The Hartford Circus Fire will forever be remembered as a tragic day in history. 168 lives were lost in a fire that consumed the Ringling Brothers Big Top. In 2005 a memorial was designed to commemorate those who lost their lives in the fire and those who made major contributions to the Hartford Circus Fire cause.
The Memorial Committee decided that the best place for the memorial would be on the actual grounds of the fire in Hartford, CT, even though time has changed the lands. Since the fire, the Wish School was built on a portion of the area where the big tent used to be. There is also a new housing project, that you can see just beyond the horizon of the trees lining the memorial. Nevertheless, the memorial is a great place to pay tribute and to bring reality into perspective.
There is definitely an aerie feeling when you visit the site of the Hartford Circus Fire. My breath was taken away as I stood in the middle of the field glancing around, trying to envision where the big tent would have been. I couldn’t help but think about all the lives that were lost on the very ground that I was standing on. More than 60 years have passed since the fire, but it still feels like the presence of the horror is still there. What was even more shocking for me was looking at the pictures after my visit at the memorial. My boyfriend used our digital camera to capture images, while I used my manual Nikon with traditional old school film.
The central focus of the memorial site is a circle that represents where the center ring was. Within this circle is bricks, which were dedicated to people that have been touched by the Hartford Circus Fire and related quotations. For example, one brick was devoted to Don Massey, one of the co-authors of the A Matter of Degree: The Hartford Circus Fire And The Mystery of Little Miss 1565. Around the ring is eight trees and outlining the perimeter of the memorial is dogwood trees, that mimic where the big top would have been that day. As stated before, the lands have changed, therefore where the main entrance was, there is currently a parking lot and the Wish School. In fact my car was parked directly next to where the center ring was. Also, in the southwest corner is also a playground with a slide, which is part of the Wish School. The houses in the background are part of the housing projects that I mentioned before.
The Center Ring
note that in Photography, depth of field states that objects closer to you will appear out of focus (within 12 inches) and objects farther away from you will appear in focus, given you have the correct aperture and time. However, in this situation, the camera was set at automatic and not all the grass is out of focus, which supports the theorem of paranormal activity. See how some of the grass is in focus and other parts are not in focus. Of course one would also have to consider the fact that the battery was low.
One of the Quotes in the Center Ring
A good quote that is located where the center ring would have been.
There are several bricks that were devoted to people that were somehow touched by the fire, including two authors who wrote about the Hartford Circus Fire. Another interesting brick was one dedicated to one of the clowns, Emmett Kelly, “the clown that made us cry,” because one of the most iconic images of the fire was of him in full make-up crying while running with a bucket of water trying to help put out the fire.
The Central Hartford Circus Fire Memorial Ring
The layout of the Hartford Circus Tent and all the lives that were lost in the fire.
The Span of the Hartford Circus Big Tent
When you are standing in the field it is hard to envision how big the tent was. Nothing can escape the fact of how small you feel amongst this wide open field.
West & Parking Lot
The first shot is facing the Wish School, where the main entrance would have been and the second shot is facing the center ring, from the perspective of the Wish School.
Where the narrative plaques are, also apart of the seating quarters
Where the animal shoots, seating, and the band stand were located.
Where the seating area would have been.
The Narrative plaques and the timeline of the fire
Visiting the Hartford Circus Fire will definitely provide you with a dose of reality regarding the circumstances of the fire and the lives that were lost. When you are standing on the memorial site, your mind starts to wonder as you think about all the lives that were lost. The lands have changed, but nothing can change the fact that 168 lives were lost in that fire. You could be standing in the same spot where someone was trampled over or where someone tried to escape the fire, but was unable to.
- Northwood Cemetery & The Six Unidentified (firesurvivors.wordpress.com)
- A Review of “Sad-Face Clown: Emmett Kelly” (iloveclowns.wordpress.com)
- Inspired: Vintage Circus Posters (casasugar.com)
- Two Worlds of Circus: Glimpse on one, Horror on the other (spiritandanimal.wordpress.com)