horror stories

This Is the Most Horrifying Shark Story of All Time

Tiger shark.
Tiger shark. Photo: Rodrigo Friscione/Getty Images/Cultura RF

It’s easy, by default, to describe any disturbing story as the stuff of your worst nightmares — accidentally following an embarrassing Instagram account, losing 27 contacts in your eye, getting trapped in an elevator for a week. But the true story at the center of Shark Week’s first original movie is more horrifying than any Jaws movie. It’s official: Getting stranded and watching sharks slowly kill off my friends is now my worst nightmare.

The story, which inspired The Discovery Channel’s Capsized: Blood in the Water, dates back to 1982, when a billionaire hired a group of five friends to sail his yacht, named Trashman, from Maryland to Florida, Newsweek reports. Not long into the journey, the group suffered their first maritime nightmare when a violent storm caused the yacht to capsize, leaving the passengers stranded on a small dinghy without food or water. What would unfold over the next five days is horrifying. Per Popular Mechanics, the blood from one passenger’s sustained injuries drew the massive sharks to the boat, but she wasn’t the first to die. Instead, the first victim was a passenger who, delirious from subsisting on seawater and alcohol, jumped in the sea after thinking he had seen land. Except … there was no land. There were, however, tiger sharks.

“All of a sudden we just hear this shrill scream,” Deborah Scaling-Kiley, one of the survivors, said in the documentary I Shouldn’t Be Alive, per The Sun. “Blood-curdling. Then it was over, silence. There was no crying, nothing. There was no doubt what got him. The sharks got him.”

It didn’t stop there. Not long after, another man on the boat jumped into the water after notifying the others that he was going to buy beer and cigarettes. While the remaining passengers tried to stop him, they were ultimately unsuccessful, and they felt another shark devour him underneath the boat. Then, the passenger who had sustained injuries during the capsize died from blood poisoning. While one passenger, Brad Cavanaugh, considered eating her body, Newsweek reports, Cavanaugh and Scaling-Kiley decided to give their deceased friend a burial at sea. She, too, was eaten by sharks.

After five days of horrific conditions, the two survivors managed to flag down a Russian cargo ship, which saved them as they were on the brink of death. (While Scaling-Kiley died of unknown causes in 2014, Cavanaugh is reportedly still alive, making his living off an unimaginable career, given this experience: He’s a mariner.)

Pretty sure I, uh, won’t be watching this movie.

This Is the Most Horrifying Shark Story of All Time