Indianapolis, IN Fairgrounds Coliseum Explosion, Oct 1963

Indiana State Fair Coliseum, 1940s Indy coleseum 1.jpg Indy coleseum 2.jpg Indy coleseum 3.jpg Indy coleseum 4.jpg Indy coleseum 5.jpg Indy coleseum 6.jpg

Coliseum Explosion Kills 62

3 Members of Kokomo Family Among Victims.

385 Are Injured; 176 Remain in Hospitals

By Dale Burgess
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A gas explosion hurled flames and concrete slabs as large as pianos through a crowd watching an ice show finale last night, killing 62 and injuring 385.

More than nine hours after the 11 p. m. EST blast, authorities from miles around Indianapolis still sorted the dead and dying.

The Red Cross, coroner's office and Civil Defense agreed on the 62 dead figure after thorough checks of the six hospitals, three improvised morgues and numerous funeral homes where bodies were taken.

The injured numbered 385, of which 176 remained hospitalized - many in critical condition. Many victims were charred by the bursts of flame, or crushed under tumbling structural concrete slabs which mushroomed from the explosion.

One of six Holiday on Ice troupes now touring was just winding up its show when the blast occurred. Star performers were off stage and a chorus was performing a gay Dixieland number when the Indianapolis Coliseum was transformed into a scene of horror.

Bodies, many still wrapped in mink, erupted onto the ice. Many other were trapped in tumbling slabs of concrete and shattered bleacher-type seats.

Fire marshals blamed a leaking tank of liquified petroleum gas, being used to heat popcorn poppers under the shattered Section No. 13.

The blast lifted a section of 128 box seats, best in the house, and dumped them on a stretch of 240 bleacher seats just below.

Bodies were thrown high in the air and fell on the ice amid the skating chorus.

The stars of the show "Holiday on Ice" were waiting in the wings to skate out for the finale. It was a glittering production, representing the Mardi Gras, and the band was playing Dixieland jazz.

The band kept playing in the best tradition of show business, and the skaters hurried off the ice to make way for rescue teams. There was no panic as the shocked survivors filed out.

With hundreds of injured pinned under shattered seats and jagged chunks of concrete, the obvious were left lying in pools of blood on the ice. Horribly injured persons lay unattended for what seemed an interminable time as the first few doctors and nurses on the scene did the best they could.

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1963 explosion

My family performed in Holiday On Ice.....I was 10 years old and my brother was 7. I will remember that night for the rest of my life. We were standing right behind the curtain, waiting to go on for our finale bow......when all of the sudden we were knocked over by the explosion. My father grabbed my brother and I and ran for the big Barn doors at the back of back stage. He took us to a big barn across the alley and sat us on a car. We had no idea what had occurred until some of the chorus girls came out crying hysterically because of what they had seen. Soon we started seeing people covered in blood, walking in and being very confused. My dad went back into the building because we had a friend who had been in the audience that evening......he went to look for him and my brother and I cried and begged him not to go back in the building. While he was in there a 2nd explosion happened and we were so afraid that something had happened to him. He soon emerged but, never found our friend....who we later found out was ok. Eventually they started bringing people in on the flags that were used in the finale and they made into carriers for the wounded. The sights and sounds of that night were horrific and something I won't ever forget. God bless the souls who lost their lives that terrible night.

My best friend wanted me to

My best friend wanted me to attend this show that evening with his older brother and his girlfriend. I wanted to take my little sister Trick or Treating instead, so I didn't go. The next morning my Aunt woke me up to tell me the news. My friend and his older brother were killed, sitting in an area nearby. My friend was decapitated so it took a few days before we learned of his fate. His head had been charred. They never did find his body.


My family had moved to Indianapolis the prior December. An uncle had box seats for the show every year and my brother and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to see this show. At the last minute our uncle canceled due to work. We were devastated as we had never had an opportunity like that before. The next morning we heard the news. I always think of that when things don't go my way. BUt I will never get over my fear of propane.

Coliseum Explosion during Ice Show in Oct 1963

My entire family was sitting close to the explosion and yet each of them was spared, but not without severe injuries. My father, Robert E. Houseworth Sr., was by far the most critical and the injuries he suffered affected him for the rest of his natural life. My mother, Barbara L Houseworth, was physically injured also but I believe the psychological effects were longer lasting and to this day she has never stepped foot into the coliseum. One of my brothers was actually listed as "deceased" but when my mother was taken to a local hospital she heard a youngster screaming she instantly knew it was her son, and it was. Many extended family members were also there that night but somehow it is not a topic we often discuss. I will forever be grateful to all of the rescue workers and all the people that went into action to save as many lives as possible and those who treated the injured. Thank you

The Coliseum Incident of October 31, 1963

This event fell on October 31, 1963, and it was one of the series of unfortunate events of 1963 from Summer of 1963 to the end of The 1963 Season. This gruesome event was in-between The September 15, 1963 of Birmingham, Alabama & The Dallas Incident of November 22, 1963. I was eight attending my first season at North Linden & when I hear about The Holiday On Ice shows it reminds of this gruesome event. I thought at first it was some outfit did the blast for payback for The September 15th, Incident but it was propane & a popcorn machine that took out 74 civilians. I did go to a car show at 38th Street & did go inside the building & did find a plaque to honor the 74 victims. However despite that, Indianapolis is still a good place for car show events and the likes this was my first trip to The Tragic Prone, Indiana State Fair. Lucky for me, the place was kosher during my visit. Tetuso Hiroshima.

methodist hospital admission

my mother, Louise Spurling,was admitted for injuries to methodist hospital. I was a nursing student there. My father was injured but not admitted. Bernice Tillison died and was my best friend's Mother.