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TOPSY - Coney Island Elephant

When Coney Island burned down in July 1907, razing 35 acres to the ground, it was popularly referred to as "Topsy's Revenge".
Coney Island, New York had a popular Lunar Park whose main attraction was a herd of free roaming elephants. The favourite was 'Topsy' a three ton female whose strength had been used to build many of the attractions and now she gave rides to the public. She was ten feet high and 20 feet in length. Although domesticated she suddenly developed a bad temper, which is no surprise when you consider that her trainer J.F Blount fed her lit cigarettes. On one such occasion, Topsy picked him up with her trunk, then dashed him to the ground...killing him instantly. This signed her death warrant. The man- killer would be publicly hung, but the ASPCA protested on humanitarian grounds. So the park decided they had enough electricity so Topsy would "ride the lightening" a practice carried out since the 1890's in the American penal system. No one had ever electrocuted an elephant so expert help was sought in the form of Thomas Edison. He was only too willing to perform this 'public service' and so promote his new electrical current. A crew complete with cine camera was sent to Coney Island. A crowd of 1,500 witnessed Topsy's electrocution. It took 6,600 volts and mercifully only ten seconds to kill her. The spectacle was filmed and toured the States as a film entitled 'Electrocuting an elephant'. If you visit Coney Island today, you can witness the film. On 20th July 2003 a stunning tribute created by Lee Diegaard, now on display at Coney Island museum, was dedicated to Topsy.


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