter and Ginny. When they were dating they would take summer trips to the boardwalk and thought it would be special to bring them down there again. Peter has a gift to tell stories and I enjoyed hearing him tell stories of the shops and rides as they were in the 30s and 40s when he was child. We walked down to Convention Hall stopping by the monument that now stands commemorating the Morro Castle disaster. Peter starts to tell us the story of how he came to see the ship when it was still burning explaining how it was mere feet from the shore. He watched as they attached cables from the balcony area of the convention hall to the ship to secure the ship in place and shuttle fireman and crew people to and from the ship. As he continued his story my jaw fell further rand further to the floor. He mentioned that smoke was still billowing for days and that is all you could smell up and down the boardwalk and far inland. He said that the people would swing from these pulley chairs like a kite stuck in the wind. Just like that I got this cold chill that ran down my spine and instantly all the experience from those years ago came back and hit me like a ton of bricks. In a few seconds Peter was able to make sense of one of the strangest experience of my life. I am convinced that the smells and shadows I saw that day were shadows of the Morro Castle Disaster.
Science tells us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. I believe that with an area like Asbury Park, one that has seen and hosted so much, it would only be likely that the energy of past events has been absorbed into the foundation of the area and show themselves on occasions when the time and atmosphere are right."
Palace Amusements closed in 1988 and it was demolished in 2004. Much of the town fell into disrepair. Asbury Park has been reinvigorated in recent times, but there are many remnants from the past still here and it would seem that there are spirits from the past still here as well. We will look at several locations.
The Stephen Crane House
The Stephen Crane House belonged to the author who wrote “The Red Badge of Courage” and is located at 508 Fourth Avenue. Something people may not know is that he also wrote an article called “Ghosts on the New Jersey Coast” for the New York Press in 1894. This story was inspired by his experiences at Asbury Park and features a tale of the ghosts of two lovers on a beach in Deal, an angry Revolutionary War-era Brit looking to kill fishermen on Long Beach and an elderly laughing woman in Barnegat Light. Crane was born on Mulberry Place in Newark in 1871. He came to Asbury Park with his family when he was twelve and his father died shortly thereafter in 1880. In 1883, his mother would move them all into a home called "Arbutus Cottage." It was a wooden framed home and took its name from the little blue flower groundcover known commonly as mayflower.
Crane went off to school, but he spent every summer since he was a teenager gathering news stories in and around Asbury Park for his brother’s news service. He left Asbury Park in the summer of 1892 for a bohemian life in New York City, after he wrote his first novel, “Maggie, a Girl of the Streets”, a dozen short stories, called “The Sullivan County Tales”, and scores of newspaper articles. He returned to the family house and Asbury Park in 1896, but eventually left to write for several news syndicates, covering the Greco Turkish War, and then the Spanish American War. He died of tuberculosis on June 5, 1900. He was only 28 years old. Arbutus Cottage remained in the Crane family until 1899 when it was sold to a man from Newark. The home has seen several owners and incarnations, from private home to boarding house. Through the 50s, 60s and 70s, Archie and Florence McCorkindale owned the house and named it “The Florence.” It fell into disrepair after that time and was set to be demolished in 1995. Tom and Regina Hayes saved it when they bought it for $7,500. They restored the house and turned it into a museum.
The house is reputed to be haunted and TV’s Ghost Hunters even investigated the location for one of their episodes. Grant and Jason recorded what sounded like disembodied singing during their 2010 visit. People who have visited the house claim to see full-bodied apparitions and to hear ghostly voices, mostly of children laughing or crying. There are also claims that a poltergeist is here and it has been known to hit visitors on the head with fireplace tools. A legend claims that a woman lived in the house alone and allegedly went mad in the dilapidated home. People said that the spirits made her go crazy. When she was moved out, people found that every available inch of wall space was covered with angry writings and phone numbers of politicians. It is in this room that a disembodied voice has been heard saying "hello" more than once. Kathy Kelly wrote, "Asbury Park's Ghosts and Legends" and she describes experiences from a ghost hunt as, "The third story of the house, currently unfinished and uninsulated attic storage space, had actually been used as some rather sad living quarters for later residents of the faded "hotel"—and rumors have long circulated of deaths that have occurred up there. One of the most often told stories of the Crane House is of a ghostly woman who has been seen gazing from the window of the attic 'tower'."
The carriage house is also said to be haunted. Workmen tell stories of feeling threatened by mysterious falling objects while working in there. A visitor claimed to see a full-bodied apparition brandishing a gun once. Doors have mysteriously opened and closed on their own in both houses and are found to be either locked or unlocked without anybody remembering having done either to the doors. Chairs scrape across floors in the middle of the night, pictures fall off walls and a cat that has lived in the house has been intrigued by an antique closet door that's creaked open when she stopped and stared at it.
Melissa shares some haunting experiences people have had here.
Paramount Theater and Convention Hall
The Paramount Theater and Convention Hall has its own ghost described as an African-American naval officer who hangs out on the boardwalk right outside. Kelly claims that, “I’ve had three different people, three different times of year, come in an describe the same thing. He glided through the crowd and nobody seemed to notice him and nobody looked his way.”
Synaxis is a restaurant located at 660 Cookman Ave. This location was the scene of the disappearance of a young girl in 1910. Ever since that happened, strange things have been reported at this spot, even after becoming the restaurant. Asbury Park police officers had viewed the figure of a young girl in the windows of Synaxis long after the eatery had closed for the night. Police found the building to be empty. Employees who worked in the joint when it was known as Harry’s Roadhouse recalled apparitions prowling in the liquor cabinet. Melissa shares her own personal experiences. One former bartender said she witnessed a small girl weakly voicing her desire to go home. After fainting, the bartender awoke to find only her boss in the building. The structure was once a boarding house that likely served as a hideout for the killer and the young girl during her final hours and that may be why she is haunting this location.
Interesting Historical Event with Shark Attacks on Jersey Shore
Between July 1 and July 12, 1916, during once of the hottest summer’s on record for the time, five people were attacked along the coast of New Jersey by sharks. The first major attack occurred on Saturday, July 1 at Beach Haven, a resort town established on Long Beach Island off the southern coast of New Jersey. It was there that Philadelphian vacationer Charles Vansant, was fatally mauled while swimming. Fellow beachgoers originally believed that he was calling for his dog but lifeguards would soon discover that Vansant had has his thigh torn off. He died soon thereafter at a local hotel. Despite the tragedy the public remained virtually unaware of the incident and no efforts were taken to warn or protect the public despite countless reports from sea captains of large sharks spotted off the surrounding coasts.
Five days later, on July 6, 28-year-old Charles Bruder, who worked as a bellhop for the local Essex and Sussex Hotel was attacked while swimming in Spring Lake and died in the lifeboat as he was rowed to shore. His legs had been bitten off. It was still believed at this time that sharks were not dangerous and suggestions were made that giant sea turtles and killer whales were to blame. Experts at the time remained skeptical that another attack could take place, and due to concerns for local business and the tourism dollars that could be lost if there was mass hysteria did very little to discourage bathers.
Four days later two more deaths would take place 30 miles north of the second attack in an area known as Matawan. 11 year old Lester Stillwell was swimming with his friends off a steamboat dock; in a brackish creek about 8 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, when he disappeared. His friends ran from the water to get help. Stillwell suffered from epilepsy, it was originally assumed that he suffered an attack. So townspeople rushed to the water’s edge and began a search. 24 year old Stanley Fisher, was one such person who dove in and located little Lester’s body at the bottom of the creek. As Fisher attempted to bring Lester’s body to the surface, he too was attacked. Stanley Fisher was rushed via train to Monmouth Memorial Hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries.
However, the tragedy of the day did not end there. Less than 30 minutes later, 12 year old Joseph Dunn was swimming off of Wycoff dock when he too was attacked. Joseph was pulled from the jaws of the shark by his older brother and a friend, Dunn was rushed to a hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey where he recovered. Dunn is the only survivor of these 12 days of terror on the Jersey Shore.
These final incidents spurred a massive shore wide shark hunt, beach waters were roped and caged off in efforts to protect the swimmers. A $100 reward was offered to the fisherman who landed the “man eating shark.” Locals took to the waters with boats, poles, shotguns, and even dynamite in an attempt to reclaim the beaches. During this time several large sharks were landed, and even some that authorities claimed contained human remains in their stomach contents. Although there is no concrete evidence to support that the shark guilty for the five deaths was ever actually caught.
Popular belief at the time was that the Great White Shark, was guilty for the deaths, these assumptions have gone on to spur the public’s obsession with the dubbed man eater, even going on to influence movies such as the 1975 blockbuster film JAWS. It is now believed that the shark was more likely a bull shark due to its ability to survive in ocean and brackish waters. However the public’s obsession has never waned.
Melissa said, "I have always considered myself a history buff first and foremost. I appreciate the art of storytelling but get the most enjoyment out of a story if it is true. I consider myself lucky to have grown up in an extremely historic area on the Jersey Shore, I am proud of my hometown and take any chance to let inquiring minds know that we are more than just Bruce Springsteen and nightclubs. We have a history stemming back to the prerevolutionary eras, even prehistoric with which fossil deposits all over. I also consider myself an extremely spiritual person and find myself to have empathic tendencies and am sensitive to feelings and energies around me. The story and my experience that I want to recant has personal and sentimental importance to me. It was one of those situations whose importance and reality didn’t really hit me entirely until much later."
Asbury Park has some great stories and history. Have tragic events at the Jersey Shore location led to hauntings? Is Asbury Park haunted? That is for you to decide!