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1926 New Jersey "Shark Attack".

It is a widely held belief that there is one other fatal Shark attack that took place in New Jersey other than the ones that occurred in 1916. This "attack" apparently occurred on August 24, 1926 in Seaside Heights New Jersey. The victim was an 18 year old Trenton man named Charles Burke. It was even asserted in the 2008 Docu Drama "Blood in the Water" that such an attack did in fact occur. However after extensive research, I am pretty certain that this "Shark Attack" was nothing more then a drowning.

First we take a look at the entry from the Global Shark Attack File on the incident. We can see that the source for the attack is a Washington Post article. That article has also been posted below (Courtesy of Marie Levine GSAF)

Sounds pretty convincing, right?

Using the date of Death, I was able to find Charles Burke's Death Certificate in the New Jersey state archives. What immediately struck me was that is listed his death as "Accidential drowning. Bathing in Ocean". It does not mention anything about a Shark Attack.

What I also found interesting was that the story also did not appear in any local papers. I figured a fatal Shark attack in New Jersey would have been front page headlines. I was determined to find a paper other than the Washington post that reported on this incedent. Even if it was a simple drowning, it must have written about.

After extensive searching I found a local Seaside Heights paper that mentioned it, and sure enough, it was reported as a drowning, not a shark attack. Other stories in the paper mention how rough the water was that day and a few other drownings occurred that week. The paper on microfilm was blurry, so the rest of the story is typed below.

"While bathing just north of the carousel on Tuesday afternoon, Charles Burke, 18 years old, son of Mr and Mrs Frank Burke, of 311 Tioga St Trenton was drowned in a sea that was unusually rough and with a strong undercurrent. Two companions Endell Fenton and Edgar Burkett, also of Trenton, were with young Burke. They were out beyond the bar and had decided to return when Burke became weakened. Fenton went to assist him to shore but his hold was broken by a huge wage. The parents were present as was also the young man's sister, Verna, all plunged into the surf in an effort to save the youth. Life guard Craig Southwick dashed for the boat, and life guard Schultz made efforts to reach the drowning boy who was still calling for help. All efforts failed however and the young man disappeared. Under the command of Captain Parker several of the coast guardsman launched a boat and began to scour the area, however, the search soon had to be called off. While patrolling the beach Wednesday morning Coast Guard Millard Douglas recovered the body just north of this town. It was taken to the coast guard station where Corner Parker gave a certificate of death from drowning. Mr and Mrs Burke have the sympathy of all in their bereavement." [/I]

I showed Dr. Richard Fernicola this information and he believes that Charles Burke may have drown but that perhaps a shark or other marine life chewed his body up from the time he went missing to when he was found a few days later. This may have been why the Washington Post wrote the story on him.

In any event below is Charles Burke's grave and his childhood home. I was able to find both of these using his death certificate information.

So what does that mean exactly? In recorded history there has only been 4 shark fatalities in New Jersey, and they all occured within a 12 days period in 1916. Pretty amazing.