Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

A song to listen to while imagining the following strange and macabre tale...

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murderous mary elephant

"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."


Hectocotylus said...

The text and photo of this post come from HERE.

The Wikipedia entry on Mary is HERE (with links for further reading).

Saint.Genet said...

What a horrible story,but perfect for Halloween. People wonder why circus animals sometimes snap....

Oh,and I love your blog. Absolutely love it!

Hectocotylus said...

I agree.

And I'm pleased that you enjoy my blog.

When I first saw the picture of Mary I was fairly certain it must have been fake... When I found out it was real I felt like I had to share it (and the story behind it). The image is very striking, and it reminds me of some of the over the top, surreal imagery found in the elephant's funeral/burial scenes in Jodorowsky's SANTA SANGRE (which I've now added to the post).

There is also the story of Topsy, "a domesticated elephant with the Forepaugh Circus at Coney Island's Luna Park. Because she had killed three men (including a severely abusive trainer who attempted to feed her a lit cigarette), Topsy was deemed a threat to people by her owners.

A means of execution initially discussed was hanging. However, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals protested and other ways were considered. Thomas Edison then suggested electrocution with alternating current, which had been used for the execution of humans since 1890.

To reinforce the execution, Topsy was fed carrots laced with 460 grams of potassium cyanide before the deadly current from a 6,600-volt AC source was sent coursing through her body. She was dead in seconds. The event was witnessed by an estimated 1,500 people and Edison's film of the event was seen by audiences throughout the United States.

When Coney Island burned down, the fire was referred to as Topsy's Revenge."