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Theater Disaster

Recently, a concert in Houston ended in disaster when a mass of fans rushed the stage, trampling to death eight people ranging in age from 14 to 27. Over 300 concert-goers were treated for injuries with 25 of them hospitalized. Several are still in critical condition, including a nine-year-old boy.

Disasters at concert halls and theaters are nothing new. An eerily similar crush of attendees occurred when the rock band The Who played Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum in late 1979, leaving 11 dead and 27 injured. In 2003, the band Great White was playing at a club called The Station in Rhode Island when a pyrotechnics display set fire to acoustic foam, resulting in the deaths of over 100 people. The worst theater fire in the United States happened in 1903 at the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago when the venue, advertised in newspapers as "Absolutely Fireproof," was engulfed in flame during a performance of Mr. Blue Beard. 602 people lost their lives that night, asphyxiated by the fire, smoke, and gases, or crushed to death by the onrush of other terrified patrons attempting to escape the blaze.

The following article, from the New York Herald of February 24, 1878, shows how close Texas Jack's touring combination came to a similar disaster:

During the matinee performance at the Olympic Theatre on Thursday, there was at one time almost a panic among the occupants of the gallery, but it was promptly and effectually checked by the manager, Mr. Gus Phillips, and his corps of his assistants. The Texas Jack Combination are playing at the theatre, and the crush to witness them was terrible.

It was estimated that there were fully four thousand persons in the theatre, the greater proportion of whom were boys, eager to witness the slaying of the redskins by Texas Jack and Arizona John. The gallery in which the panic occurred was the top one, and was so densely crowded that it was impossible to admit more. One boy fainted at the crush, and immediately a stampede commenced.

Mr. Phillips, the manager, with great presence of mind, pushed his way in among the boys and quieted them, but not before ten or twelve more had fainted. These were carried out to the open air, where they revived.

Olympic Theatre in New York

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