Canonsburg, PA Theatre Panic, Aug 1911

Canonsburg PA Pike Street Downtown 1909.jpg



Writhing Pile of Victims Ten Feet High – Theater Filled With Women and Children – Over Sixty Injured.


Picture Film Explodes and at Flash Someone Gives Cry That Starts Mad Rush for Stairs – Firemen Awed by Sight That Meets Their Eyes – No Reason for Fatal Panic – Most of the Victims Are Smothered Under Mass of Struggling Forms.

Canonsburg, Pa., Aug. 26 – Twenty-six persons were killed and more than sixty injured to-night when a moving picture film exploded in the Canonsburg opera house.
Immediately following the flash of the film, some persons shouted “Fire.”
There was a rush for the exit and in a moment there was a writhing, screaming mass of humanity, ten feet high, in the narrow stairway leading to the entrance of the theater.

Panic Inexcusable.
The panic, it is said, was inexcusable.
Most of the dead were smothered.
A majority of the audience was composed of women and children. In the fierce rush for the exit they were thrown from their fete[sic] and trampled.
Others were thrown upon them and those at the bottom of the human pile were stifled and crushed to death.

Sight Staggers Firemen.
When two volunteer fire departments reached the theater the sight staggered them.
Those of the audience who had escaped from the building and other spectators drawn to the scene were rushing about the front of the building.
No person, it seemed, was making any effort to aid the struggling mass within the theater.
The firemen pushed into the building and practically threw the struggling inmates into the street.

Dead at Bottom of Pile.
As they regained their feet they ran shrieking in terror about the streets. As the firemen neared the bottom of the pile they began to bring out the forms of the injured and later came to the dead.
The dead were laid in a row along the sidewalk. Relatives fought and struggled to break past the guards and reach the victims.

The Dead.
ARTHUR BEAK, 22 years old; FRANCIS BIRD, 13; MANGELLA ROBINSON, 7; MRS. FREDERICK MARSHALL, 40; MRS. MARY KELLY, 39, of Houston, Pa.; EARL KELLY, 5 years old, son of MRS. KELLY; ADOLPH BUFSKY, 23; WALTER NISH, 12; ______WILCOTT, 12; GEORGE MAY, 14; PAUL MESTLE, 12; FRANK SYBEROSKI, 15; 5-year old daughter of TONY GLEDISH; SYDNEY RITTITER, 26; MRS. CALLIE YOUNG, 35; ______ KLEGS, 42; MURRAY HILL, 16; 5-year-old daughter of WILBUR LANE; NELLIE KETTRICK, 25; infant daughter of MRS. GREEN, Weaverstown, Pa.; two unknown women, about 22 and 25 years old; two unknown men, about 25 and 35; an unknown 6-months old infant.

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