Children in the crush at victoria hall

Children in the crush at victoria hall

Football fans at hillsborough stadium

Football fans at hillsborough stadium

Episode 21 - A Story of Two Stampedes: Victoria Hall and Hillsborough Stadium, 1883 and 1989

On June 16, 1883, Mr. and Mrs. Fay presented a magic and variety show at Victoria Hall in Sunderland, England. The show featured conjurers, marionettes, illusionists and talking wax figures. At the end of the show prizes would be given away. More than 2,000 children showed up and filled the hall to capacity. When the prizes were distributed to the children nearest the stage, the children in the upper gallery panicked and rushed the doors in the lower gallery, which had been bolted closed to an opening the width of one child.

One hundred years later, in Sheffield, England, a different stampede took place. Thousands of Liverpool football fans showed up at neutral Hillsborough stadium to watch their team face Nottingham Forest for the right to play for the Cup. When the fans arrived en masse they were faced with narrow entrances and decrepit turnstiles just as the match was about to get underway. 


Assassination of Nizam al-Mauk

Assassination of Nizam al-Mauk

Episode 22 - The Assassins, 11th Century

In the 11th Century, a sect of Nizari Ismailis took to the mountains of Iran under the leadership of Hassan-I Sabbah (The Old Man of the Mountain). Sabbah was charismatic and drew followers from all over the Muslim Middle East. Drilling his followers on religious teachings, Sabbah carved out his own kingdom that threatened those around him. He trained his followers to carry out his orders to kill any political figure who stood in his way. These followers were called Hashshashin. It is where we get the word Assassins. The Sabbah’s Assassins made life miserable for competing Muslim as well as the Christian Crusaders who were just entering the scene.


The vienna ring theater fire

The vienna ring theater fire

The Iroquois theater fire

The Iroquois theater fire

The Station Nightclub Fire

Episode 23 - The Ring Theater and Iroquois Theater Fires, 1881 and 1903

At the glorious height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a new opera house was built in the middle of its capital, Vienna. However, the footprint for the Ring Theater was very small and the architect was forced to build upward in order to reach its required capacity of 1,700. On the night of December 8, 1881, Vienna’s elite came to the theater to watch Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman.” When lighting the gas lights, the stage hand accidently ignited the curtains behind him. Although Vienna had established procedures for preventing fires, those procedure were not followed and the curtain burst into flames in front of hundreds of terrified theater-goers.

Twenty years later in another glamorous metropolis, the Iroqouis Theater had just been completed. On the night of December 30, 1903, the theater was staging a performance of Mr. Blubeard. That day the theater was packed to beyond capacity in violation of existing city fire codes. In the middle of the second act, an electrical spark touched off a muslin curtain. Attempts to smother the fire only made it spread higher, and an attempt to lower an asbestos fire curtain failed. The theater packed with mostly women and children went into a panic.


images of the air india bombing

images of the air india bombing

Episode 24 - The Air India Bombing, 1985

On June 23, 1985, an Air India Boeing 747 blew up over Irish airspace killing all 329 passengers and crew onboard. On the flight were 268 Canadian citizens. It was Canada’s largest mass murder incident ever. A Sikh militant group named Babbar Khalsa was eventually determined to have planted the explosive that brought the plane down. The formal investigation took more than 20 years and was the most expensive in Canadian history, concluding that a cascading series of errors was responsible for the terrorist attack. The investigation held the Canadian government, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Security Intelligence Service responsible for lapses in security and prevention. But the original cause may have gone back to the British partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.


Profiles of the persecuted

Profiles of the persecuted

Episode 25 - The Stalinist Purges, 1936

Joseph Stalin rose rapidly and ruthlessly through the ranks of the Soviet leadership. He encountered and ultimately destroyed a number of personal enemies on his way to the highest post of Party Secretary. On his way up he took drastic measures to suppress his enemies including the forced collectivization of peasants that killed millions by famine. Other party leaders resented his tyrannical ways. Stalin countered with the Great Purges: a period when groups and individuals that Stalin considered a threat to his power, where put on summary trials, convicted and sent to prisons known as gulags or were executed. Those purged included wealthy peasants, political opponents within the Communist party, national minorities and eventually the officers of the Red Army—just prior to the outbreak of World War II.