Circus Train Crash Mystery: Where's the Animal Graveyard? Page 2

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Five people, at least 50 horses and two "sacred cows" were killed in the accident. A tiger was reportedly shot after escaping from the wreckage and attacking a cow on a nearby farm.
Tyrone Area Historical Society

The show must go on

While the lore lingered for decades, the wreckage from the accident was cleared in just three days. Amid the swift cleanup, the dead animals were buried in trenches on the Friday farm along with other wreckage too mangled to be reused. But there is no documentation of the mass grave's exact location.

O'Brien, who has been giving presentations about the wreck since 1993, has amassed a collection of artifacts found on her property and the nearby plots owned by her relatives, including bone bits, horseshoes and even an antique donkey-shaped bottle opener, perhaps from the dining car. Her goal has always been to conduct a study — perhaps a dig —at the site.

"I'm just curious to see what survived," O'Brien told Live Science. "I thought there might be interesting artifacts."

Photos: Ancient Artifacts: Fake or Authentic?

Zitzler said she thinks it would be interesting to dig a few tests pits around the site of the anomaly the students found, or expand the search to a wider area. But in her eyes, the most interesting part of the crash is perhaps not the elusive grave, but the social disturbance it caused in its immediate aftermath.

The circus was stranded in Tyrone for a week while the train cars were being fixed at the nearby railroad shop in Altoona. (Despite the horrible accident, the show did go on.) The Industrial Revolution was a period of not only technological transformation, but also heavy immigration, and the circus performers — many of them likely Europeans — may have raised suspicions among the people of Tyrone.

"I like to think of the circus performers in sequins and tights walking down the unpaved main street of Tyrone — and the townspeople looking and closing their doors," Zitzler said.

But some of the performers got along fabulously with the locals. O'Brien said her great-great-uncle befriended a clown who survived the wreck and came back to the farm every May for the memorial service for the victims that was held each year from 1895 to 1958.

O'Brien helped reinstate that tradition in 2009 with a ceremony at the crash site. When two elephants laid wreaths at the memorial, they cried out to each other, O'Brien said, and their trainer claimed they could sense they were on a burial ground.

"But circus people tend to enhance everything," O'Brien said.

Original article on Live Science.

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