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Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)

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The execution of Topsy, a female elephant, in a publicity stunt advertising the opening of Luna Park on Coney Island. Topsy was originally owned by Forepaugh Circus where she killed a ... See full summary »

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Title: Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)

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Credited cast:
Topsy ...


The execution of Topsy, a female elephant, in a publicity stunt advertising the opening of Luna Park on Coney Island. Topsy was originally owned by Forepaugh Circus where she killed a drunken spectator who burned the tip of her trunk with a cigar. She was sold to Sea Lion Park in 1902 which was then sold to new owners who turned it into Luna Park. After they decided they could no longer handle her, the owners of Luna Park announced they would hang Topsy, leading to an outcry by the ASPCA. The owners then decided they would electrocute the elephant, with a backup plan of feeding her cyanide-laced carrots and strangling her with a cable. Written by Rob O

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Short

Parents Guide:




Release Date:

12 January 1903 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Electrocution of an Elephant  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This may have been the first death ever captured on film. See more »


Edited into The 20th Century: A Moving Visual History (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

...And They Created A Monster But I'm Not Talking About the Elephant!
1 May 2010 | by (São Paulo, Brazil) – See all my reviews

This is one of those old films that I even know it existed until the day I make a strange research on internet about filmed deaths, and the execution of Topsy, an elephant, happened to be one of the oldest executions captured by a camera. Today you can watch and complain that the film it's almost not watchable because of it's theme and because it's very difficult to see something, the movie is too old.

But what Thomas Edison were thinking in filming such atrocity? First, let me explain what this short is about. Topsy was a domesticated elephant with the Forepaugh Circus at Coney Island's and she killed three men. Fearing that Topsy would be a threat to everybody a bunch of people decided to execute her, but they wanted to do it in the harmless possible way. So, they opted for the electrocution. The rest become this movie, not much impacting nowadays but it created something more horrible than everything you can think of.

The mankind didn't evolved after this movie, it only went downhill in every single aspect of its capacity of destruction. I mean, after this movie it seemed that animal killing was allowed and many so-called filmmakers started to film horrific acts of violence towards animals. Hollywood movies, Foreign movies, documentaries, and sometimes even in the news you can see things like that. I really think that this film pointed the way on how human race would follow. The recent images of today's films are far more shocking than Edison's film. For instance, the documentary "Death on a Factory Farm" has unspeakable scenes (OK, it was a denounce against farmers who are animal abusers and it was used in a trial to convict such people), or the infamous horror movie "Cannibal Holocaust" who featured several unnecessary animal deaths (By the way, except for that scenes, this is an incredible and great horror movie). There are more disgusting and shocking and gratuity examples of that.

Even for not being so striking now, it's almost impossible not fell sorry for the poor elephant, a human being that just wanted to live. Now: it's a bad movie or it's good movie? Well, I don't have a opinion formed about it except that it was a unnecessary waste of time for Edison and the people who helped making this short. To me it was just an experience in seeing a movie made in 1903 and see how things were in that time. Have we changed? Think about it!

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It wasn't Edison's idea to kill Topsy.... stokepogue2001
I was horrified by this film Localfreak
murder on film ttommy90
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