The Shark Attacks That Were the Inspiration for Jaws

One rogue shark. Five victims. A mysterious threat. And the era of the killer great white was born

In 1916, a great white shark attacked five people near the Jersey Shore. (Library of Congress)

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The question we at the International Shark Attack File have is, how good was the report that the animal was, one, a white shark and, two, really had human remains that could be identified as those two people? Of course, we don’t have the benefit of the kinds of things we would have today, such as good photographs of that shark. We could have used photographs to confirm the species. Also, there was no coroner’s report to prove the human remains part. All we can do is believe what was said in the press at the time. The press identified it as a white shark.

Did the 1916 shark attacks inspire Peter Benchley’s Jaws?

Certainly, Benchley was aware of the 1916 stuff. As part of his book, he had done some looking back at the attacks. It was inspirational to him in terms of getting the feeling of the social terror. The first Jaws movie was a masterpiece in capturing those feelings.


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