Anthropology Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences In the News Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs

Working to Solve a Tragic Mystery

Forensic Science
Hartford Courant

Kristen Hartnett-McCann, adjunct assistant professor of anthropology and a state forensic anthropologist, is overseeing a dig to identify the remains of two women who died 75 years ago in the Hartford Circus Fire. According to an article in the Hartford Courant, the bodies will be exhumed and Hartnett-McCann and colleagues will attempt to recover DNA samples.

Kristen Hartnett-McCann

Earlier this month, a judge ordered the exhumation of the two adult females. They are among six unidentified victims of the fire who were buried in one plot. Chief State Medical Examiner James Gill believes one of the unknown females may be Grace Fifield, a Vermont woman still listed as missing from the 1944 fire. The plan is to compare any extracted DNA to Fifield’s granddaughter, who has agreed to give a sample for comparison.

The fire, considered one of the worst disasters of its kind in US history, occurred during an afternoon performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.  The Courant says that in addition to the 168 people who died in the fire, more than 600 were injured. Since it was a matinee performance, many of the victims were children, 9 years old or younger.

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