The Chilling Tale of Chicago’s Clown Graveyard
Clowns have always freaked people out. Not all people, mind you, but those who suffer from Coulrophobia will certainly tell you those painted faces and bright red noses are the things of absolute nightmares.
But what of those who love clowns? And better yet, just how much do they love clowns?
In Chicago, there’s an apparent clown worship like you wouldn’t believe. Chicagoans even have a graveyard dedicated to deceased clowns. Yes, you read that right, however, there’s a damn good reason for that.
Showmen’s Rest is the name of the aforementioned graveyard, and while I’ve placed plenty of emphasis on the fact that there are a shitload of clowns buried in this eerie graveyard, there are also a whole lot of other bodies resting six feet deep at Showman’s Rest.
This particular plot of land, located in Forest Park, Illinois, is the resting place of those who died on June 22nd, 1918, when the train carrying the travelling Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus members stalled. The train was forced to halt transport when an overheated axle-box forced their travels to a dead stop.
If engineers had time to make the appropriate repairs, this article might not exist, and even more importantly, 86 men and women would not have lost their lives on that abysmal day in June.
But there was no time to apply the repairs needed to continue travel, as a second train, with a conductor fast asleep barreled into the train causing one of the worst train accidents in history. 127 individuals managed to escape the wreckage with non-life threating injuries… those other 86 never had a chance; they’re believed to have died within seconds of the collision.
Upon impact the train carrying the circus performers ignited in a ball of flames, as the trains vintage kerosene-fueled lanterns ignited instantly. It was a horrific accident, and one that has, sadly, been all but forgotten in the near-century since occurrence.
But those in Forest Park, Illinois could not forget. They did the most honorable thing possible, which was designating a sizable portion of the local Woodlawn Cemetery for the unfortunate souls lost on that day. Nearly 100 bodies are buried in a beautiful cemetery, their own little slice of home, Showmen’s Rest.
Through it all the honoring of these victims was – at the time – honored as best as possible. Original circus wagons that survived the ordeal in one piece are now located at Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Their winter headquarters in Peru, Indiana, is now recognized as the International Circus Hall of Fame.
It’s unnerving that one of America’s ugliest accidents has all but been forgotten. Too many performers lost their lives that fateful day, and we as Americans should be dealing out respect and condolences, even 99 years later.
Wrong city, wrong state. The wreck happened between gary, indiana and hammond, indiana