Down to the Sea in Sharks

Down to the Sea in Sharks Voracious sharks ready to eat ship-wreck survivors.

Down to the Sea in Sharks Voracious sharks ready to eat ship-wreck survivors.

Down to the Sea in Sharks

The recent spate of shark sightings, attacks, and captures, and, of course, the computer-generated faux-sharks of Shark Week, led me to ponder those dread creatures’ omnivorous ways as reflected in the papers of the past. One would think that there would be a fair amount of hyperbole about Things Found in Sharks, given that many shark attacks occur in the Silly Season, yet most of the accounts I have seen seem sober and, if anything, a trifle monotonous.

Occasionally you do come across something startling, like an entire polar bear or an elk (ouch), but more usually the contents of the great scavengers are a bit prosaic like Man’s Leg (1914), Human Bones (1915 Leopard Shark), or Bather’s Skull (1915). Let us step into a stoutly-soldered cage and examine the things wonderfully and fearfully swallowed.

The shark’s habits were well-known to sailors and fishermen. There was no love lost between the species.

Wonderful are the tales that sailors tell of the various things that have been found in a shark’s stomach, and it was thought that any substance that would enter its mouth was at all times acceptable. The following, which details a cruel trick, as described in the Glasgow Observer, dispels this illusion: ‘Looking over the bulwarks of the schooner,’ writes a correspondent to this journal, ‘I saw one of these watchful monsters winding lazily backwards and forwards like a long meteor; sometimes rising till his nose disturbed the surface, and a gushing sound like a deep breath rose through the breakers; at others, resting motionless on the water, as if listening to our voices, and thirsting for our blood. As we were watching the motions of this monster, Bruce (a little lively negro, and my cook) suggested the possibility of destroying it. This was briefly to heat a fire-brick in the stove, wrap it up hastily in some old greasy cloths, as a sort of disguise, and then to heave it overboard. This was the work of a few minutes; and the effect was triumphant. The monster followed after the hissing prey. We saw it dart at the brick like a flash of lightning, and gorge it instanter. The shark rose to the surface almost immediately, and his uneasy motions soon betrayed the success of the manoeuvre. His agonies became terrible; the waters appeared as if disturbed by a violent squall, and the spray was driven over the aft rail where we stood, while the gleaming body of the fish repeatedly burst through the dark waves, as if writhing with fierce and terrible convulsions. Sometimes we thought we heard a shrill bellowing cry, as if indicative of anguish and rage, rising through the gurgling waters. His fury, however, was soon exhausted; in a short time the sounds broke away into distance, and the agitation of the sea subsided. The shark had given himself up to the tides, as unable to struggle against the approach of death, and they were carrying his body unresistingly to the beach.’ Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal, Vol. 5, 30 January 1875: p. 380

While the shark is not an omnivore, you would be hard pressed to prove that assertion by the “miscellaneous contents” so often found in the Selachiial stomach.

A SHARK’S STOMACH.

Miscellaneous Contents.

The Adelaide Advertiser of March 31st states that on Tuesday afternoon a visitor was fishing in the Victor Harbour, when he hooked a shark, and it was hauled to the jetty and hoisted up with the crane. It was a tiger shark 9ft long and 3ft round the girth. On the brute being opened there were found in its stomach a billet of hardwood 14in long and 2in square at the ends, a coffee tin and a jam tin, a lump of rock weighing about 51b, two bones, about 101b of meat, and several other trifles. On further examination 72 eggs were found well formed, so the capture represented 73 sharks at one haul. Wairarapa [NZ] Daily Times, 13 April 1904: p. 7

SHARK DEVOURS ODDITIES Stomach of Big Fish Contains Often Bottles and Notes.

Harper’s Weekly. Fishermen in the Caribbean sea recently found in the stomach of a shark which had been killed a good-sized bottle in which was a half-decipherable letter from a shipwrecked sailor. Many such relics have been found. In one case a lady’s bracelet was found in a state of perfect preservation, together with a silver spoon and a thousand Spanish reals in money.

The curious feature of the finding of the money was that it was in an official receptacle lost in the city of Spanish Town (Jamaica) during a negro uprising in the seventeenth century. Where had it been meantime? Surely not in the shark’s stomach, unless the shark lives a much longer time (or some of them) than science has any reason to suppose possible.

On the other hand, if in the sea it would have been rendered unrecognizable in a few weeks. Had it been in the possession of someone shipwrecked why had it been left intact? The conclusion was inevitable that the shark must have fished it out from a compartment of some long-submerged vessel. Repository [Canton, OH] 7 July 1912: p. 2

Surprisingly, since shark stomachs contain strong acids, paper artifacts were often recovered:

The Port Denison Times of 7th February mentions a very singular circumstance as being brought to light by the capture of a shark. It appears that the crew of the Princess Alexandra, while off Port Bowen, captured one of these monsters of the deep. On examining the stomach there was found a snake, and also a bank cheque book! The book was printed in the usual form, but without the name of any bank or firm, except that of the printers, Waugh and Cox, 551 George street, Sydney. More than half the cheques have been torn out. One counterpart has the name of R. Mackenzie, in whose favour the cheque was drawn on the 6th November. 1861, for £3 10s. Several other butts have an inscription on them, but are illegible. From the appearance of the book it could not have been long in the shark’s stomach, and it is a puzzle where it could have come from, the dates being so far back, This is the only time we have heard of a shark carrying his cheque book about with him. Evening Post, 21 April 1866: p. 2

A Shark as a Dead-Letter Office

Lake Merritt, in Oakland, is developing wonders. The latest catch is a shark three feet in length, with teeth large and sharp enough to snap a man’s finger off. It is of the leopard variety. Its body is pale gray and is covered with large dark spots. It was captured by a boy the other morning who was fishing for flounders. In the shark’s stomach were found two packets of letters, the handwriting of which was illegible, an empty sherry bottle, and a stout paper box. Elkhart [IN] Weekly Review 18 May 1882: p. 7

I wondered if this next yarn was just too good to be true, but, in fact, the documents were preserved, first at the Vice-Admiralty Court Archives, and then at the National Library of Jamaica.

A Shark Convicts a Yankee Skipper.

The British cutter Sparrow, commanded by Captain Wylie, while cruising off Cape Tiburu, on the island of San Domingo, chased and overhauled an American brig, the cargo of which, together with certain other circumstances, gave rise to such a suspicion that she was enemy’s property that Captain Wylie thought it best to send her to Port Royal for examination. The Yankee captain, not in the least dismayed, swore so positively as to the truth of his ship’s papers, which he produced, that the Admiralty Court was at length persuaded to set him free, whereupon he immediately began an action for demurrage against Captain Wylie for having taken him.

”About this time Lieutenant Fitton, of the navy, who was then a midshipman in command of a small tender, arriving at Port Royal, went on board the Sparrow to pay a visit to Wylie. He found the captain in very low spirits over the pending damages that it seemed certain would be awarded against him on account of the American.

Fitton, however, on learning the name of the captain of the brig, advised Wylie not to worry, and stated that he could prove that the brig was yet a good prize. He then went on to explain that while cruising in his tender near the place where the Sparrow had overhauled the brig, and very shortly after that time, his sailors had caught a large shark. He was very much surprised on hearing one of the men employed in cutting the fish open cry out, “Stand by for your letters, my boys, for here’s the postman come on board!” at the same moment handing out a bundle of papers from the shark’s stomach. They were only slightly damaged by the gastric juices of the fish, and Fitton kept them. Upon examination he discovered that they were the real papers of the American, which he had thrown overboard when he became hard pressed, and which had been promptly swallowed by the shark. The papers proved beyond question that the cargo was French.

The two officers went immediately to Kingston with this new and most important evidence but no further investigation of the matter was necessary, for the captain of the brig was so overwhelmed upon hearing the circumstances, which he regarded as a visitation of heaven for his perjuries that he hurriedly escaped from the island, and the vessel, after all, was condemned to the Sparrow. Wylie received his share of the prize money–something over £3000. Mr Fitton sent the jawbones of the shark to the Admiralty Court at Jamaica, where they still remain. Harper’s Round Table, Vol. 18, 1898: p. 1263

A very similar case is said to have taken place in 1915:

Some disappointment was expressed at the trial of the officials of the Hamburg-American Line, accused of falsifying the manifests of steamers chartered to carry supplies to German cruisers, because the court ruled out the yarn concerning the finding in the stomach of a shark of the incriminating papers of the steamer “Marina Quezada,” one of the supply ships.

The yarn was told on the stand by John Olson, chief engineer of the “Marina Quezada,” according to whom the ship’s papers were put in a satchel and dropped overboard at Pernambuco. It was expected that the witness would tell the shark story under oath, but according to legal procedure unless the witness with his own eyes follows the course of a satchel from a shark’s jaws to the shark’s interior and finally to the window where they are said to have been exhibited after being extracted from the shark’s vitals, the witness may not swear to these things.

The strangest part of the whole story is that it so exactly coincides with the proved happenings in connection with the papers of the American brig “Nancy,” found in a shark’s stomach off Jamaica in 1779. Seamen’s Journal: A Journal of Seamen, by Seamen, for Seamen, Volume 29, 1916

This article of diet must have given even a shark a stomach-ache.

UMBRELLA FOUND IN SHARK’S STOMACH

Lewes, Del., Aug. 19. An exciting fight with a man-eating shark, which measured 17 feet long, took place yesterday on Lightship No. 69 in the Delaware Bay when James Keys, a boatman on the vessel, pulled in the monster. With the aid of a steam winch the shark was landed, and, after a hard fight, was killed.

Inside of the shark was found a quantity of junk, an old umbrella and several pieces of oilcloth, showing the varied menu upon which he had recently been feeding. The Evening News [Wilkes-Barre PA] 19 August 1911: p. 8

In a bizarre twist, a young woman came forward to lay claim to the umbrella.

CLAIMS PARASOL IN SHARK

Connecticut Woman Demands Odd Contents of Big Fish Caught in the Delaware.

Lewes, Del. Sept. 4. A claim was made today to a parasol that was dropped in the river at New York, swallowed by a shark and then carried to the Delaware Breakwater, at which place the shark was captured by James Keyes, a light vessel boatman , and the parasol recovered.

Miss Laura Dersey, of Sagatuck, Conn., wrote to Keeper Charles E. Marshall. Keyes caught the shark some time ago and was astonished when opening it to find a parasol as a part of its former diet. Miss Dersey heard of the finding and Marshall received a letter from her telling of the loss of the parasol from the steamer Richard Peck at Pier 27, East river, New York, and laying claim to the contents of the shark’s stomach. There is little left but the ribs and some of the cover and handle, but Miss Dersey’s claim has been allowed and the remains will be sent to her. Reading [PA] Times 5 September 1911: p. 8

I wonder if she sold the parasol to a side-show operator or went on the county-fair circuit herself, telling a thrilling yarn about her narrow escape from a razor-toothed death?

LANDED 800-POUND SHARK

Odd Collection Found in Stomach of This Monster Fish.

Sharks are bothering the hook and line fisherman all along the New Jersey coast and in several instances the men out in dories have had their craft upset and made narrow escapes from being drowned themselves. The fishing schooner M.P. Howlett landed at Dock street, Philadelphia, a shark 10 feet long, which weighed 800 pounds. It was caught last Monday 21 miles southeast of Cape Henlopen.

Captain Rocks, the master of the vessel, ran a 300-yard line out and the big fish was soon landed. In the shark’s stomach were found 30 pounds of lead dipsies, and 25 fish hooks and lines, 10 bushels of sea bass and menhaden and a sailor’s oilskin coat. The skin of the fish was so tough that it was necessary to use an ax to chop it up. This is according to the veracious reporter. Either he or the shark must have been “seeing things.” Bridgeton [NJ] Evening News 6 October 1910: p. 6

The mention of the oilskin coat is suggestive. Did the victim prove more digestible than his clothing? That was the supposed fate of this victim of the sinking of the Maine.

IN A SHARK’S STOMACH

Sleeve of a United States Sailor’s Jacket Recovered Off Havana.

Newburgh, N.Y. July 26. John Cleary, of this city, is one of the crew of the monitor Amphitrite on blockade duty in front of Havana. Cleary writes to a friend, giving particulars of a peculiar event that recently occurred off Havana harbour. The crew, he says, spends considerable time fishing for sharks. A few days ago one was caught, hauled on board and dissected. Among other articles found in the stomach was the sleeve of a United States sailor’s jacket, with seven service stripes upon it. It is supposed the sleeve was worn by one of the victims of the battleship Maine. Denver [CO] Post 26 July 1898: p. 7

Sharks seemed to have a certain amount of hubris when gorging on fresh meat. How a goat—even with 7-inch horns [see Detroit Free Press story below]—and a dog and a very large turtle got into a shark’s belly is readily explicable, but a “common parrot?”

FIND GOAT AND DOG IN SHARK’S STOMACH

London, Jan. 18. When a 12 ft. 6 in. shark caught in Mauritius was cut open, a dog, a goat, and a large collection of bones of animals were found inside. Repository [Canton, OH] 19 January 1913: p. 22

“I have often seen turtles which have been mangled in these attacks. I once weighed a pound and a half of turtle’s shell which was found in a shark’s stomach, in fragments so large as to enable me to decide to what part of the buckler they belonged; and to justify the conclusion that the whole head must have weighed between three and four pounds. The entire weight of the turtle could not have been less than two hundred weight. The head, fins, and most of the body were found in an undigested state in this one shark, which paid for its gluttony dearly, for it was found dead. An old fisherman of my acquaintance, whose word I have no reason to doubt, assured me that only four moons previously he took a turtle whole, and weighing about an hundredweight, from the stomach of a shark, in which receptacle he found also a common parrot. Yet sharks in these waters are rarely more than twelve feet in length, and very seldom as large.” So says Mr. Williams. The wild man at home: or, Pictures of life in savage lands,  James Greenwood (journalist.) 1878

Down To the Sea in Sharks Sailor eaten by shark, 1810, British Library

Down To the Sea in Sharks Sailor eaten by shark, 1810, British Library

Of course, I know you are all waiting eagerly to hear about the human remains.  Animals or human, with or without dressing, it was all grist for the gullet.

WOMAN’S FOOT IN SHARK’S STOMACH

Was Encased in Stocking and Tan Shoe—Fishermen Get Surprise.

New York, Aug. 28. The foot of a woman wearing a tan shoe and a knitted stocking was cut from the stomach of a giant man-eating shark by fishermen in the Atlantic ocean off Spring lake Beach, N.J., according to the fishermen themselves, and William I. Ohmer, manufacturer, of Dayton, O., who said he saw the foot and who has a summer home here. The shark, which was described as being 13 feet in length and weighing 800 pounds, became entangled in the nets of the fishermen, and when they went out in small boats to make the daily haul on Monday they found the shark whipping the nets about and tearing them.

Capt. Combes, in command of one of the fishing boats and one of the best known fishermen along the New England coast, drew in one of the nets with five of his men. When they got the monster to the surface ethyl gaffed him while he was trying to overturn their boat.

As he turned over on his back dead it was thought that he was too big to get into the boat to take ashore, so it was decided to cut him open and take ashore a full length section to prove his size.

Fishermen always cut open sharks to see what they have inside of them. The shark’s belly was awash with the boat’s gunwale when the knife was applied, and Capt. Combs and his five men were horrified to see the foot of a woman fall out of the stomach into the boat. They released the shark’s carcass and took the foot ashore.

Mr. Ohmer was fishing near by in a pleasure boat, and he said last night that he not only had seen the foot, but the shark from which it was cut. He said the foot had been bitten off of a woman’s leg between the knee and the ankle, and that all of the stocking had come away with it.

“From the condition of the foot and the shoe it could not have been in the shark’s stomach long; perhaps he swallowed it on Sunday,” said Mr. Ohmer. “If the woman was dead when he swallowed her foot she could not have been dead long.”

No reports were found of any woman who had lost a foot through an encounter with a shark. One of the puzzling things was that the foot was said to have a shoe on it, proving the woman was not a bather. She might have fallen overboard and then been attacked by the shark. The Barre [VT] Daily Times 28 August 1913: p. 3

I don’t know if the lady was ever identified, but a surprising number of shark victims—or at least bits of them—were said to have been recognized by friends and relatives.

CONTENTS OF A SHARK’S STOMACH

A shark was captured in our harbour on Saturday last by Mr. Wm. Elden. On opening the fish the hand of the unfortunate Isaac Wylly (who was drowned outside the bar on the 11th inst.), together with a goat’s head having horns seven inches long, were discovered in the stomach. The hand was identified by a brother of the deceased, in consequence of a portion of the shirt-sleeve being attached to it. Nassau Guardian. Detroit [MI] Free Press 26 April 1860: p. 1

BOY’S HEAD IS FOUND IN A SHARK’S STOMACH

Believed to be Head of Student Who Was Lost While Swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

New Orleans, July 10. A week ago one of the students at St. Stanislaus college at Bay St. Louis, on the Gulf coast, was captured by a man eating shark while swimming about a half mile from shore. The boy was never seen again after he was dragged under water.

Since that time Gilbert Marshall a West Point man, who is now at East St. Louis on his vacation, and his brother Carl, have been making a determined fight on the large sharks and have landed four which have interfering with the bathers for some time past. The largest specimen was caught yesterday after a fight of three hours.

After dragging him to shore, the two young men cut him open and found a part of the head and arms of the student that had disappeared in the fish’s stomach. Gilbert Marshall is confident that this is the fish that brought death to the little Mexican student a few days ago.

The people along the entire coast have declared war on sharks and are using every effort to exterminate them. Republic [Rockford IL] 13 July 1906: p. 7

Sometimes clothing was the key to identification.

Human Bones in a Shark’s Stomach

From the Mobile Register.

In Mobile a fifteen-foot tiger shark was caught recently that was believed to have devoured A. Frogert, engineer of a tug-boat. [The Col. Woodruff.] Its stomach contained human bones and an arm partly enveloped in the fragments of a blue woolen jumper. The Times [Philadelphia PA] 15 September 1882: p. 3

Although clothing was not infallible evidence:

DENIES HE WAS EATEN BY FISH

Man Whose Coat Was Found in Shark’s Stomach Is Very Much Alive.

George H. Baldwin positively denied that he had been eaten by a shark, despite seemingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Recently a man-eating shark was killed off Catalina Island, and when its interior was examined fragments of a man’s coat were found, to which was attached a pin of the American Society of Civil Engineers bearing Baldwin’s name. His demise was announced in Los Angeles newspapers, and his wife began to receive scores of telegrams and letters of condolence.

Mrs. Baldwin, some months ago gave away one of Baldwin’s old coats from which she forgot to remove the pin. The Washington [DC] Post 23 May 1916: p. 6

At other times, a vague resemblance or a recent drowning was enough to prove identity:

The Head of a Man Found in a Shark.

A letter from aboard the U.S. ship Saratoga, dated at Pensacola, 21st ult., to the Norfolk Herald, says:  “Last Saturday afternoon we caught a large shark, measuring about ten feet, and on cutting open the stomach, there was found in it a man’s head, with the hair on it! From the fact that an old quarter-master named Griffith, on board the Falmouth, (lying astern of us,) had been drowned a few days before, we sent it on board of her in a bucket, and by the color of the hair it was recognized to be that of the old man Griffith. I believe he was an Englishman. The head was sent ashore and decently interred in the burying ground.” Philadelphian [Philadelphia PA] 29 August 1845: p. 4

The following case caused a sensation; the gentleman had disappeared mysteriously several years before while on holiday at Miami.

Skull and Bones of Long Missing Cleveland Banker Found in Shark’s Stomach

Minneapolis, March 18. J.A. O’Brien, passenger representative in Minneapolis for the Northwestern line, was on the dock at Miami, Fla. When the cutting up of a shark brought to light the skull and other larger bones of John R. Mooney, a Cleveland, Ohio, banker.

Shark fishing is one of the popular pastimes at Miami. The catch is laid out on the dock and negroes make tidy sums by cutting out teeth and backbones as souvenirs for tourists. In this case the shark was a 14-foot monster of the leopard variety. The head had been severed so a few teeth could be removed and the negroes were about to abandon the carcass when a tourist remarked that he’d like to have a backbone for a cane.

The burly negro immediately slashed the shark open and turned blue as he drew out the human skull and the other bones. They were later identified by a dentist by means of fillings he had inserted for Mooney. The shark’s victim had disappeared unaccountably several years ago while wintering at Miami. Grand Forks [ND] Daily Herald 19 March 1915: p. 1

Stories of rings miraculously recovered from fishes are a staple of fairy and folktales. If this was a Ripley’s collection, Seaman Petersen would have recognized this as his own wedding ring, which slipped from his finger off Brazil.

WEDDING RING FROM A SHARK.

Lars Petersen, one of the crew of the; steamship Hypatia, which arrived at New York from Monte Video, was wearing a wedding ring taken from a shark’s stomach. The ring bears on its inner surface three letters, two legible and one too much defaced to be readable. Those legible are “L.H. 1897.” The illegible letter looks like another H. or B. While off the South’ American coast a shark began to follow the vessel, and Petersen caught it with a hook baited with a piece of pork. New Zealand Herald 6 February 1904: p. 5

If we believe this improbable story, the shark’s victim’s ring took revenge:

A large dead shark was washed ashore at North Beach, Cal., recently. In its stomach was discovered the skeleton of a man’s hand, upon a finger of which was a brass ring, the corrosion of which had inflamed the shark’s stomach, causing its death. The Americus [KS] Weekly Herald 11 May 1882: p. 1

This last story of a remarkable coincidence reminds me of the old Timex “Takes a Licking; Keeps on Ticking” ads.

FOUND WATCH IN SHARK;

LOST DURING CIVIL WAR

Indiana Man Who Was on Ill-Fated Sultana Makes Strange Discovery While Fishing.

Frankfort, Ind., Jan. 20. Abraham [Abram] Littleton, a pioneer citizen of this county, now in Pensacola, Fla., recovered the silver watch which he lost at the time of the blowing up of the ill-fated Sultana, on the Mississippi during the civil war.

Mr. Littleton was on the Sultana, and while he escaped his clothing was blown off. In one pocket was a large silver watch, which, with the clothing was lost in the river.

A few days ago Mr. Littleton joined a shark fishing party of Pensacola and a large shark was caught. A young surgeon in the party opened the stomach and among other things Mr. Littleton’s long-lost watch was found. It had such characteristic as to be easily identified by Mr. Littleton.

The watch had evidently been in the shark’s stomach more than forty years [!!] and is in a good state of preservation. The Star Press [Muncie IN] 21 January 1906: p. 8

In 1862 Abram C. Littleton enlisted in the 40th Regiment, Indiana Infantry, Company E, and was mustered out in 1865. There were members of the 40th Indiana Infantry on the doomed steamship.  However, I’ve searched Sultana sites and books, local Indiana history, and newspapers to no avail. Perhaps I wrong him, but I can find no evidence that he was a Sultana survivor. He was a farmer and notary public in Clinton County, Indiana and died in 1924, aged 84. Is it really possible that Littleton made up a whopper of a fish story about such a horrific event?

Other stories of thing that go down to the sea in sharks? chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

Brian C. writes with this thrilling story of a long-lost ring–and, well, a sequel.

Belly Of Shark Holds Long-Lost Class Ring

ENTERPRISE, Fla. (Reuters 23 July 1999) – Thirty years after Norman Lewis’ girlfriend lost his high school class ring, the ocean returned it in the belly of a shark to the same Florida beach where it slipped beneath the waves.

Lewis and his girlfriend, now his wife and the mother of his two children, had thought it was gone for good.

“When my wife Janice lost it, I did a lot of praying to get it back,” Norman Lewis told Reuters Thursday. “Thirty years is a long time for prayers to be answered.”

A young boy found the Mount Dora High School class ring in the belly of a 4-foot (1.2 meter) shark he caught in the surf at New Smyrna Beach, the same east coast beach where Janice Lewis lost it, Lewis said.

Lewis, now 48, said he gave the ring to then-girlfriend Janice, whom he had been dating since they were 14, before the 1969 prom. Following Florida high school custom, they went to the beach the day after the prom.

Janice, now 47, put the ring on a bracelet, also according to the custom of the time. It slipped off in the water.

“I think we gave up on it long ago,” Norman Lewis said. ”But four years later we were married.”

After finding the ring, the fisher and his father contacted Mount Dora High School, where officials matched the initials on it with the 1969 yearbook and contacted Lewis Wednesday.

“You hear of these things once in a while happening, but to find it in a shark, that’s unusual,” Lewis said. “I have no idea how it could have happened. My thought is one fish ate it, then another fish ate that fish, then the shark ate that fish.”

“That’s a possibility,” said Dr. Sam Gruber, a shark expert at the University of Miami.

Or “it might have given off a little electrical current and the shark might have thought it was a crab,” he said. “The shark might have gotten it last week.”

Gruber, a leading expert on shark behavior, said oddities like tires, roofing paper and other trash are primarily found in the bellies of tiger sharks, the “true garbage cans of the sea.”

Lewis said the boy and the school intended to return the ring to the couple, who work together at Florida United Methodist Children’s Home in Enterprise.

“It’s nice to have it back. But Janice was the best choice out of the two,” he said. “I kept the best part of the deal.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lost class ring found on land, not inside shark

The Associated Press

Web-posted: 9:12 p.m. July 28, 1999

MOUNT DORA — A class ring that was missing for 30 years was found on a beach, not in the stomach of a 4-foot shark as originally reported.

The ring was found last week by Jason Fowler, 10, who discovered it while walking along New Smyrna Beach.  Jason and his father contacted officials at Mount Dora High School, who tracked down the ring’s owner, Norman Lewis of the Class of 1969.

Initials etched on the back of the ring allowed school officials to trace it to Lewis, 48, who lives in DeLand. “I never expected to see this again,” Lewis said.

Last week, school officials said the ring was found inside a shark caught by Jason.  But family members said they did not know anything about a shark.

The boy found the ring in a clump of tar as he strolled along the surf, he said.

School officials said a Fowler family friend related the shark story and they thought it was true.

On Tuesday, Lewis turned the ring over to his wife, Janice, 47, who was wearing it on a wrist bracelet when it slipped into the ocean.  They have been married 26 years and were sweethearts in high school when she lost the ring.

“I’m not going to lose it again,” said Janice Lewis, who slid it onto a finger.

Thanks, Brian!  A perfectly good quip spoiled by a ha’porth of tar…

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.