It was a sunny July afternoon and thousands in the town of Hartford Connecticut turned out to see Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus. The afternoon turned tragic when a fire broke out, every available person ran to help, including performers, but somewhere between 167-169 people died and over 700 were injured. The photograph at the left featuring tramp clown Emmet Kelly holding a water bucket ran in papers across the country and it came to be known as "The day the clowns cried".
Because the big top tent had been weather proofed with paraffin and gasoline as was the standard at the time, the fiery tent collapsed within eight minutes leaving little chance for escape.
To complicate matters further, two of the exits were blocked by the chutes used to move the big cats, that had just finished performing prior to the fire, to and from the tent. Most of the dead were found in piles, at times three bodies deep, near the exits. A few survivors were found, having lived because they were trapped under other bodies and protected when the tent collapsed.
One of the greatest mysteries about the fire is the Identity of victim 1565 or "Little Miss 1565" as she came to be known. While there were some victims that were burnt beyond recognition, Little Miss was not. She was a blond little girl in a white dress that was never identified or claimed. Some believe that she could be Sarah Graham and she was eventually exhumed and buried under the name of Eleanor Cook. As of 2005, according to Wikipedia, the Connecticut State Police are reviewing the case.