The Clowns Began to Weep After a Speeding Train Ripped Through Their Caravan, Killing 86 of Circus Performers. Revisiting the Hammond Circus Train Wreck of 1918

When an exhausted engineer falls asleep at the throttle, his high-speed troop train plows into a stalled circus train in the dead of night, igniting a hellish inferno that traps and consumes sleeping performers aboard the doomed antique coaches.

The Clowns Began to Weep After a Speeding Train Ripped Through Their Caravan, Killing 86 of Circus Performers. Revisiting the Hammond Circus Train Wreck of 1918

Night of Calm Shattered by Screaming Steel - Dozing Circus Folk Jolted Awake as Racing Train Destroys Rear Cars

In the early hours of June 22, 1918, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus Train lay stalled under the stars near Hammond, Indiana, its worn axle broken but its hundreds of souls sleeping soundly. Without warning, the calm night erupted into shrieking metal and splintering wood - an empty Michigan Central Troop Train had smashed into the rear at 50 miles per hour while barreling through the dark.

Chaos engulfed the circus camp as beloved families were crushed instantly inside now-collapsed wooden sleeping cars. Cries of panic and anguish filled the dawn air. This had been no mere bump in the night - the speeding steel engine had obliterated half the caravan, transforming the troubled train into an unimaginable war zone of the dead and dying.

Survivors Faced New Hell - Roaring Inferno Consumed All It Touched as Water Ran Dry

Stunned performers freed themselves from the wreck only to witness a new horror - within minutes, the wrecked wooden carriages had erupted into a voracious firestorm.

Circus folk still pinned in the ruin screamed as the raging fire licked closer, their skin and lungs burning; some cried for mercy kills rather than face being roasted alive as water ran scarce.

Mass clown grave.

Meanwhile the locomotive's live coals spewed onto canvas tents, igniting them with sparks and embers which spread the inferno on all sides - an unstoppable, hellish blaze.

86 Souls Lost, 100 Maimed - Speeding Train Leaves Only Ruin Where Families Once Laughed

As the flames finally faded and the scope of the devastation emerged, over 86 members of the circus community lay dead or dying amongst smoldering ruins now unrecognizable as the caravan of joy and whimsy from mere hours before. Another 100 men, women and children suffered critical wounds or were missing, yet more had their bodies or sanity shattered beyond repair.

Among blackened, twisted remains staggered dazed survivors with nowhere left to call home - and the clowns, it's said, began at last to weep. In a final heartbreak, some identified their charred loved ones only by scorched wares they had sold or bags they had owned in that floating world of escapism and entertainment now ruthlessly destroyed without warning...all while a stunned nation began mourning a way of life erased in one night of horror.

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