Artist's Bizarre Octopus Hoax Fools Tourists

No, an octopus did not drag a ferry to its doom
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2016 2:32 PM CDT
Artist's Bizarre Octopus Hoax Fools Tourists
In this Sept. 29, 2016 photo, the cast bronze faux monument by artist Joseph Reginella, dedicated to the memory of the victims of the steam ferry Cornelius G. Kolff, is shown in the Staten Island borough of New York. It took Reginella six months to execute his multi-layered project that includes the...   (Ula Ilnytzky)

Ever hear about the gargantuan octopus that dragged a New York City ferry and its 400 passengers to the river bottom nearly 53 years ago? A cast bronze monument dedicated to the victims of the steam ferry Cornelius G. Kolff recently appeared in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, erected a stone's throw from a handful of other somber memorials to soldiers, sailors, and mariners lost at sea or on the battlefield. But if you can't recall the disaster it could be because the artist behind the memorial, Joseph Reginella, made the whole thing up, the AP reports. The 250-pound monument, which depicts a Staten Island ferry being dragged down by giant octopus tentacles, is part of a multi-layered hoax that also includes a sophisticated website, a documentary, fabricated newspaper articles and glossy fliers directing tourists to a phantom Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum across the harbor. It took Reginella six months to put it together.

He said the idea for the project came to him while he was taking his 11-year-old nephew from Florida on the ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island. "He was asking me all kinds of crazy questions like if the waters were shark-infested," he said. "I said 'No, but you know what did happen in the '60s? One of these boats got pulled down by a giant octopus. The story just rolled off the top of my head" and the idea for a mock memorial was born. It evolved to become "a multimedia art project and social experience—not maliciously—about how gullible people are," said Reginella, who creates artworks for store windows and amusement parks. The monument never stays in one spot for more than two days "because the city will come and take it away," he said, adding that it takes two people to break it down. Reginella often sits nearby with a fishing pole, eavesdropping. Sometimes, he said, when he overhears people saying, "How come nobody has ever heard of this?" he'll interject, offering that the disaster happened on Nov. 22, 1963, a day that the news was dominated by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (More strange stuff stories.)

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