New York monument honors victims of giant octopus assault that never occurred

Cast-bronze sculpture by Joseph Reginella, who made up the story of a Staten Island ferry disaster, directs people to a fake museum nearby

A cast-bronze monument for the victims of the sink of a steam ferry lately appeared in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, near other somber monuments to soldiers, sailors and mariners lost at sea or on the battlefield.

There was, however , no such ferry tragedy. The artist behind the memorial, Joseph Reginella, stimulated the whole thing up.

The 250 lb monument, which illustrates a Staten Island ferry, the Cornelius G Kolff, being dragged under the waves by a giant octopus, is part of a multi-layered hoax that includes a sophisticated website, a documentary, fabricated newspaper articles and glossy fliers directing visitors to a phantom Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum, across the harbor.

The project took six months to build. Reginella said the idea 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 topics, like if the water were shark-infested, he told. I told No, but you know what did happen in the 60 s? One of these barges got pulled down by a giant octopus.

The story simply rolled off the top of my head, he told, and it evolved to become a multimedia art project and social experience not maliciously about how gullible people are.

Reginella, who usually generates artworks for store windows and amusement park, said his ferry monument never stayed in one place for more than two days because the city will come and take it away. It takes two people to break the piece down and move it.

Its definitely its own experience when you assure people who dont know about it, Reginella told. They get this strange look on their face, they gaze out at the water and walk away. I sit close by with a fishing pole and fish. I eavesdrop on the conversations.

Sometimes, he told, when he overhears people saying, How arrive nobody has ever heard of this? hell interject, offering that the disaster happened on 22 November 1963, a day when the news was dominated by the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

It generates a plausibility for them, he told, and they shake their head, Maybe.

The Staten Island Ferry Disaster.

Puzzled tourists looking for the memorial museum on Staten Island and its supposed collection of wreckage with strange suction-cup-shaped marks sometimes stray into the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, asking for directions. Staff at the nearby Staten Island Museum admit they too were puzzled at first.

We kind of scratched our heads and told we dont know where it is and started seeming further into it, and realise it was a hoax, told a spokeswoman, Rachel Somma.

Most people have the feeling that its not a reality. Its a treasure hunt for them. Its fun. Thats what we love about it … Its great that it gets people out here.

Melanie Giuliano, who produced a taunt documentary for Reginellas website, used her parent in the role of a maritime expert and a neighbor as an eyewitness. A colleague of Reginellas wife served as the narrator.

I thought it was an insane idea but I thought it was hilarious, told Giuliano.

One thing about the preposterous story is real. There genuinely was a Cornelius G Kolff ferry, which carried passengers for 36 years before becoming a floating dormitory for inmates at the Rikers Island prison. It was sold for scrap in 2003.

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