Ok this is not a joke, its about as far from a joke as we're ever likely to get. This topic is about some pretty dark and grim subject matter, so read at your own discussion.
Humans do some pretty messed up stuff, but sometimes we really out do ourselves. This is one of those times, this is the story of Mary.
As most of you may know, the life of circus animels is very, very cruel. They spend long periods of time held in confined spaces or chained up with little to no stimuli, little real healthcare (or even just care for that matter) and are regularly abused. They are also tortured into behaving in unnatural ways for the amusement of crowed, sometimes right from birth. All this practically insures that any animal in a circus will suffer sever mental health issues. This result in the poor creature becoming a ticking time bomb. That said even a wild animal that is well cared for can be very dangerous if provoked..
Mary was a circus elephant at the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. While some of the details are a bit hazy, it is known that Mary had been with the circus since 1898. Befor Mary, the Sparks circus had been a relatively mundane horse and carriage outfit, but after the got Mary their business would keep expanding until they had 5 elephants and their own train. Now to be far the Sparks circus always had a good reputation and Mr. Sparks himself is stated to have treated Mary kindly. How true that is we are never going to know, but even if he was kind the poor elephant was almost certainly being kept in conditions totally unsuited for her. Fast forward to 1916, Sparks is performing in Kingsport. Due to some staff changes, a homeless man named Red Aldridge had been taken on to the post of assistant elephant keeper despite that fact that there's no evidence the man had any experience with animal care even by early 20th century standards. During the show's elephant parade, Red hit Mary behind the ear after she tried to reach a piece of watermelon near by. Mary became enraged, grabbed Red, through him into a drinks stand and then stepped on his head. The events were overly dramatized by local news papers, painting Mary as a blood thirst beast who savagely gored Red then threw his body into the near by crowed.
Thankfully Mr. Sparks was able to calm Mary down after the attack so none else was hurt. Unfortunately it was to little to late. Public opinion quickly turned against Mary, with locals chanting for her death. A local Blacksmith even tried to killer her with his gun, but the calibre of the weapon was to weak. Mary was isolated from the public and Mr. Sparks found himself in a very bad situation. It was bad enough one of his animals had killed someone, thus losing the circus all it's earning in the town, but he was also threatened by the leaders of several town the circus was scheduled to visit who stated they would cancel their performance if Mary was included. Also there was the possibility that Mary could hurt someone else in the future, possible even a patron not just a member of staff. The only way to clean up this ruinous situation was to have Mary put down, and in an attempt to try an recoup money lost from both the event and the loss of a valuable animal, it was decided that Mary would be publicly executed.
Sadly this was nothing new. In 1904 a "killer" elephant named Topsy was publicly killed on Coney Island via electrocution. This event was filmed and can be found online. How they were going to deal with Mary was not so simple. Nether Kingsport or the nearby town of Edwin had enough electricity to attempt such a thing, shooting Mary was to dangerous if a crowed was present and she was to smart to eat food laced with cyanide. A lot of ideas were thrown around, such as having Mary crushed by two engines, but they eventually settled on haveing her hanged. On the following day, a foggy and rainy September 13, 1916, Mary was transported by rail to Unicoi County, Tennessee, where a crowd of over 2,500 people (including most of the town's children) assembled in the Clinchfield Railroad yard. Mary was hanged by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial derrick between four o'clock and five o'clock that afternoon. The first attempt resulted in a snapped chain, causing Mary to fall and break her hip as dozens of children fled in terror. The severely wounded elephant died during a second attempt and was buried beside the tracks. A veterinarian examined Mary after the hanging and determined that she had a severely infected tooth in the precise spot where Red Eldridge had prodded her .
There is an alleged photo of Mary being hanged however it's validity has been questioned. It has clearly been doctor but some clame that this was a common practise at the time if the image was not clear enough. I'm not posting it here because frankly, real or not, it's a haunting image either way and it should only be seen by those who want to.