Indianapolis, IN Fairgrounds Coliseum Explosion, Oct 1963

Indiana State Fair Coliseum, 1940s Indy coleseum 1.jpg Indy coleseum 2.jpg Indy coleseum 3.jpg Indy coleseum 4.jpg Indy coleseum 5.jpg Indy coleseum 6.jpg

Every ambulance in Indianapolis and nearby cities was called and the injured were taken to six hospitals in the area, including the Army hospital at Ft. Benjamin Harrison.

Finally the hundreds of firemen, policemen and civil defense workers turned their attention to the dead and began laying them in rows along the side of the ice opposite the gaping hole in the south side of the arena.

Auto wreckers drove directly onto the ice to help tug at the chunks of concrete, some pieces as big as pianos. Finally a huge commercial crane was brought in, and it uncovered the last of the smashed seats.

Many of the bodies were charred by bursts of flames that roared 90 feet in the air, to the ceiling of the huge amphitheater, in the blast. The fire itself was quickly extinguished. There wasn't much inflammable material in the shattered section except the seats.

The force of the explosion was straight up or the tragedy could have brought a heavier toll. Most of the debris fell down, although some small pieces of concrete were found on the opposite side of the arena.

It appeared that the blast occurred under the seats in a commissary which supplied popcorn and soft drinks to venders[sic].

WILBUR GAUTHIER, 55, of Indianapolis, who worked in the commissary, said:
"I don't have any idea what happened. I was underneath the stands. It got dark all of a sudden, and then I was lying with concrete and timbers on me. I tried to get loose. I must have passed out then, because the next thing I knew a medical officer had me."

List of Dead
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The dead in Thursday night's ice show explosion at the Indianapolis Coliseum, as released by the county corner and unofficially compiled:
DWIGHT KEIM, 64, Lafayette, a Republican mayor of Lafayette in the '40's
Unidentified female.
RUSSELL ROBBINS, Indianapolis.
GWENDOLYN L. CAMPBELL, 62, Indianapolis.
MRS. VELMA COWGILL, 50, Anderson.
MARIETTA MASON, 62, Indianapolis.
BARBARA BURKHARDT, 8, Indianapolis.
HAZEL McCLUNG, Indianapolis.
Unidentified female.
MAJORIE HOPPES, 60, Daleville.
JOHN ALBERT MAHR, 70, Indianapolis.
DR. MARSHALL McCLUNG, 68, Indianapolis.
HERMAN HOFFER, 74, Indianapolis.
CARROLL COWGILL, 60, 533 Winding Way, Anderson.
LAURA JAUS, Indianapolis.
THELMA PRINTZ, 47, Indianapolis.
EARL H. MYER, 62, Indianapolis.
GREGORY BRENT DILL, 5½, Indianapolis.
KENNETH HORTON, 53, Anderson.
MRS. DAVID BURKHARTD, 35, Indianapolis.
VIOLET WHITE, Indianapolis.
ALFRED M. WHITE, Indianapolis.

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1963 explosion

My family performed in Holiday On Ice.....I was 10 years old and my brother was 7. I will remember that night for the rest of my life. We were standing right behind the curtain, waiting to go on for our finale bow......when all of the sudden we were knocked over by the explosion. My father grabbed my brother and I and ran for the big Barn doors at the back of back stage. He took us to a big barn across the alley and sat us on a car. We had no idea what had occurred until some of the chorus girls came out crying hysterically because of what they had seen. Soon we started seeing people covered in blood, walking in and being very confused. My dad went back into the building because we had a friend who had been in the audience that evening......he went to look for him and my brother and I cried and begged him not to go back in the building. While he was in there a 2nd explosion happened and we were so afraid that something had happened to him. He soon emerged but, never found our friend....who we later found out was ok. Eventually they started bringing people in on the flags that were used in the finale and they made into carriers for the wounded. The sights and sounds of that night were horrific and something I won't ever forget. God bless the souls who lost their lives that terrible night.

My best friend wanted me to

My best friend wanted me to attend this show that evening with his older brother and his girlfriend. I wanted to take my little sister Trick or Treating instead, so I didn't go. The next morning my Aunt woke me up to tell me the news. My friend and his older brother were killed, sitting in an area nearby. My friend was decapitated so it took a few days before we learned of his fate. His head had been charred. They never did find his body.


My family had moved to Indianapolis the prior December. An uncle had box seats for the show every year and my brother and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to see this show. At the last minute our uncle canceled due to work. We were devastated as we had never had an opportunity like that before. The next morning we heard the news. I always think of that when things don't go my way. BUt I will never get over my fear of propane.

Coliseum Explosion during Ice Show in Oct 1963

My entire family was sitting close to the explosion and yet each of them was spared, but not without severe injuries. My father, Robert E. Houseworth Sr., was by far the most critical and the injuries he suffered affected him for the rest of his natural life. My mother, Barbara L Houseworth, was physically injured also but I believe the psychological effects were longer lasting and to this day she has never stepped foot into the coliseum. One of my brothers was actually listed as "deceased" but when my mother was taken to a local hospital she heard a youngster screaming she instantly knew it was her son, and it was. Many extended family members were also there that night but somehow it is not a topic we often discuss. I will forever be grateful to all of the rescue workers and all the people that went into action to save as many lives as possible and those who treated the injured. Thank you

The Coliseum Incident of October 31, 1963

This event fell on October 31, 1963, and it was one of the series of unfortunate events of 1963 from Summer of 1963 to the end of The 1963 Season. This gruesome event was in-between The September 15, 1963 of Birmingham, Alabama & The Dallas Incident of November 22, 1963. I was eight attending my first season at North Linden & when I hear about The Holiday On Ice shows it reminds of this gruesome event. I thought at first it was some outfit did the blast for payback for The September 15th, Incident but it was propane & a popcorn machine that took out 74 civilians. I did go to a car show at 38th Street & did go inside the building & did find a plaque to honor the 74 victims. However despite that, Indianapolis is still a good place for car show events and the likes this was my first trip to The Tragic Prone, Indiana State Fair. Lucky for me, the place was kosher during my visit. Tetuso Hiroshima.

methodist hospital admission

my mother, Louise Spurling,was admitted for injuries to methodist hospital. I was a nursing student there. My father was injured but not admitted. Bernice Tillison died and was my best friend's Mother.