In a bizarre bit of maritime news out of Staten Island, NY, an artist has erected a monument to remember the victims lost in a ferry octopus attack.
Seem fake? That’s because it is. Artist Joe Reginella has constructed an elaborate physical memorial to a fictional disaster involving the Staten Island Ferry boat Cornelius G. Kolff and installed it on the waterfront in the New York City borough.
The memorial is “dedicated in loving memory to the passengers and crew of the Cornelius G. Kolff who lost their lives on November 22, 1963 in one of the most mysterious and tragic maritime disasters in American history.”
The Kolff was a real Staten Island ferry that entered service in 1951, but Reginella tells a tall tale about the boat's demise. According to his story, it was pulled under by a giant octopus, killing all aboard. The memorial statue is supported by pamphlets and a website complete with videos, all aimed at raising awareness of the “tragedy” that went “unnoticed by the public” in light of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy later the same day — the latter a real event, of course.
“Eye witness accounts describe ‘large tentacles’ which ‘pulled’ the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan, the website for the “Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum” reads. “Nobody on board survived and only small pieces of wreckage have been found…strangely with large 'suction cup-shaped' marks on them. The only logical conclusion scientists and officials could point to was that the boat had been attacked by a massive octopus, roughly half the size of the ship.”
The “Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum” website even includes documentaries and a gift shop (which sells real t-shirts) — and according to the New York Post, Reginella’s efforts are “luring hapless tourists to a far corner of Staten Island in search of a museum devoted to the fantastical fish tale.”
What really happened to the Kolff? Among the last steam-powered ferries to service the route between Staten Island and Manhattan, the Kolff operated into the 1980s and then was converted to a prison dormitory at Rikers Island and later sold for scrap. Though it never encountered a giant octopus, the boat did see its share of mishaps over the years — a brief search of the New York Times archive revealed a pair of rough landings in 1959 and 1960 leading to passenger injuries, a fatal on-deck stabbing in 1969, and the story of a postal worker who drowned after accidentally driving his car off the boat in 1981.