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Naughty Elephant Sent to the Gallows
This is a new feature we're going to try. The Odd History Lesson.

They will all be true. No tellin' tales out of school. I swear. The stories will be strange moments in history that most people probably don't know about. We'll do a few and see how they go. If The Loyal 77 like them, we'll keep doing them.

In 1916, an elephant named Mary was hanged for her bad behavior. The only time we know of this kind of madness occurring.

Mary was a performer for the Sparks World Famous Shows Circus. The circus hired an inexperienced assistant elephant trainer named Red Eldridge. Red had no idea what he was doing. Before a performance in Tennessee, Red was taking Mary to a local watering hole for some refreshment, Mary stopped to nibble on a watermelon rind she spotted on the ground. Red stuck a hook behind the ear of the pachyderm. Mary reacted to the mistreatment, grabbing Red with her trunk, tossing him into a concession stand and stepping on the trainer's head. Of course killing the man.

Onlookers turned into a villagers-in-Frankenstein-like mob. Shouts of "kill the elephant" rang out. A local blacksmith fired a dozen shots or so from a rifle. To little effect.

Two days later, circus owner Charlie Sparks bowed to local pressure and decided to kill Mary in public. A crowd of 2,500 - that included many children - gathered to watch the execution. A chain was put around Mary's neck. The chain was connected to a railcar-mounted industrial crane. The first attempt to hang Mary resulted in a broken chain. Mary crashed to Earth, breaking her hips. Children screamed and ran away in terror.

The second attempt at a hanging killed the poor elephant. She was buried beside the Tennessee railroad tracks.

There has been other elephant executions, but not by hanging from the gallows. Topsy the elephant killed three men in 1903 and was electrocuted. In fact, Thomas Edison filmed the event. You can see the footage here. It may be disturbing to some. Fair warning.

So we don't end on a total bummer, here's some happy elephant footage. An Asian elephant painting a self-portrait. The footage is real.



Leave these poor elephants alone.

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25 Comments

Are you trying to send a symbolic message to the GNC w dat pic?

said E on September 3, 2008 5:59 PM.

Are you trying to send a symbolic message to the RNC w dat pic?

said E on September 3, 2008 5:59 PM.

GNC is a vitamin thing. Nevermind.

said E on September 3, 2008 6:00 PM.

Ha. I didn't make the connection with the elephant and the current GOP convention. Oops. Had I thought of that I would have done a different story.

Good eye, E. Well done.

said Johnny Wright on September 3, 2008 6:09 PM.

Bummer about the Elephant. That's just f*cked up. Another good reason not to go to circuses. (Clowns might be the first.)

said E on September 3, 2008 6:15 PM.

Clowns are the number one reason the circus is dodgy. Freaks me out.

Mary the elephant is a terrible story.

said Johnny Wright on September 3, 2008 6:31 PM.

Whoever thought painting up old, alcoholic, mentally ill, transients would make for good childrens entertainment should have their heads examined.

said E on September 3, 2008 6:48 PM.

That sort of thing just wouldn't happen this day and age. The saftey Nazi's would have made sure the trainer had on his anti-elephant squashing hat on. Safety first, right?

said phatlard on September 3, 2008 7:19 PM.

BTW, I'm all for the history lessons in general though this was a tad heavy. Figger out the history of bums as amusement. Maybe they thought Hobos were cute back in the day.

said E on September 3, 2008 7:23 PM.

Man, humans are messed up.

said chad on September 3, 2008 7:29 PM.

Phatlard from way downtown!

Maybe a more silly one next, E. Like I said, we're trying these out and see how it goes. Work in progress. I just couldn't get that photo out of my head.

Hobos: Looking into it.

JW

said Johnny Wright on September 3, 2008 8:01 PM.

Damn jw. i was eating dinner when i read this. put me right off my fajitas. maybe something less morbid?

said Sheriff Pablo on September 3, 2008 10:44 PM.

Sorry bout that. We'll try another Odd History Lesson that isn't as heavy. I'll lighten the tone a bit.

said Johnny Wright on September 3, 2008 11:04 PM.

Well, on the bright side JW, you may have single handedly boosted sales of Cymbalta, and that's good for the economy.

said Paul on September 4, 2008 2:18 AM.

thats up there with the one about the chimp that got hanged because the townsfolk in some coastal English village thought he was a French person

said eaon pritchard on September 4, 2008 3:49 AM.

That's why I don't like animals in circuses. When I was a kid I used to like it, although I always cheered for the lion to eat the trainer's head, sadly it never had happend. But since when I realised how bad they were treated, I just went to circuses where I knew there were no animal shows.

The only thing I really like in circus is that big ball with bikers looping inside. I don't know how you call it, here it's called The Death Globe.

What made me sad in this history was the reaction of the people around. The elephant reacted as it could. There's no way Mary could say "Hey man, stop picking my ear with this fucking hook". They could have send her to a Zoo, or whatever, but no, the fair and wise human race once again stand on its an eye for an eye statement.

said Leonardo Carvalho on September 4, 2008 8:11 AM.

One of my friends in college was from the town in Tennessee (Erwin) where this happened. There is a store downtown called "The Hanging Elephant" that has a mural of the hanging on the side.

When my friend told me the story, I thought he was joking until I saw the side of the building.

said Anonymous on September 4, 2008 8:50 AM.

Odd history: good. Hanging elephants: bad.

Elephants are such neat creatures. They recognize images of themselves, mourn their dead, and apparently paint self portraits. Save the elephants!

said curlyelk on September 4, 2008 9:55 AM.

Amen.

said Johnny Wright on September 4, 2008 9:58 AM.

That's what I hate on us humans, in general.

Killing the elephant was not enough, they needed to have a store named after the event sporting a picture of the creature hung on the wall.
Dammit... That's fucking cruel.

said Leonardo Carvalho on September 4, 2008 10:02 AM.

That story is just another reminder that we really suck when it comes down to this whole animal thing. It's probably why feel so good every time I see some shitbag "trainer" get trampled when an elephant snaps.

Like curlyelk said, they really are neat creatures. Thanks for the information Reverend. Sometimes history lessons aren't always very pleasing. Hopefully with more education, and better wisdom, it prevents it from repeating itself.

said ConservaLiberCrat_08 on September 4, 2008 10:12 AM.

There was a really bad incident in Hawaii with an elephant named Tyke. The poor thing was running through the streets scared as policeman opened fire. Kids watching. Awful.

This incident was 1916. Can you imagine if it happened today?

Again, the next one will not be so grim.

said Johnny Wright on September 4, 2008 10:19 AM.

I miss Frankenstein mobs.

Only they would think the best way to execute a 14,000 pound creature with a neck as thick as a volkswagon is by hanging.

Didn't they have a submarine torpedo they could have dropped from a dirigible? Or some landmines they could have baked into a giant pancake? Or a banana peel the elephant might have slipped on and broken its back? All of those make a little more sense.

I believe a Frankenstein mob invented the motorized ice cream cone: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5971829.html

said Don't Swayze Bro on September 4, 2008 10:23 AM.

wow. like Carlin said: "Humans are pests" what a horrible thing.

said etantao on September 5, 2008 6:16 PM.

I'm originally from Johnson City, TN which is next to Erwin where this happened. The hanging of Mary is often a joke about the supposed backwardness of the people there. You know, if something kinda weird or silly happens there someone is liable to say, "of course, any town that hangs an elephant..." Also there was a band at one point called Murderous Mary and a drawing of an elephant would appear on their fliers. Its terrible to say, but I secretly cheer the elephant on when I think about this story.

said Brandon on September 6, 2008 12:45 PM.
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