A tear has come to my eye as I write this...
On January 4, 1903 Topsy, the female Asian elephant was electrocuted after killing her abusive trainer, by Thomas Edison, which he caught on film, later to be released under the title, Electrocuting an Elephant. He wanted to show the public the dangers of Tesla's AC alternating current system. He also used other animals like dogs, cats, cows, horses, and apes for the test. He wanted to discredit his competitors by showing the public the dangers of alternating electrical current.
This is the sad story of the elephant, named Topsy. She was smuggled into the United States in the late 1800's as an attraction for Forepaugh Circus. I'm not going to ask how do you smuggle a two ton elephant into a country, but it happened.
She spent her life being abused by multiple trainers and audience members. From the very beginning Topsy was hard to handle. In a fit of rage, she grabbed her trainer, who was tickling her behind her ear and held him in the air, until another trainer came just in time to save him. Another trainer, burnt the tip of her trunk with a cigar tip. Topsy, crushed him to death. She became more aggressive with the more the trainers who abused her and after years of enduring the abuse was deemed a threat to the safety of the public and was destroyed.
At the age of only 36, Topsy was handed her fate. At first they wanted to hang her then decided it too inhumane so they decided to electrocute her. Thomas Edison was in charge of the electrocution and captured it on film. Her last days were spent at Coney Island's Luna Park, the owners wanted to charge 25 cents a person to watch but gave in to pressure from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Special agents were sent to oversee the electrocution and put a stop to making it a public spectacle.
A copper collar was fitted around her neck, on her feet her trainers placed copper boots.
Before the execution commenced she was given a high dose of potassium cyanide before blasting her with 6,600 volts of electricity. Her new trainer who also abused her would not lead her to her death and even refused money to coax her do so.
It is said, she died without a trumpet or a groan. Fifteen hundred people gathered for the spectacle.
On July 20, 2003, a memorial for Topsy the elephant was erected at the Coney Island Museum.
The ghost of Topsy is said to haunt Coney Island to this day.