The circus death story

The big top has gone up in Southern California. When I was a girl, my grandparents took me to see the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which had come to Anaheim.

To my little-girl mind, it truly was The Greatest Show on Earth. Cotton candy in hand, I saw tigers, clowns and a trapeze artist that dangled off a motorcycle on a high wire.

Grampa bought me a glittering light-up thing that whirred when you pulled the strings. I was happy all the way.

We had gone to the morning performance. I later learned that during that day’s afternoon show, the motorcycle driver — doing a handstand on the handlebars — went off the highwire and crushed his accompanying acrobat.

I wanted to link to the news story.

Will you believe I haven’t been able to find but one mention of a Ringling-and-company death online? Five years ago, a woman twirling from a scarf fell to her death. The show went on.

Curiously, none of the pieces about that 2004 fall mentions a history of circus mishaps, or, specifically, the Ringling Bros.’ fatality record. As news articles go, this is a glaring omission. They say only, “Brock said it was the first death of a circus performer during a show for the 134-year-old company in at least 10 years.”

The only other mention that anything has ever gone amiss at a circus was a story of the historic Hartford fire of 1944.

The supression of damning news, combined with tales and YouTube footage of animals’ being mistreated, is creeping me out.

I’m finding a new place to eat cotton candy.



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