"Mary was the biggest elephant in the Sparks World Famous Shows circus, weighing in at about five tons. On September 12, 1916, the circus played the town of Kingsport, Tennessee. Walter ‘Red’ Eldridge was hired just the day before to work for the circus as an elephant handler, even though he had no experience with the animals.
On September 12th, Eldridge was riding Mary to a water hole so that she could drink. There are varying stories, but the most common version of what happened that day started with Mary veering off path to eat a piece of watermelon lying in the road. When Eldridge prodded the side of her head in an attempt to make her stay on course, she used her trunk to snatch him off her back. Then, she forcefully threw him into a wooden drink stand, walked over to his battered and bruised body, and proceeded to crush his skull with her enormous foot. Bystanders watched in horror as Eldridge’s blood and brains oozed onto the street.
The townspeople demanded that Mary be killed. Other towns the circus had scheduled to perform in said the circus was not welcome as long as Mary was in the show.
Debates on how to kill Mary ensued. It was determined that no gun existed big enough to take her down. Electrocution and canons were other proposed methods. Finally, it was decided that Mary would be hung from a rail yard crane in the nearby town of Erwin, Tennessee. The execution was heavily advertised, and the following day a crowd of more than 2,500 people, including children, gathered to witness her death.
Mary’s leg was tied to the crane so she could not escape, and a chain was put around her neck. On first attempt, the chain around her neck snapped. She fell to the ground and broke her hip. Reports say that the sound of her bones breaking was heard by the thousands of onlookers. A larger chain was placed around her neck and she was hoisted up again. This time, the hanging was a success. Mary was dead. They let her hang for a half an hour, then her huge body was buried in the rail yard.
The people of Erwin say they would like to forget that the town ever played a part in the hanging of Mary."
Saturday, October 31, 2009
A song to listen to while imagining the following strange and macabre tale...
* * *