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    VESPER HAWK PUBLISHING email vesperhawk@btinternet.com

In Victorian times the performing space, be it stage, music hall platform, or circus ring could be as dangerous as mine, mill or factory. Behind the spectacle and splendour lurked disaster, destitution and death.          Surprisingly, many stage hands were injured and killed during a performance.  Flymen whose place of work was a narrow gallery high above the stage were in constant danger of falling to the stage far below. Many examples are recorded including 27 fatalities.       

            To attend a show in the audience was hazardous too, as stairs and balconies were prone to collapse in vastly overcrowded venues. Spectators falling from the gallery into the pit was by no means rare – 43 entries about those. Audiences were constantly afraid of fire and a single shout of “Fire!” could start a panic that resulted in many injuries and fatalities even when not a spark existed.

            This book comprises a miscellany of accidents in two parts – those backstage and those within the auditorium.

In Victorian times the performing space, be it stage, music hall platform, or circus ring could be as dangerous as mine, mill or factory. Behind the spectacle and splendour lurked disaster, destitution and death.  Falling scenery, open trapdoors, collapsing rostrums, explosions and fire were everyday hazards as was the excessive use of guns, swords and knives. Surprisingly, female dancers were major sufferers as their flimsy costumes were prone to catching fire – 160 such cases with some 40+ fatalities. 

            Circus acts were hugely popular especially when performed by young children, while high-wire walkers like Blondin the ‘Hero of Niagara’ inspired lesser artistes to attempt stunts beyond their capabilities. Mid-century, Léotard invented the flying trapeze and from that moment artistes risked their lives to outdo whatever had gone before. This book is a miscellany of life-threatening dangers and fatal accidents during performance to acrobats, magicians, variety acts etc, as well as singers, dancers, musicians, comedians, and a plethora of actors and actresses. 

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