top of page
  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 9 - You Fu#_ed Around and Found Out

Updated: Jan 15, 2023


Battersea Park Funfair Disaster

Battersea Park
Battersea Park Funfair

In London on May 30th, 1972, a wooden rollercoaster would come off its tracks, killing five children - 3 on the scene, and the other 2 later in the hospital, and injuring 13 others.

The Big Dipper, which would become the funfair’s main attraction, was brought to life in 1951 at the funfair in Battersea Park, London. This opened as part of the Festival of Britain. The festival was a national exhibition and fair that had millions of visitors throughout the UK. It celebrated and promoted British science, technology, industrial design, architecture, and art.

In the middle of the day on Tuesday, May 30th, 1972, the rides were going strong until The Big Dipper would fail and cause an accident. The carriages sitting on the track began to be joisted up to the start of the ride happened to break and its haulage rope. The emergency rollback brake failed as well, causing the carriages to roll back towards the station they left from.

Do you know what a brakeman is? - It is a man that would legitimately ride the ride standing up behind one of the carriages. He would be responsible for slowing the ride down manually with a lever when they came to bends or curves in the track.

The brakeman tried everything to get the coaster to stop, to no avail. Despite his attempts, the train gained speed and the carriage at the back jumped off the rails and crashed through a barrier. Two other carriages then crashed on top of the first one. In total, five children would die, and 13 others would be injured to some degree.

After the accident, precautions got the better of everyone and it was permanently closed, and then dismantled. With the closing of Battersea Park’s main attraction, the park lost its luster, and people quit visiting, causing the park itself to close in 1974. Almost nothing remains of what once was, not even enough to show anyone that a funfair once held this location as its home.

In 2015, The Independent - A British online newspaper - published a retelling of the accident. Carolyn Adamczyk was a passenger on the ride when the accident happened. She said As soon as we started shooting backward everything went into slow motion…I turned around and saw the brake man desperately trying to put the brake on but it wasn’t working. Most of the carriages didn’t go around the bend, one detached and went off the side through a wooden hoarding. People were groaning and hanging over the edge. It was awful”.

The BBC News site published a video in April of 2022 about a campaign started by the survivors of the accident. They want a permanent memorial put where the accident happened. The video shows film footage of the rollercoaster while in operation, as well as modern-day views of where the coaster once stood. It mentions a theory that the wood from the destroyed coaster is buried under Battersea Park. No one has ever dug there, therefore nothing has ever been found. It’s almost as if this place and this event never existed. Maybe that is how they want it.

There was a criminal trial tied to this incident.

Three men were charged with manslaughter at Wandsworth Magistrates Court on February 26, 1973. The court heard that after a fire damaged the ride in 1970, second-hand stock more than fifty years old had been bought and used to fix the ride. They said the dog brake on this ride had not operated as it should have when the rope broke, which allowed the carriages to start moving backward. The structure, which included a walkway for pedestrians, was made unsafe since the wood had rotted, so when one victim survived the initial impact - the wood broke, and she fell through the handrail to her death.

The rides manager and its inspecting engineer were sent to trial. After a long hearing, both men were acquitted on November 20th, 1973.



Cemetery / Graveyard Origins


Kicked the bucket, pushin’ up daises, bought the farm. These slang phrases are woven into our vocabulary when we find out someone has passed away. As this month will be when both lost our mothers, but only two years and 1 day apart, I wanted to cover something we see every day and never really give much thought to cemeteries. I thought it would be an interesting topic to look into how they were started.

Cemetery and graveyard are commonly used to explain where we would put to rest our loved ones. But there is actually a difference between the two. The word cemetery that I mentioned in episode three has its origins in the Greek word Koimeterion, meaning bedroom or sleeping place. Cemeteries are designated land plots for burial grounds. Whereas graveyards are on the grounds of a church. Even though these words can be used interchangeably. A Necropolis is a large cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments. I will go over the difference between a tomb and a mausoleum with headstones.

Talforalt cave in Morocco is believed to be the oldest cemetery to date, where they have found the remains of 34 people. This cave was first discovered in 1908 and was named after the nearby village of Talforalt, and the first remains wouldn’t be found until 1951. Archeologists believe those that were put to rest here are anywhere between 14k and 15k years old. This cave was first discovered in 1908 outside the village that shares the same name.

Even though through time, man has been burying our dead in various ways. This could be like the cave I had just mentioned during the Bronze and Iron Ages. The practice of grave fields was done. Grave fields were often small, with less than five graves, and didn’t use markers. This more than likely indicates these were a homestead or family plot. Some of the largest grave fields that have been found are located in Germany. The Sasbach grave field has over 2k graves and the Mengen field with over 1k.

Cemeteries and graveyards didn’t take shape as we know them now until the Middle Ages. Starting in the 7th century, burials in Europe were in control of the church and took place on consecrated church grounds where bodies were either buried in a mass grave or a crypt underneath the church if they were of higher social status. The interesting thing about these mass graves is that I had always thought in the past they were just chucking bodies into these pits and filling them back in to be forgotten. What they are actually doing is mass decomposition. After all, the organics being your flesh and blood, have decomp. They would exhume the bones and store them in a box called an Ossuary. Ossuary boxes are typically made from stone, and they would place the bones in these boxes. Then binding them to the walls of the cemetery or within the floor slabs of the church or behind the walls.

If you were of higher status or part of the nobility, you were buried in individual crypts inside or underneath your place of worship. Indicating your name, date of death, and other facts about you. This is usually depicted with a coat of arms in Europe.

In some parts of Europe, you would be buried by social status, and if you could afford the work of a stone mason for a headstone, it would be engraved like they are today. Those that couldn’t pay for a stone headstone would typically have the common wooden cross we see for pets and memorials. Some families would replace these wood ones with an iron-made cross later on. Richer families would, of course, flaunt their wealth even in death by adding statues like that of a weeping angel.

In the 19th century is when more modern cemeteries started taking shape. Most cemeteries we see today, either on the outskirts of town or in the country, started with sanitary reasons during the….. VICTORIAN PERIOD! Yes, I am finally weaseling in some stuff from this time period.

With rapid population growth during the industrial revolution, London’s population would explode from 1 million to 2.3 million by 1851 (population density of 4,266 per square mile). To put this in perspective for you, Sarah. I’m sure you had seen me drawing on a map when researching this episode. The space I have marked out in green equals one square mile.

With this population growth, you needed places to put the dead, and church graveyards in London were filling quickly. It was common practice at this time to dig up graves and reuse them. Most people were buried in just cloth, but if you could have afforded it at the time, your coffin would be broken up and be used for firewood, and the bones would be burned and ground up for fertilizer or placed in an Ossuary within the church. It was also a common practice for the fresher bodies to be chopped up to speed up decomposition.

Not only was space an issue but digging up these bodies was releasing bacteria and fungi that cause illness when you are decomposing also, the decaying matter was seeping into the water supply, causing epidemics like Cholera. Which would kill 51,000 across the United Kingdom in 1831, and 7,000 of these cholera-related deaths would be in London alone. Parliament would close off graveyards in 1832 and establish seven large municipal-owned cemeteries outside of the city limits of London. With the development of cemetery design, these seven follow the rural or garden design. There are actually ten different design styles, but I’m only going to be covering the ones we see commonly throughout the United States.

These rural or garden cemeteries could also be found inside city limits but fully landscaped with planned-out planting of flowers, trees, and bushes and have a perimeter fence. So, for example, Crown Hill I did in episode 3 would be one of these garden/rural designs. They are commonly found on the outskirt because the land would be cheaper to acquire in the country when building these cemeteries. But with the costs that came with these garden cemeteries, only the rich could afford to be buried in them. I’m sure you are curious about what an urban cemetery would be. They would be the church graveyards I just went over with the development of how cemeteries we know today came around.

Lawn and lawn beam design is what you and I see mostly around here. Starting with lawn style, it's very basic. If you could not afford to be buried in a garden style, more than likely, this is where you would be buried. The lawn style is very flat, and all the markers are just below ground level so that mowers won’t hit them. Decorations are generally prohibited and removed by groundskeepers. They are still decorated with trees and bushes, but they are put into a garden-type setting on the perimeter. This type of design would become more popular during and after World War II.

Lawn beam cemeteries are very similar, but the marker is now above ground adjacent to the grave so the mower can pass through to mow, and grave decoration is more easily permitted since the mower does not need to pass over the headstone while mowing.

I wanted to finish this up with the meaning of the symbols on headstones but, it's a pretty long list also the meanings are very consistent either. So instead, I will end it with some unusual gravesite and some FUN FACTS!

Starting in 1906 Sears, Roebuck would take on traditional funeral parlors with their “Tombstone and Monuments” mailer, advertised as a “Catalogue of Memorial Art in Granite and Marble. Their prices would beat out funeral parlor prices, allowing more people to participate in custom ordering headstones which was considered for the wealthy and elite during this time. Sears would advertise this as, “prices within the reach of your pocket and in designs heretofore possible to only the wealthy.” Sears would offer simple white granite markers for low as $8.60 which is $284.77 in today's dollars. They would offer much larger headstones starting at $113 or just over $3,700. Sears would sell these larger stones cut from granite as “from the best quarry from the Barre (like berry) Mountains of Vermont” and Also White Rutland Italian Marble with “the best-developed strata veins of the Rutland District of Vermont” They would even send a sample piece for 75 cents or $24. Their competitor Montgomery Ward would join in on this during the 1920s, and Sears and Montgomery Ward would stop offering tombstones by mail by the 1950s.

The headstones that are used in the National Cemeteries like Arlington and Great Lakes that we have visited come from Barre, Vt.

Six feet deep for a grave has many possible origins. One theory is that during the plague of the 1660s the Lord May of London ordered all graves to be at least six feet deep to slow the spread of disease. Along with slowing the spread of disease, it's believed that it keeps animals from digging up bodies but with modern cadaver dogs, it has been proven they can still smell remains at this depth. Also, its believed to keep the remains from being disturbed for either valuables or medical students needing cadavers for study.

In Wellesley, Dr. Samuel Bean would bury his two wives whom he had at different times, side by side with a crossword tombstone. He died at sea falling off a ship headed to Cuba before telling anyone how to read it. In the 1970s a 94 woman would crack the code. To read it you would start on the seventh character of the seventh row down reading in a spiral fashion.

“In memoriam Henrietta, 1st wife of S. Bean, M.D. who died 27th Sep. 1865, aged 23 years, 2 months and 17 days, and Susanna his 2nd wife who died 27th April 1867, aged 26 years, 10 months and 15 days, 2 better wives 1 man never had, they were gifts from God but are now in Heaven. May God help me, S.B., to meet them there.”

In Savannah, Ga you will find the graves of Richard and Catherine Dotson, in the middle of runway 10 for Savannah International Airport. During WW2 the airport needed to extend its runway but came across a cemetery holding close to 100 graves. The family refused to move Richard and Catherine. Since it is illegal to move graves without surviving family consent, they incorporated their graves into the runway which can easily be seen on the tarmac

Also, in France Oise-Aisne (wha-san) Cemetery, there are five burial plots for American Servicemen of WW1 but, plot E is known as “the house of shame. The house of shame is a plot holding the remains of 98 dishonored dead that committed war crimes during WW2. These dishonored dead crimes are rape, murder, and desertion. This plot is hidden from public view and isn’t marked on any map. The only access is through the groundskeeper’s office and public entrance is discouraged. Maintenance is still done regularly on this plot. There are no names of the dishonored only a white plaque with a number. And these places have their backs turned to face away from the United States flag on the grounds and no flag is permitted to fly over this plot.

In Irwin, Pennsylvania WW2 veteran George Swanson loved his car so much that he was buried in it. Swanson would buy up multiple plots in Brush Creek Cemetery to be buried in his white 1984 Corvette. When Swanson passed in 1994, he would be cremated and buckled into the driver seat while Englebert Humperdink’s “Release Me” was playing on the tape deck.

In Lanette, Alabama you will find the dollhouse grave of little Nadine. Nadine Earles wasn’t even five years old when she died on December 18, 1933. All she wanted for Christmas was a dollar house. Even though she died a week before Christmas her parents still granted her wish even in death. Nadine would be moved to the family plot and her dollhouse would be made of brick and complete with windows, striped awnings, a mailbox, flower boxes in the summer, and Christmas lights in the Winter. Her parents would fill it with dolls and toys up until their death. The city of Lanett still carries on the upkeep and updating of toys for Nadine today.

I wanted to finish my half with some idioms and slang used for death other than the two that I had opened this up with:

  1. Wearing a pine overcoat would be used by American gangsters.

  2. The Salvation Army would use the phrase “Promoted to Glory” when one of their members has passed on

  3. Dead as a doornail would be used by Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol

  4. It's believed that cowboys would use the phrase “went for a Texas cakewalk” when someone was hanged.

  5. Hobos would use the phrase “Hop on the last rattler”

  6. Sleeping with the fishes was popularized by The Godfather

  7. When losing a pet, you could say they “crossed the rainbow bridge”

  8. Pop one’s clogs. Has origins in 19th century England as a working man might tell his family clothing to a pawn shop to pay for his funeral. Whereas his clogs would be most valuable.

  9. Bite the Dust most likely become popular as a death phrase with Queen’s hit song of the same name.

  10. Eaten a Twinkie is used in parts of Australia in the perception of how toxic American food can be.

3 views0 comments


bottom of page