The Story of Murderous Mary: A Circus Elephant Arrested for Murder and Hanged in Public
Mon, October 25, 2021

The Story of Murderous Mary: A Circus Elephant Arrested for Murder and Hanged in Public


Mary the elephant was purchased by Charlie Sparks during the 19th century, when she was only four years old. Together with his wife, Addie Mitchell, Sparks raised Mary and treated her like the child they never had.

Mary began performing at the age of eight at Sparks World Famous Shows. This traveling circus featured acrobats, clowns, lions, and other exotic animals, including Mary. The five-ton Asian elephant was dubbed “The Largest Living Land Animal on Earth.” She played musical instruments, played with baseballs, and stood on her head. Mary was indeed the star of the show.


Photo Credit: All That's Interesting


When they made their way to Virginia, the circus hired a hotel worker named Walter “Red” Eldridge. He was responsible for the elephants’ basic maintenance, such as feeding and watering them, even though he was inexperienced. 


Photo Credit: RearFront


It is believed that Eldridge sat atop Mary, nudging her forward with his bullhook, while they were preparing for a show in Kingsport, Tennessee. He smacked her with his makeshift whip and dug the hooks deep into her flesh. According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, Mary was so hurt, she grabbed the worker, lifted him into the air, and slammed his body onto the ground. After that, she crushed his head using her massive foot, killing him instantly.


Photo Credit: All That's Interesting


News of the killing spread fast. People from the town called the elephant “Murderous Mary” and demanded the Sparks kill her. With a heavy heart, Sparks had to make a tough decision since his business was at stake. Although he tried to stage a public execution, Mary was eventually hanged in front of the Tennessee people. The story of the beloved elephant shows why people should never put these animals in such unnatural situations in the first place.




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