The Most Horrifying Shark Attacks Ever Recorded

WARNING: Some of the images, videos, and information about sharks and shark attacks may not be for the squeamish. Proceed with caution. By the end of this list of most horrifying shark attacks, you are going to BE Roy Scheider in Jaws. From the "Real New Jersey Jaws" to the tragic killing of a young man on his honeymoon, this list has all of the horrors of shark attacks imaginable. 

Shark attacks are pretty simple when you think about it - they happen wherever there is water and people (unless this is Sharknado and then shark attacks can happen in your living room). But most of the time, shark attacks are a result of mistaken identity; the shark is looking for a juicy sea lion or seal and you look like a yummy blubbery treat in that wetsuit.  

Why should you go snorkeling wearing chain mail or think twice about being a sailor? In 2018, there were 66 unprovoked shark attacks confirmed, worldwide, a bit lower than the previous five years. But, even though the odds are 1 in about 4 million that you’ll be attacked by a shark, that’s still too many if you ask us. The most horrific shark attacks usually involve maritime disasters - war is hell but even worse on the high seas - but there’s also the rogue shark who likes to go to the beach as much as we do. And in real life, there’s no Quint to munch on or Richard Dreyfuss to help us fend off that stone-cold eating machine.  

Shark attacks occur in deep water as well as shallow water, with some people miraculously surviving. Many, however, meet a tragic and violent end. There’s no stopping a great white unless you are Rodney Fox and you gouge its eyes out. So take in this shark attack information with caution. And probably not while at the beach. Or alone next to the pool at night where we’re pretty sure shark attacks are impossible. But if you see Tara Reid. Run. 

  • Heather Boswell, 1994
    Video: YouTube

    Heather Boswell, 1994

    Warning: graphic content.  

    Passengers on a boat in the Pacific Ocean decided to stop down and have a cool dip. Heather Boswell heard someone yell, “Shark!” and was bitten twice by a great white. It bit off her left leg. “I felt a pop... there wasn't any pain, more like a cracking your knuckles feeling... It didn't hurt until they got me to the ship.” The shark shook her and played tug of war with her while rescuers were trying to get her on the boat.  

    Watch Boswell’s calm account and actual video of the attack. 

    Check another shark encounter here

  • Bethany Hamilton, 2003

    13-year-old Bethany Hamilton was surfing The Tunnels off Kauai with her friend Alana Blanchard when a shark decided to change her life. While Hamilton was lying on her board with her arm dangling in the water, the shark bit into her and her board. The bite took her arm off just below the shoulder. Blanchard helped Hamilton back to shore where Blanchard’s father made a tourniquet that saved her life.

    A 14-foot-tiger shark, believed to be the shark that attacked Hamilton, was trapped by a local fisherman Ralph Young. The shark weighed nearly 1,400 pounds. Hamilton went on to rank as one of the top 10 professional women surfers in the world. 

  • The Jersey Shore, 1916
    Video: YouTube

    The Jersey Shore, 1916

    The Real New Jersey Jaws chronicles a terrifying 10 days during a heatwave along the Jersey Shore. As scores of tourists hugged the shoreline for some relief, the feeding frenzy began.

    Charles Vansant was attacked during an evening swim. Charles Bruder was attacked five days later. Three more people, including an 11-year-old boy, were attacked at Matawan Creek, 30 miles north. Four of the shark attack victims died. Experts debated whether the attacks were made by a great white or bull shark. 

  • USS 'Indianapolis,' 1945
    Photo: US Navy / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    USS 'Indianapolis,' 1945

    After an unescorted U.S. warship was torpedoed by the Japanese mid-way between the Leyte Gulf and Guam, the ship was split in two, sending 900 sailors into the Pacific. Sharks chewed through nearly 600 men in five days. Survivor Woody James later recounted, “The sharks were around, hundreds of them… Everything would be quiet and then you’d hear somebody scream and you knew a shark had got him.”

    The USS Indianapolis deaths are among the worst shark attacks in history

  • Robert Pamperin, 1959

    Robert Pamperin and a friend were snorkeling off La Jolla Cove in California when he was attacked by a 22-foot great white. Gerald Lehrer heard Pamperin scream when he turned to see him unusually high in the water with his mask missing. Lehrer dove under to see that the shark had Pamperin in his mouth up to his waist.

    The shark pulled Pamperin under and dragged him along the sea bed. By the time rescuers arrived, they only found Pamperin’s single swim fin. 

  • Rodney Fox, 1963
    Video: YouTube

    Rodney Fox, 1963

    While competitively spearfishing in Australia, Rodney Fox suffered a vicious shark attack where a great white grabbed him by the torso and then charged him two more times, pulling him under and dragging him across the ocean floor. The bites punctured his diaphragm, scapula and tore his lung.  

    Rescuers had to keep his wetsuit on to keep his organs from spilling out. The fact that Fox survived is a miracle. That and he gouged out its eyes. Fox was 23. 

    Fox became a leading authority on the great white and designed the first shark observation cage. He was inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in 2007.