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

MRS. GROVES, who was attending the Halloween night performance with her daughter-in-law MRS. JOSEPH (KAY) MEYERS, 1231 W. Walnut St., sustained lumps and bruises. MRS. MEYERS suffered cuts on the head and shoulder and leg injuries.

"There was that terrific sound and I thought the walls were coming in on us - the whole building collapsing," MRS. GROVES stated.

WALTER SPANGLER, 1017 W. Broadway, said, "About 90 percent of the crowd, like myself, were Shriners and their families."

"We were sitting almost directly opposite the explosion and the show was virtually over," SPANGLER continued.

"Suddenly there was a dull thump. It wasn't an explosion as you usually think of one. There was no percussion."

"Immediately there was a tremendous column of fire - about 15 feet in diameter, and 40 to 50 feet high. Along with it was literally a column of bodies. I saw dozens of people flying through the air. Their arms and legs outspread."

"Then there was just screaming," SPANGLER stated.

"I ran across the rink to see if I could help. I saw a woman lying on top of another woman. One woman's head had been flattened by a large piece of concrete."

"People were roasting in the flames, but we couldn't get to them," SPANGLER commented. He said, It must have been gas, something had to keep feeding that fire."

OMER RIDNOUR, 1535 S. Washington, St., said he was opposite the blast. "One section just blew up. Chairs and people flew out over the ice. There wasn't so much noise, just a great big puff."

MISS MARILYN BARNGROVER, 416 S. Western Ave., said, "I only remember one explosion. We could see bodies and parts of bodies flying up in the air along with the wood or concrete from the seats. Shriners near us helped keep the people calm, and we moved out very quickly."

MRS. FLORENCE WRIGHTSMAN, 318 S. Main St., remarked: "I was wedged between some seats and a woman fell on top of me as we were leaving. I thought to myself, 'This is it,'"

Continued on page 7


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.