Topsy is the only elephant in world history to have been convicted of murder and deliberately executed for it. The animal was owned by the Forepaugh Circus at Coney Island’s Luna Park, and was approximately 28 years old at the time of her death.
A notoriously foul-tempered animal who had killed three men (one of whom, admittedly, was a sadistic trainer who had fed her a lit cigarette), the decision to execute Topsy was not taken lightly, and electrocution was chosen as a more humane alternative to hanging. Thomas Edison, who first suggested the method, also filmed it, producing a short feature entitled ‘Electrocuting An Elephant’ which has been used in a number of films and music clips over the years. Even a few seconds of the film will be sufficient to convince you that humane must have meant something different in 1903.
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