Did they Really Hang An Elephant?

LyndyStarred Page By Lyndy, 1st Apr 2016 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>True Stories

Elephants have always been the biggest (no pun intended) draw for me at circuses and zoos. They always seem to be such gentle giants, but appearances can be deceiving.

Elephant Hung In NJ?

Recently I was sent a link to Weird NJ magazine regarding the hanging of an elephant from Barnum and Bailey's Circus. This supposedly happened offshore in the southern part of NJ. Well, I grew up in South Jersey and the only elephant I've ever heard of was LUCY, a 90 ton elephant-shaped building built in Margate, NJ. (Why LUCY is here is an interesting read, which I'll let you discover via the link. https://h2g2.com/edited_entry/A472745 ) I can attest to the fact that LUCY is still standing, not hung nor buried. But I'm a sucker for things of such nature, so my search began for this "hanging of elephants" nonsense. Which, it would appear, is not "nonsense" at all.

Mandarin Goes Rogue

According to author Michael Wittman, in1902 Barnum and Baileys Circus docked on Manhattan's west side after an extended tour throughout Europe. But before departing London, Mandarin the elephant had been exhibiting unruly behavior. He became so unmanageable and aggressive, he struck a keeper with his trunk and killed him. The elephant had been extremely hard to handle during the entire crossing, and it was then that Bailey made the decision to have him killed, rather than risk him hurting or killing other people or animals. Mandarin's fate was sealed.

Trainer George Conklin

During this time it was determined by the circus Animal Superintendent, George Conklin, that the most humane method to "dispose" of an elephant was by strangulation. To achieve this, the elephant must be hanged. The Ways of the Circus: Being the Memories and of George Conklin Tamer of Lions. From all accounts, Conklin loved his charges, especially Mandrake, so this method certainly didn't seem extreme or cruel. Quoted from Conklin's account: "Mandarin was about forty-five years old, all of eight feet high, and heavy in proportion. We brought him to New York in a big crate on the upper deck of the boat. On the way over, Mr. Bailey decided to have him killed, so instead of unloading him on to the pier, Mr. Bailey had a big seagoing tug come alongside, and the crate, elephant and all, was swung down to the deck of the tug, which then put out to sea. When far enough outside the crate was loaded down with pig iron, swung out over the water, and let go. And so ended Mandarin."


Reporter's Chilling Account

The New York Tribune had a field day for this public spectacle with a much more detailed report: " Mandarin, with head cased in leather harnesses, and trunk and legs manacled with huge chains, was slowly strangled to death on the deck of the ship using a two-inch thick hawser (rope) and windlass." The article also suggests why Conklin’s account was not as descriptive, observing that: “George Conklin, the trainer who had made an especial pet of Mandarin, could not witness the elephant’s end. He watched the preparations, but just before the time for the execution burst into tears and ran away.” A crowd of spectators watched from the docks as the elephant was choked to death; it took about eight minutes and seemed “painless” to the reporter on hand. The next morning Mandarin’s body was disemboweled on deck with “his comrades trumpeting the while,” and then loaded onto another ship, weighted down with lead, and dumped out at sea."


It should be noted that in the 1900's, hanging was the common way to dispose of sick or dangerous elephants. At this time, circus animals were considered a means to make money for their owners, and if they couldn't do that, they were worthless. Thankfully times have changed for all animals when it is time to leave this world. Today we can gently put them to sleep before administering that last fatal dose. According to Wittman's article, the reporter writes that Mandarin's death appeared "painless" as he strangled for 8 minutes. That was just his opinion, of course. I'm not so sure he'd have chosen this method for his own demise.

An Elephant Burial In Your Hometown?

Since I wrote this piece, my curiosity about other burial sites was satisfied to find the following list on http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/33353

⦁ Jumbo, Medford,Massachusetts
⦁ Norma Jean, Oquawka, Illinois,
⦁ Big Charley, Peru, Indiana
⦁ Old Bet, Somers, New York
⦁ Little Bett, Chepachet, Rhode Island
⦁ Black Diamond, Corsicana, Texas
⦁ Kay, Taylorville, Illinois
⦁ Big Mary, Erwin, Tennessee
⦁ Old Pitt, Dillon, Montana
⦁ Ziggy,Chicago, Illinois
⦁ Thirsty Mary , Lewiston, Idaho
⦁ Romeo, Killer Elephant, Delavan, Wisconsin
⦁ Hero, Vermillion, South Dakota - See more at: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/33353#sthash.fuKUU5Zl.dpuf


Circus, Elephant

Meet the author

author avatar Lyndy
I'm interested in history, genealogy, book reviews, oddities in all areas of life, and Fact or Fiction? articles. Wife, mother and grandmother who enjoys research, writing and making new friends.

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author avatar Mariah
10th Apr 2016 (#)

Animal abuse is always heartbreaking..very interesting story Lyndy, congratulations on your star page and a very warm welcome to wikinut.

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author avatar Lyndy
10th Apr 2016 (#)

Thank you so much, Mariah. Happy you found this interesting, and thank you for the welcome.

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author avatar Ptrikha
14th Apr 2016 (#)

A gruesome way to kill the animal. I wonder if people enjoyed seeing such a thing?

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author avatar Lyndy
14th Apr 2016 (#)

Apparently they did enjoy such a gruesome spectacle, sad to say. I would have walked away rather than see Mandarin die. Thank you so much for reading this, Ptrikha.

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author avatar Sky Rose
9th Aug 2016 (#)

Wow some people are just plain cruel. I couldn't have watched that poor soul die like that.

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author avatar James Donihue
25th Nov 2017 (#)

I think the picture is from where they hung an elephant in TN http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2559840/The-town-hanged-elephant-A-chilling-photo-macabre-story-murder-revenge.html

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author avatar Lesa Cote
24th Jan 2020 (#)

The assignment help los angeles admires the post on elephant. It is good to know about an elephant. You can call +14235002312 You can also visit https://www.dreamassignment.com/assignment-help-los-angeles

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