Skip to Main Content

Circus Horror Memorial.

Circus Horror Memorial

Field review by the editors.

Hartford, Connecticut

On July 6, 1944, the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus was hosting a show on a hot afternoon in the big top tent. The crowd was mostly moms and children. The canvas tent, waterproofed with wax, caught fire. Between the flames, smoke, dripping melted wax, and stampede to escape, over 700 people were injured and at least 168 died.

It was the worst circus disaster in U.S. history, and was called "The Day the Clowns Cried." 13-year-old Charles Nelson Reilly, best known for his later appearances on TV quiz shows, was one of the survivors, and avoided indoor crowds for the rest of his life.

The field where the tent stood is now the back yard of an elementary school. On July 6, 2005, a memorial was erected on the spot, featuring a dome-shaped monument that marks the center of what was the circus ring.

Circus Horror Memorial

Wish Elementary School

371 Barbour St., Hartford, CT
On the east side of Barbour St., midway between Cleveland Ave. and Kensington St. You'll see a small sign just to the north of Wish Elementary School. Park on the street, then follow the walking path to the back of the school and the memorial.
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Jack, First Presidential Pardon TurkeyJack, First Presidential Pardon Turkey, Hartford, CT - 1 mi.
Museum of Natural and Other CuriositiesMuseum of Natural and Other Curiosities, Hartford, CT - 2 mi.
Lincoln Career ColumnLincoln Career Column, East Hartford, CT - 2 mi.
In the region:
Castle Tower Civil War Monument, Winsted, CT - 22 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Connecticut

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Connecticut.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

My Sights

My Sights on Roadside America

Create Your Own Bizarre Road Trips! ...Try My Sights

Mobile Apps

Roadside America app: iPhone, iPad Roadside America app for iPhone, iPad. On-route maps, 1,000s of photos, special research targets! ...More

Roadside Presidents app: iPhone, iPad Roadside Presidents app for iPhone, iPad. POTUS landmarks, oddities. ...More

Connecticut Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Route 66 Experience: Metal Muffler Man, Springfield, Illinois (May 27-Jun 2, 2024)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings