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The Tragic Story of Mary, The Elephant Executed by Hanging!

The Tragic Story of Mary, The Elephant Executed by Hanging!

I featured this story in the post 10 Most Disturbing Facts about Truly Horrific Events but decided to give the story its own post and flesh out the details a little more.

Once you’ve read the story of this tragic event. Head over and read 9 more stories like this one.

The Execution by Hanging of Mary the Elephant
Mary The Elephant

Mary Entertained America!

She went by the name of Big Mary.

For years, Mary had worked for the Sparks World Famous Shows traveling circus where she entertained towns from coast to coast.

That all came to a crashing halt in the year 1916, when the town of Erwin, Tennessee arrested Mary for murder and then hanged her from a crane in front of a crowd of spectators.

Big Mary’s story is as sad as it is bizarre. While time has clouded the exact details of her life, a few things remain certain and that would be the female circus elephant killed the man who beat her with a hook, and a small town in Tennessee formed a mob, lynching her in a public execution as grisly as it is unbelievable. It was so devastating.

The elephant hanged to death

The Tragic Story of Mary the Elephant Unfolds!

According to history, the circus had just reached the small town of Kingsport, Tennessee. As a promotional activity, the circus held a parade along the town’s main street.

Walter Eldridge who was a drifter and with no real experience of handling elephants was riding Mary during the circus. Even though it was only his second day with the circus. Eldridge was told that he would do just fine as long as he wielded the elephant stick. It is actually a spear-shaped rod that is used to train elephants.


During the parade, Mary stopped to chew on a piece of watermelon. Impatient, Eldridge jabbed her time and again. Elephants are known for their quick temper. Eldridge’s repeated jabs enraged Mary and she pulled him off her and stomped on his head. For Eldridge, that was the end.

Mob Justice

The early 1900s was a time when mob justice ruled. The enraged mob demanded that Mary be put down immediately.

Ever the performer, Charlie Spark acquiesced to the mob’s demand, but with a twist. He decided to make a spectacle out of Mary’s end. After looking at and discarding various methods of how to put down Mary, Spark decided to hang her.

The next town, Erwin, had a 100-ton crane that was used to lift railway carriages. Spark offered the crowd a free viewing of Mary’s hanging in exchange for use of the crane.

The Hanging of Mary The Elephant.

At the railway yard on the day of her execution, in front of a screaming crowd of 3,000, Mary was tied to a rail and a chain was placed around her head. As the crane hoisted her, a loud crunching noise filled the air and her leg was still tied to the chain attached to the rail as her bones and ligaments snapped under the strain.

In pain, Mary writhed and let out terrible shrieks. She had just been raised five feet when the chain lifting her broke and dropped her on the ground, breaking her hip.

But that wasn’t the end. A stronger chain was attached to her neck and she was lifted once again and left hanging for half an hour as she choked to death until a vet declared her dead. That was the end of Murderous Mary, as she had come to be known.

The tragic story of mary the elephant

The Tragic Story of Mary, The Elephant Executed by Hanging!

Thoughts?