Two years ago I took a class that spent half a semester on poetry. I hate poetry. Not for the usual reasons. Every time I have to write a poem, I wind up spending hours on Google researching things so I can write intelligently. (Do other people fact-check their poetry?) Invariably, I find something I’d rather never have known. (See: DeDe, the Indonesian Tree Man.)
The poem that ruined my life was one I was writing about sharks. I wasn’t sure if I could call a shark a “man-eater” because I’ve only ever heard that term applied to lions and literally everything in Australia. I Google one little thing, and all of the sudden I’m unable to stop researching things that can eat you. Long story short, I now travel everywhere with a key specifically for stabbing things, a flashlight specifically for blinding things, and a baseball bat specifically for clubbing things. (You think I’m joking.)
Unfortunately for you, I’m sick of suffering in silence. If I have to live in fear, you do, too.
Man-eater #1: The Jersey Shore Shark Attacks
To give you an idea of how much these sharks freak me out: I don’t like Jersey Shore at all, but I wouldn’t wish a violent shark death on any of the cast members. Not even Snooki.
The summer of 1916 was a bad time to live on the East Coast. A terrible polio outbreak on top of an intense heatwave drove people to beach resorts. That’s nice. At least people had a beach to escape to, where they could relax and think about less deadly things. It was nice, anyway. Until the sharks came.
Things the Sharks Did
1) A shark chewed one guy’s leg up so badly he bled to death on a hotel concierge’s desk.
2) Another man was bitten in half. The lady who reported it to the lifeguard thought he was an overturned red canoe. Turns out he was just really bloody.
3) What may have been a Bull Shark (which are notoriously aggressive and unpredictable) swam up a freshwater river 16 miles to eat a boy and attack the man who tried to save him.
4) The last victim was a boy who escaped with only a bite on the leg after his brother and another kid (and these are Wikipedia’s words, not mine) played “a vicious tug-of-war battle with the shark”. I don’t like playing tug-of-war with children. I certainly wouldn’t like it if the rope was my brother and I was playing against a freakin’ shark.
Things the People Did
1) Ran. Screaming.
2) The town of Matawan offered a $100 reward for anyone who killed a shark in the creek where the last three victims were attacked. The House of Representatives offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who could kill the shark or sharks responsible for the Jersey Shore attacks.
3) Everyone was trying to kill this shark. Probably a lot of them did it for the money, but I’d like to think that most of them did it out of sheer terror that one day the sharks would grow legs and come after them on the streets.
4) The guy who finally found and killed what they think was the shark that attacked Matawan Creek was named Michael Schleisser. He was a fisherman… oh wait, no, that’s not right. He was a Harlem taxidermist and Barnum and Bailey lion tamer. A taxidermist and a lion tamer. I don’t know if he was retired from one or both, or if he was still practicing one or both. I don’t know how one gets into the lion taming/taxidermy field. What I do know is that he caught a 7.5-foot, 325-pound shark while fishing. The shark nearly sank Schleisser’s boat before he killed it with a broken oar. Scientists found human remains in its belly and according to Wikipedia, “Schleisser mounted the shark and placed it on display in the window of a shop on Broadway but it was later lost.” I have so many questions about that sentence.
5) Peter Benchley wrote a novel based on the attacks nearly 60 years later.
6) Steven Spielberg made a film based on the novel based on the attacks one year after that:
Ah, yes. The sound that made me nervous around bathtubs my entire childhood.
Man-eater #2: The Malawi Terror Beast
Read the name one more time. Malawi Terror Beast. What is it, you ask? According to Wikipedia and the scariest BBC article I’ve ever read, it’s… a Terror Beast.
Things the Terror Beast Did
1) Possibly it came back from the dead. “Morgan Amoni, 30, who came close to the current beast, believes it is the same beast that was shot dead last year which has returned to exact revenge on the people.” Wildlife officials think that it was actually two different rabid hyenas, but residents objected, saying that hyenas usually have shorter hind limbs.
2) The second series of attacks, in 2003, left two elderly women and a toddler dead. The Terror Beast crushed their skulls before it ate them. Sixteen other people were taken to the hospital, some maimed and disfigured. One woman lost her nose and her mouth.
3) The first attacks killed five people and injured 20.
Things the People Did
1) They shot the beast once. Well, they shot a beast once.
2) Four thousand people left their homes to go somewhere safe. To me, somewhere safe is anywhere rabid hyenas or Terror Beasts aren’t, but what do I know?
3) As far as Wikipedia and the BBC can tell me… it wasn’t shot in 2003. Don’t let that worry you. I’m sure it’s not out there, waiting to exact revenge with its freakishly long hind limbs.
Man-eater #3: Gustave
The name Gustave sounds cute, like an adorable little hamster with a penchant for cheese. Unfortunately, Gustave isn’t an adorable little hamster, and he doesn’t like cheese. He likes people, and he’s a crocodile. But he’s not just any crocodile. No, Gustave is a 20-foot-long, one-ton, 67-year-old crocodile.
Things Gustave Did (and Does)
1) Gustave lives in Burundi, and has supposedly eaten 300 people. This is likely an exaggeration (a small exaggeration, believe it or not) from one of the many legends about Gustave. When you’ve been eating the people of Burundi since 1944, there are bound to be some legends about you.
2) His enormous size makes it impossible for him to eat nice things, like fish or small mammals. Instead, he eats larger animals like zebras, wildebeest, and… humans.
3) The same legends say that Gustave hunts his victims, then leaves the corpses uneaten. He’s a psychopath in a stylish crocodile skin getup.
4) According to park rangers and a National Geographic article, Gustave has killed and eaten an adult hippopotamus. Hippos are the deadliest animal in the world. Normally, they bite smaller crocodiles in half.
Things the People Did (and Do)
1) Gustave has four bullet wounds, one in his head and three in his side. He will not die.
2) Patrice Faye, a Burundi resident, is the Captain Ahab to Gustave’s Moby Dick. He and a PBS documentary team made a trap for Gustave once, after he ate 20 people. (Gustave ate them, not Faye.) The trap failed because Gustave avoided it and “seemed to taunt the team as well.”
3) The 2007 horror film, Primeval? It was originally titled Gustave.
Anyway, that’s why I hate poetry.