Over the holidays of 1913 the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the whole state, and the country as a whole heard news of a tragedy that took place in the city of Calumet. On Christmas Eve on the second floor of Italian Hall, a gathering place for locals, mostly striking miners and their families enjoyed a crowded and festive holiday party. At one point, someone cried “Fire” and panic swept over the crowd and people fled down the stairs and for the door. The doors were stuck. Panic swelled. Yet, there was no fire.
In the aftermath of the chaos it was found that six dozen people, many of them children, had been crushed to death in the stampede for the door. The lingering questions of how such a thing could happen and why the doors wouldn’t budge open when people tried to evacuate have intrigued local people and historians for almost a century.
I am currently reading a book that tackles the Italian Hall disaster, Death’s Door: The Truth Behind Michigan’s Largest Mass Murder by Steve Lehto. I hope to have a review in the coming week. In the meantime, please have a listen to Woody Guthrie’s song, 1913 Massacre, which was named after this tragic event.