The Fort Dodge Messenger: Aug. 8, 1904

An Escaped Circus Lion Stampedes City Crowd

Norris & Rowe’s Circus Provides a Sensational Act Not On the Program.

Beast Got Out of His Cage

He Was Being Put Thru His Paces By His Trainer in His Cage.

He Came Out of Open Door

King of Beasts Made a Run For The Woods and The Crowd Fled in All Directions – Jumped on Horse But Was Driven Off and Caught.

Escaping from his cage Saturday night while the tent was crowded with terrified spectators, Hannibal, the man eating lion exhibited in the Norris & Rowe side show, caused a panic as big as an earthquake and set the whole town agog with all kinds of rumors all day Sunday.

Just as his trainer, Gustave Koehen, was about to make his exit from the cage after having tantalized the creature into a state of frenzy, his protege bounded ahead of him and leaped thru the open door and flew thru the air over the heads of some of the open-mouthed spectators to the edge of the canvas where he gained his freedom. Instantly the whole troupe and audience was on the qui vive. To have such a fierce denizen of the jungles running about on the Iowa prairies is no conventional incident.

Causes Nearly a Panic.

For a moment there was nearly a panic in the little tent. The crowd almost went wild with fear and excitement. The doors were flung open at once and the throng allowed to escape at once so that the lion might, if possible, be summoned back to his cage. Every available man and boy with the troupe was pressed into the service. guns were loaded with blanks and a light placed in the cage with a large quantity of meat to attract his lordship.

Jumps on a Horse.

But it was not until the beast, who after all was probably as frightened as the crowd, had jumped on a horse which was hitched near the tent that the real excitement occurred. Before the eyes of hundreds of horrified spectators, the savage beast pounced upon a horse and dug his claws into the animal’s flesh. Not before the horse, which was the property of Charles Dayton, who resides in the south part of the city near the Bradshaw brick yards, had been terribly lacerated and torn, would the lion be scared away from the fresh blood he as relishing so much. His cruel claws had penetrated clear to the stifle joint besides horribly tearing the animal’s side. The horse is being cared for at the veterinary hospital, but will probably not live. With the best of luck the equine must be maimed for life. the damage to the horse and buggy is estimated at $150 ($3,592 today). Compared with the $120 ($2,874) received and the loss of the horse, this seems a pittance.

Cajoled Into Cage.

Finally after much effort, when every possible means had been taken to cajole the creature into his civilized habitation, the lion was induced to re-enter his cage. The firing off of the blanks was perhaps the most efficacious method to scare him back, though the bright light and meat in the cage semed (sic) also to entice the creature. For a while it seemed as if the Round Prairie was for sometime to be the scene of the gambols of the fierce denizen of the African forest. The circus hands had almost given up in despair when he had advanced 150 yards from his tent and was rapidly nearing the heavy timber. Just how long it would have taken to secure the beast had he gained the woods is a difficult question to answer. Certain it is that this location of town would have ceased to be the favorite haunt of picnic parties.

Due to Carelessness.

Was the accident due to carelessness upon the part of the show management? Many of the spectators affirm that the trainer was somewhat intoxicated and that had he taken due precautions the lion need not have escaped. The cage in which Hannibal was kept was a poor excuse for a prison for such a fierce creature. Unlike most of the cages used for lions and tigers, it had but one room and the door was in a position that its occupant could with little effort dash by his trainer and gain his freedom.

Did it for Advertisement.

It is said that the same accident occurred with less serious results at Fonda where the show exhibited. If this is the case there is certainly evidence for suspecting the management of deliberately freeing the lion just for the advertisement, which the the troup (sic) will receive in the next town they visit. Chief Welch hearing of this, has sent word to Webster City, where the show spread its canvas today, to report any accident of this kind that might occur there. If it can be proven that the show management have purposely freed the lion just for the advertisement they receive a serious charge may be made against them. The danger of the loss of life to men and animals when such a  creature is at liberty is imminent and appalling. By some it is also said that this theory is pure fabrication as the show company could ill afford to risk the loss of such a valuable part of their menagerie.

Kohler Says it Was an Accident.

“No this is not the first time Hannibal has escaped from us,” said Trainer Gustav Koehler, when interviewed by a Messenger reporter, after the accident. “He is one of the hardest propositions we have ever had to handle. He has killed two men in California, and a horse maimed in Missouri during the last year. Every time he gets away from us we risk the loss of thousands of dollars worth of property besides the possible loss of life.”

“No sir, there was not the slightest word of truth in the assertion that I was under the influence of liquor when I entered the cage. Such an idea could only be conceived by an idiot. Why, it is dangerous enough to monkey with Hannibal when one is sober, let along being drunk.”

Writ of Attachment Served.

After discovering the awful condition of their horse, the Dayton boys who had driven to the circus in their father’s buggy, notified the police and in turn immediately filed a writ of attachment upon the management. After considerable dallying the treasurer came around and reluctantly doled out $120 of the day’s receipts. As the cost of the case were twenty dollars ($479), Mr. Dayton will receive only $100 ($2,395) in remuneration for his loss. the show people said that they would return to the city next Saturday and fight out the case, but local authorities are of the opinion that they will be glad to drop the matter entirely. As $120 is the limit of the amount which can be secured by a writ of attachment, the full value of the loss could not be received. It is generally admitted that the company got off easily.

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