Romeo the Elephant statue in Delavan.

Statue of Romeo, The Killer Elephant

Field review by the editors.

Delavan, Wisconsin

In the 1800s more than 25 circuses used Delavan as their winter quarters. It was called the "Circus Capital of the World." The town has chosen to commemorate its heritage oddly, with a life-size statue of its most infamous resident: Romeo, the killer elephant.

Romeo was no misunderstood, one-shot killer. He was a serial murderer, knocking off five people over a period of 15 years. He crushed one, he impaled another with his tusk, he stamped a third to death. Romeo once escaped from his barn and terrorized the countryside for three days. On another occasion, while appearing in Chicago, he nearly tore the theater apart.

We've visited the graves of many circus elephants who were shot, or hanged, or electrocuted after one minor killing. Why was Romeo allowed to live? Perhaps he was spared because of a story, popular at the time, that he was merely acting out his grief after the death of his favorite female companion elephant, Juliet. This sounds reasonable, kind of, except that it was a made-up story from a circus press agent. Romeo was apparently just mean.

Romeo's clown buddy.

To Delavan's credit, the Romeo statue (a fiberglass sculpture made by F.A.S.T.) is not depicted as cuddly and cute. He rears menacingly on his hind legs, eyes glazed, with a strap around his head that probably put him in a bad mood. Inexplicably, a happy clown waves at Romeo's feet, oblivious to the killer pachyderm that is about to fall on him.

If this is an accurate representation of 19th century circus life, then perhaps Romeo wasn't a cold-blooded killer after all. Maybe the people around him were just dumb.

Statue of Romeo, The Killer Elephant

Address:
Main St., Delavan, WI
Directions:
Downtown, on the north side of Hwy 11 (Walworth Ave.), between 2nd and Main Sts.
Phone:
262-728-5095
RA Rates:
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September 30, 2014

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