Another illustration of the effects of mass hysteria:
So why the need for such a spectacle? The Brooklyn Bridge had only opened one year earlier and questions about the bridge's stability started almost immediately. Tragically, those fears led to tragedy less than a week after its opening. On May 30, 1883, the bridge was loaded with people when a rumor went through the crowd that the bridge was about to collapse. The frightened crowd immediately made way for either side of the bridge and a stampede occurred. Officials were finally able to restore order over fifteen minutes later, but the damage had already been done. 12 people had either been trampled to death or died after being pushed into the river below, while another 35 were injured. Just short of one year later and "...in the interest of the dear public," P.T. Barnum and his circus arrived to prove once and for all that the bridge was safe. The stunt worked and the questions about the stability of the structure were silenced.