Adults and children alike loved every performance of circus acts. Circus acts like death defying acrobatics, tight rope walkers, team of clowns and wild animals are just some of popular performances that audience loved to watch. However, not all stunts are successful. Some circus stunts result to death and horror like the 1950 circus accident.
Top 10 Worst Circus Accidents in History
Hair Hanging Acrobats Accident (2014)
Julissa Segrera was one of the eight acrobats who were badly hurt in their May 14, 2014 circus stunt. The accident occurred when the umbrella rigging in which their hair was hanging had suddenly malfunctioned. The hair hanging acrobats were crashed in ground of Dunkin Donuts Center in Rhode Island. They dropped to the floor and landed on another acrobat. The contraption in which they were hanging had also fallen on them. The injured women had to undergo several surgical procedures to treat their injuries.
Cirque du Soleil Accident (2013)
Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian based entertainment company, which is popular in combining traditional circus with modern creativity. One of their famous shows, “Ka”, featured floating platforms instead of regular floor. This created amazing visuals, especially in the final battle scene. However, on June 29, 2013, one of the performers, Sarah Guyard Guillot, was elevated 90 feet up near the stage. Then, she suddenly dropped to the ground because of the faulty cable. Sarah Guyard Guillot had died while she was on her way to the hospital.
Chiffon Acrobat Accident (2004)
In May 2004, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had a show in St. Paul. The crowd was treated to a show of aerial displays of chiffon acrobat. However, Dessi Espana, the female acrobat who was upside down, hanging through her legs had crashed to the arena floor when the chiffon scarf had loosened. The crowd, mostly children said that they had seen Espana landing on the floor with her head first, though others claimed that she had landed on her back or stomach. Later that night, Espana had died from her injuries.
Aerial Acrobat Accident (2003)
In August 2003, around eight hundred people had watched the Hippodrome Circus in England, when suddenly, Eva Garcia, one of the aerial acrobats plunge to her death after she was suspended in the air more than 20 feet up. Based on the story of staff members who had seen the accident, Eva had lost the grip on the wire above her head, thus causing her to fell on the ground. The accident to Eva Garcia was not expected at all since she had been performing as an aerial acrobat every day ever since she was seven years old.
Tiger Tamer Accident (2003)
Siegfried and Roy’s productions were regarded as the most visited show in Las Vegas during the 30 years run. The production was a combination of tiger stunts and magic. But on October 3, 2003, one of its regular performances, the 7-year-old tiger Mantecore Fischbacher Horn had attacked Roy Horn. Roy Horn had suffered from a convulsion, which occurred due to a seizure, and the situation had startled Mantecore who attacked his trainer. It is very fortunate that Horn was able to survive the attack.
Flying Wallendas Accident (1962)
Flying Wallendas was known as old circus family which was composed of Karl, Helen Kreis, Herman and other several relatives. Karl Wallenda had started the circus performance known as Seven Person Chair Pyramid, in which act 7 people had to balance on tight ropes and even a chair. The tightrope was hanging 32 feet up to the ground. They do not use any safety nets while performing. In 1962, one of their performances had gone wrong. One of the men had faltered and three had dropped to the ground. Karl’s son in law and his two nephews died in the accident while his adopted son had survived but suffered paralysis ever since.
Circus Fire Accident (1944)
On July 6, 1944, a fire had started in southwest area of the tent of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey. The tent that caught fire was water proofed with gasoline and paraffin wax, thus causing the fire to spread quickly. Seven thousand crowds had panicked and rushed to go to the exits, but two of the exits were closed by chutes, which were used in bringing circus animals. During the stampede, circus attendees were crushed and asphyxiated by the weight of the others. Casualties reached 169 while over 700 people were injured.
Cleveland Circus Fire Accident (1942)
There were no human casualties in The Cleveland Circus Fire that happened in 1942. However, it was still a very horrifying accident because it caused death to more than one hundred circus animals. The cause of the fire was not known, but it had started from the tent of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The audience and the workers were able to flee from the fire. But the flames spread fast that circus animals could not be saved. Nine cages that contained zebras, tigers and lions were all burned.
Mary the Elephant Accident(1916)
On September 12, 1916, “Mary the Elephant” had attacked her handler, Red Eldridge to his death. Several causes were seen to be the reason of the attack. As a trainer, Red Eldridge had used a stick to stab Mary, which may have infuriated Mary, but there was a belief that the elephant was simply bored. Due to the death of Eldridge, the town people of Kingsport Tennessee had asked for retribution. They decided that Mary should be hanged. On September 13, 1916, 2,500 people had witnessed the execution of Mary by hanging on an industrial crane.
St. Louis Trapeze Accident (1872)
This one, though pretty horrific enough, still could be the least severe circus accident in this list. Trapeze is considered as one of the most death-defying stunt in the circus acts. Performers for trapeze are required to have flexibility and strength. But training is not enough to stop mechanical failure. In 1872, Billy Millson and Fred Lazelle, two famous trapeze artists had dropped and crashed on the ground after the trapeze mechanism had encountered trouble. George North was the gymnast, who was under the trapeze when it had dropped. In this circus accident, Lazelle and North both got injuried—Millson had broken ribs while North had internal injuries.