Friday, July 15, 2011

The Tragic Story of Murderous Mary, Erwin, Tennessee

Like so many other abused elephants during the late 18 and early1900s, the five ton Asian elephant Mary was also abused by her handlers of the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. But one day she had had enough. That day would haunt the small Tennessee town of Erwin forever.

Only a few days after being hired, September 12, 1916, Red Eldridge, a hotel worker hired as assistant elephant handler, lead Mary to a pond to for a drink and to splash around. On the way to the pond Mary bent down to eat part of a watermelon. Eldridge, being impatient, prodded Mary behind the ear with a hook. Mary went into a rage. With her trunk she grabbed Eldridge, tossed him against a drink stand, and stepped on his head.

According to reports at that time, after crushing Eldridge's head Mary, calmed down and didn't threaten anyone. But with all the commotion everyone began to chat "Kill the elephant"! A blacksmith tried to kill her by shooting over a dozen rounds into Mary which had no effect.

Word quickly grew of the incident, nearby towns wouldn't allow the circus in to perform if Mary was part of the show. Some reports indicate that Mary had killed trainers in the past and that made communities even more hesitant.

After much pressure, circus owner Charlie Sparks reluctantly decided to squelch public fear and save the reputation of the circus by publicly executing Mary.

On a foggy and rainy September day in the nearby town of Erwin, Tennessee, a crowd of over 2,500 people gathered at the Clinchfield Railroad yard to watch the execution of Mary. The elephant was strung up by her neck with the use of a chain connected to a railcar-mounted industrial crane. As she was hoisted up the chain snapped and Mary fell, breaking her hip. Many children watching the spectacle ran in terror. Finally with a heaver chain the second attempt was successful in killing Mary. She hung for half an hour until she was declared dead. After the execution Mary was buried next to the tracks and she was known as "Murderous Mary".

95 years later the residents of Erwin, Tennessee would like to move past the strange event that has haunted their town. But many are still intrigued and keep this historic event alive. An antique shop named "Hanging Elephant Antique Shop" opened in Erwin memorializing the event. There you can purchase tee-shirts with the image of Murderous Mary hanging from the railcar crane.

25 comments:

  1. im doing this play and it has definitely touched my heart and made me cry

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  2. That is so messed up.

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  3. I think the most screwed up thing about all of this is that people to this day still celebrate it. Disgusting.

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  4. What the F*#k is wrong with humans!! As if the poor elephant even knew what she had done!! Disgusting and heartbreaking!

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  5. Yeah, it's a race thing.

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    1. In the early 1900s, what other race do you think could have done this???

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  6. rest in peace. reason number one why I hate the circus & my children will never see one. Humans can be so sick & wrong.

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  7. My heart will always be haunted by this horrific act against an innocent and blessed elephant. The town should feel ashamed for humiliating Mary's soul for so many decades!!!

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  8. i think they should hang more of them!!crazy white ppl my ass !!

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  9. Hanging Over Erwin: The Execution of Big Mary

    https://vimeo.com/24745924

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  10. It's one thing to have an opinion and another to disagree with it but to make comments and not stand behind them is cowardly.

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  11. Them Bird Things do a great song about Mary called "Pachyderm Nightmare"! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMVPwgOkfMI

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  12. That's fucked up the guy was a animal abuser I would of crushed his head to he shouldn't of abused that por elephant he got what he deserved plain an simple!

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  13. I would love to see her bones/memory taken out of the town that abused her, and a decent memorial set up in her honor. I would make a trip to see her. But Erwin does not want this, and who would blame them. People would come to honor Mary, and contemplate the horror that ALL of humanity inflicted on her... I checked the elephant sanctuary about 60 miles from Erwin, but since they don't allow visitors to the safe haven for circus and other tortured elephants, that likely would not work either. I hope that someday, a petition and fund will be set up, to give Mary a proper burial, which would also be a place to pay our respect to a beautiful animal, who suffered terribly, driven by greed; and to remind us to be kinder 'animals' ourselves. My new motto when my life gets tough, and since crying over Mary stories for sometime now, is...'if Mary can endure it, I can endure it... if Mary can DO it, I can DO it.' She needs a proper burial. If I was more 'social media' savvy, I'd try to separate Mary from Erwin, giving them BOTH the chance to move on. Since I lack in the 'technical' social graces, I would welcome being part of any movement to do so, should someone point me in the right direction, with contacts. May the beauty of your spirit live on Mary, despite the horror of your death. You are forever in my heart now, and not easily dismissed or forgotten.

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  14. I just heard about Mary for the first time today from my brother who read the book and visited Erwin, Tn. to hear from the locals. It's true they do not want their town associated with this horrible story. I can't believe humans could be so cruel to an animal that had spent her whole life making them a living!.

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  15. :( poor girl. maybe that ignorant excuse of a "trainer" should have respected the natural habits of the elephant. circuses are frickin disgusting anyway and should NOT be supported. those animals are still horribly abused to this day and should be left in peace where they're meant to exist, not at the hands of man for petty entertainment

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  16. Negative comments to others will NOT be tolerated on this blog and will be deleted.

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  18. Here her to anonymous July 2013 Erwin ought to ashamed of itself for allowing such a terible thing to happan give her a decent burial I say I sincerely hope when her killers passed on the got it!!

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  19. I hope this town is haunted forever by what was done to that beautiful animal ........ they are beyond wicked .......rest in peace Mary ... xxxx

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  20. This story was reported in the British press yesterday, I feel like a stake has been hammered through my heart ban all circuses, give Mary a decent burial even though its been nearly 98 years. Erwin she was only trying to entertain people something we humans should stop, as well as zoos culling animals and feeding the carcass to the lions like Copenhagen Zoo this was totally unnessary and as bad as the killing of Mary, I will never forget you Mary God Bless!!

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  21. I live in erwin and i have all my life and i do not feel it right for people to say we the people of erwin should be haunted or punished it was not us but the people from the near by town where it happen that wanted to hurt this poor animal they only hung her here because erwin being well known for the railroads had a crane big enough to withstand the elephants weight. The circus from what i have read was in the nearby county washington county so erwin is not the town to blame and to be look down on please before you judge get the infomation correct it is not us but our ansesors to blame and if i was related to anyone of them i do not agree that that was the correct thing to do

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