Mary (c. 1894–September 13, 1916), also known as "Murderous Mary", was a five-ton Asian elephant who performed in the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. After killing a trainer in Kingsport, Tennessee, she was hanged in nearby Erwin, Tennessee, in 1916.
On September 11, 1916, a homeless man named Red Eldridge, who landed a job as a transient hotel clerk, was hired as an assistant elephant trainer by the Sparks World Famous Shows circus. He was killed by Mary in Sullivan County, Tennessee, on the evening of September 12. Although unqualified, Eldridge led the elephant parade, riding atop Mary's back; Mary was the star of the show, walking at the front. There have been several accounts of his death. One, recounted by W.H. Coleman, who claimed to be a witness, is that he prodded her behind the ear with a hook after she reached down to nibble on a watermelon rind. She went into a rage, snatched Eldridge with her trunk, threw him against a drink stand and stepped on his head, crushing it.
the leaders of several nearby towns threatened not to allow the circus to visit if Mary was included. The circus owner, Charlie Sparks, reluctantly decided that the only way to quickly resolve the potentially ruinous situation was to kill the wounded elephant in public. On the following day, a foggy and rainy September 13, 1916, Mary was transported by rail to Unicoi County, Tennessee, where a crowd of over 2,500 people (including most of the town's children) assembled in the Clinchfield Railroad yard.
The elephant was hanged by the neck from a railcar-mounted industrial derrick. The first attempt resulted in a snapped chain, causing Mary to fall and break her hip as dozens of children fled in terror. The severely wounded elephant died during a second attempt and was buried beside the tracks. A veterinarian examined Mary after the hanging and determined that she had a severely infected tooth in the precise spot where Red Eldridge had prodded her.