If you’re unable to watch movies with a clown as the villain, then this real life tale of circus horror is not the one for you. As, hidden in a park in Illinois, lies a mass grave of clowns who all died the same tragic death in June, 1918.
Hammond Circus Train Wreck
On a dark summer’s night almost one century ago, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was making its way by train towards Hammond, the next port of call for their traveling circus show. The first train, containing mostly animals and a few performers arrived at their destination safely, but little did they know the train behind them did not meet the same lucky fate.
Stopping at 4am to allow the trains overheated axle box, the majority of the Hagenbeck-Wallace contingent were asleep in the back cabins, with zero awareness of the empty military troop train currently steaming towards them at 35 miles per hour.
Alonzo Sargent, the engineer controlling the vehicle, had fallen asleep at the helm and thus missed every single signal and flare warning him of the stationary train ahead. He smashed into the wooden circus cars, killing the majority of the passengers within 30 seconds.
A few survivors managed to scramble out of the wreckage but in an increasingly twisted turn of fate, the train’s traditional kerosene-fueled lanterns smashed, catching the splintered disaster and starting huge fire. Unfortunately, this meant that the survivors had to stand and watch as their loved ones succumbed to the inferno.
As the hours passed and bodies were retrieved from the scene, a solitary clown Joe Coyle could be seen sobbing next to the lifeless bodies of his wife and children.
All that remains in an eerie reminder of this tragic event is an elephant statue engraved with the words ‘Showmens League Of America,’ in Forest Park, Illinois. Little do most of the passersby realize that this simple statue hides a mass grave containing the bodies of the 87 circus performers who died on that sorry day.
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