Famous Circus Accidents in History

Circuses are places of thrill and danger and they had their share of accidents and tragedies throughout the history. Here are some of them:

Picture Of Fire Breathers In Circus
  • Hartford circus fire happened on July 6, 1944. Nobody knows how the fire started but it spread quickly because the tent of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus was waterproofed with paraffin. 169 people died and more than seven hundred were injured from fire or trampling.
  • Dessi Espana was an aerial chiffon acrobat at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus when in May 2004 she fell from the height of 10 meters due to technical failure. She died in hospital from the injuries.
  • Massarti the Lion-Tamer died on January 3, 1872, while he was performing in Bolton, England. A lion named Tyrant attacked him after which three other lions that he was performing with attacked him also. Massarti was torn apart in front of the audience of several hundred.
  • The Great “Wallace Brothers” Circus Train Disaster in 1903. In a cruel game of faith two trains that carried two different “Wallace Brothers” circuses collided on the tracks. The first train managed to stop but the breaks of the second one failed and the disaster struck. Thirty circus workers were killed and another 27 were hurt. Animals also died
  • Hagenbeck-Wallace Train Wreck happened on June 22, 1918. A train carrying Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was standing and many circus workers were sleeping in the cars. The driver of the other train fell asleep at his wheel and hit the first train with speed of 56 km/h.
  • The Cleveland Circus Fire didn't have human victims but over one hundred circus animals died in a fire of menagerie tent of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1942. It is unknown how the fire started but it spread to quickly to save many of the animals.
  • The St Louis Trapeze Accident happened in 1872, when Fred Lazelle and Billy Millson, fell to the ground when the trapeze construction failed. They fell on George North, a gymnast, who was underneath and all three men were injured to the point where they didn't perform anymore.
  • The Flying Wallendas are stunt performer family that in 1962 had an accident on tightrope. They performed their “Seven-Person Chair Pyramid” act when a leading man faltered. Three men fell of which two died and one was left paralised.
  • Rossa Matilda Richter was the first Human Cannonball ever. She worked in circus since she was 14 and while she woked in P.T. Barnum Circus she was shot out of spring-loaded cannon into the net. She missed the net and broke her back.
  • Eva Garcia worked at Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth, England and was an aerial silks acrobat since she was 7 years old. She lost the grip and fell in August of 2003.
  • Sarah Guyard-Guillot an acrobat at “Cirque de Soleil” fell from a complex platforms and height of 30 meters during an act on June 29, 2013. She died on her way to the hospital.