Artist Takes Tourists for a Ride with the Staten Island Ferry Octopus Disaster Memorial

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.

Gothamist discovered an important, overlooked piece of New York history today: the Staten Island Ferry Disaster, in which the fearsome seas around Manhattan unleashed the kraken on the unsuspecting steam ferry Cornelius G. Kolff. Thankfully, there’s now a proper memorial museum and statue to commemorate the tragedy… created by artist Joe Reginella and eaten up by gullible tourists.

Reginella’s “part practical joke, part multimedia art project, part social experiment” (as he told The New York Post) was a complicated undertaking, with the brilliant memorial statue above (and below), fliers, a fake documentary, and more. Here’s the rest of the “history” behind the disaster and why no one has heard about it until now:

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.

Staten Island Ferry Disaster giant octopus statue memorial NYC

Photo: Staten Island Ferry Octopus Disaster Memorial Museum

And if you decide to ride on today’s Staten Island Ferry, you’ll find some historical exhibits, an octopus petting zoo, and even a “Ferry Disastore” gift shop.


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