From LSD to a public hanging...three cruel and unusual elephant deaths

Elephants have suffered at the hands of humans in more ways than one

Share
Related Topics

In 1916, Sparks World Famous Shows was looking for a way to compete with other circuses to make them stand out. They were known primarily for their elephants, and of all their elephants, Mary was the showstopper of the team. According to Sparks, she was the biggest elephant on the planet – and worth a huge $20,000.

She needed a new trainer though, and although the only candidate who turned up was Red Eldridge, a drifter whose last job was as a janitor – they hired him anyway. After a day’s training, Eldridge became annoyed at Mary and hooked her ear to force her to move, whereupon Mary lost her temper and threw him against a drink stand, killing him.

Mary was put on trial, and found guilty and sentenced to death. Several men took it upon themselves to do the deed, so they took her outside and shot at her, repeatedly. But her hide proved too thick for their bullets, so they looked to find another way to kill her. The town discussed how best to execute her, one man suggested crushing her between two engines, another suggested dismembering her between two trains going in opposite directions – but ultimately, these were decided to be too cruel and – incredibly – the town decided to hang her instead. From a giant crane.

Upset at losing his star attraction, Sparks turned Mary’s execution into a publicity stunt for his circus. On the day, 2,500 people turned up to see her strung up to a crane to die. However, it was badly thought through and on the first attempt, the chain snapped and Mary fell to the ground and broke her hip. Eventually they found a chain strong enough to hold her weight after half an hour of hanging, she was declared dead and the assembled audiences all dutifully trooped inside to watch Sparks’ show.
 

Click here to find out more about our Elephant appeal Christmas campaign.
 

For  an elephant, how much LSD is too much?

What happens if you give an elephant LSD? On Friday August 3, 1962, a group of Oklahoma City researchers decided to find out. 

In the height of the fascination with psychotropic drugs in the 1960s, a group of scientists from Oklahoma decided that the best use of their time, education and interests would be to dose up an elephant with LSD.

Their justification came from their interest in ‘musth’ – a temporary madness that male elephants are occasionally prone to. It seems they thought, in a remarkable display of tenuous logic, that LSD creates a sort of madness, so perhaps it could create ‘musth’ in Elephants.

They enlisted the help of a local zookeeper, who volunteered Tusko, a 3,200kg male elephant for the job. However – exactly how much acid should one give an elephant? Unsurprisingly, it’s not an exact science, but the scientists believed that elephants would prove resistant to the LSD, so they decided to up the dosage, significantly. They gave Tusko 297mg of LSD – enough to make nearly 3,000 people experience hours of ‘marked mental disturbance’ – which they shot into his thigh in a rifle powered dart.

Predictably, perhaps, Tusko didn’t respond well. However, quite how badly he reacted was a shock to everyone involved. He stormed around the pen for about five minutes, before collapsing. The report at the time describes his pain vividly: ‘"Five minutes after the injection he trumpeted, collapsed, fell heavily onto his right side, defecated, and went into status epilepticus. The limbs on the left side were hyperextended and held stiffly out from the body; the limbs on the right side were drawn up in partial flexion; there were tremors throughout.’

One hour and forty minutes later, Tusko was dead.

It would be nice to say that Tusko didn’t die in vain, but the experiment was bungled so badly by the scientist’s decision to dose the poor creature with more than 30x the sensible amount. However, the scientists ignored this and chose to sheepishly –and optimistically- conclude instead, "It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD - a finding which may prove to be valuable in elephant-control work in Africa."

Current of cruelty runs through Thomas Edison

In the early 20 century, Thomas Edison was living comfortably off the royalties of direct current which had been set as the standard for electricity distribution, until Tesla’s new alternating current appeared.

Edison decided to stage a smear campaign against Tesla and Westinghouse, and it took the rather macabre form of a series of animal electrocutions using AC – although he tried to popularise the term ‘westinghoused’ for electrocuted. He mostly used stray dogs or cats, but also killed cattle and horses if he could get his hands on them .

However, a spectacular opportunity presented itself to Edison as he heard about an elephant, Topsy, who had been sentenced to death for killing three handlers in three years (including one who tried to feed her lit cigarettes).

He persuaded the authorities to let him have the elephant, and on the day, Topsy was restrained and fed carrots laced with cyanide before a 6,600 vote AC charge slam through her body. 1,500 people witnessed Topsy’s execution, which was filmed by Edison.
 

You can read more about our Christmas campaign to  stop elephant poaching here

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor’s Letter: The Easter message

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

There is far too much sexism in the UK - but a point scoring system against other countries won't help to tackle it

Victoria Richards
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit