BY BEN YAKAS
You probably don't know much about the Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum, which honors the 400 victims who died when a giant octopus attacked the Cornelius G. Kolff, a Staten Island Ferry boat, on Nov. 22, 1963. That isn't because the event was overshadowed by the assassination of JFK that same day—it's because, as you may have guessed based on the word "tricks" in the headline, there was no such octopus-induced tragedy. But that hasn't stopped artist Joe Reginella from spreading awareness of the pseudo-tragedy to gullible tourists via a monument, a website, and lots of fliers.
Reginella told The Post that the project took six months to plan and that it’s "part practical joke, part multimedia art project, part social experiment." The fliers, which he and his team have been giving out around downtown Manhattan and Staten Island in recent weeks, promise an octopus petting zoo, historical exhibits and a "Ferry Disastore" gift shop at the nonexistent museum.
It also includes directions to a fictitious shoreline address across the street from the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, where some people have ventured to. Francesca Navarro, who works the front desk of the Staten Island Museum, told the Post that despite the ludicrousness of the premise, some people can't help but check it out: "I think they maybe have a suspicion it’s fake, but they feel like they just have to prove it."
The Post found a few of the tricked: "Australian tourist Tamara Messina [said]: 'The brochure sounded very intriguing,' adding that her three young sons 'seemed a bit more concerned that it may happen again' as the family rode the ferry."
It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. 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. 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. Adding to the tragedy, is that this disaster went almost completely unnoticed by the public as later that day another, more “newsworthy” tragedy would befall the nation when beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. The Staten Island Ferry Disaster Museum hopes to correct this oversight by preserving the memory of those lost in this tragedy and educating the public about the truth behind the only known giant octopus-ferry attack in the tri-state area.
And here's one of the "documentaries" on the event:
Reginella, a freelance sculptor, apparently has a thing for sea disasters: last year, a Jaws-themed baby crib he built got a lot of attention online. As for his latest project, he insists it isn't malicious, "but I guess some people are agitated about it," citing one woman who tracked him down and berated him over the phone: "How can you get so bent out of shape? It’s a joke."