When an Octopus Caused the Great Staten Island Ferry Disaster (November 22, 1963)

Where were you on Novem­ber 22, 1963?

I had yet to be born, but am giv­en to under­stand that the events of that day helped shape a gen­er­a­tion.

Doc­u­men­tar­i­an Melanie Juliano knows this too, though she’s still a few months shy of the legal drink­ing age. The 2014 recip­i­ent of the New Jer­sey Film­mak­ers of Tomor­row Fes­ti­val’s James Gan­dolfi­ni Best of Fest Award uses pri­ma­ry sources and archival footage to bring an imme­di­a­cy to this dark day in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, the day a giant octopus—“a giant fuckin’ octo­pus” in the words of mar­itime expert Joey Fazzino—took down the Cor­nelius G. Kolff and all 400 hun­dred souls aboard.

What did you think I was talk­ing about, the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion?


Image via the Face­book page of the Stat­en Island Fer­ry Octo­pus Dis­as­ter Memo­r­i­al Muse­um

Those who would ques­tion this tragedy’s authen­tic­i­ty need look no fur­ther than a recent­ly ded­i­cat­ed bronze memo­r­i­al in Low­er Manhattan’s Bat­tery Park. To require more proof than that is unseem­ly, nay, cru­el. If an esti­mat­ed 90% of tourists stum­bling across the site are will­ing to believe that a giant octo­pus laid waste to a Man­hat­tan-bound Stat­en Island fer­ry sev­er­al hours before John F. Kennedy was shot, who are you to ques­tion?

The memorial’s artist, Joe Reginel­la, of the Stat­en Island-based Super Fun Com­pa­ny, is find­ing it hard to dis­en­gage from a dis­as­ter of this mag­ni­tude. Instead the crafts­man, whose pre­vi­ous work includes a JAWS trib­ute infant crib, lingers near­by, not­ing vis­i­tors’ reac­tions and hand­ing out lit­er­a­ture for the (non-exis­tent) Stat­en Island Fer­ry Dis­as­ter Memo­r­i­al Muse­um.

(New York 1 reports that an actu­al muse­um across the street from the address list­ed on Reginella’s brochures is not amused, though atten­dance is up.)

A Stat­en Island Octo­pus Dis­as­ter web­site is there for the edi­fi­ca­tion of those unable to vis­it in per­son. Spend time con­tem­plat­ing this hor­rif­ic event and you may come away inspired to learn more about the Gen­er­al Slocum dis­as­ter of 1904, a real life New York City fer­ry boat tragedy, that time has vir­tu­al­ly erased from the pub­lic con­scious­ness.

(The memo­r­i­al for that one is locat­ed in an out of the way sec­tion of Tomp­kins Square Park.)

H/T to read­er Scott Her­mes/via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Dancer on the Stat­en Island Fer­ry

“Moon Hoax Not”: Short Film Explains Why It Was Impos­si­ble to Fake the Moon Land­ing

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her play Zam­boni Godot is open­ing in New York City in March 2017. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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