A new side to the story of “Tricky Gilbert” the lion who escaped in Richmond in 1934 | From the Archives

In September 1934, a large Namibian lion broke out of its cage during the start of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus parade in Richmond. The lion, called “Gilbert” and nicknamed “Tricky,” was part of a show hosted by famous animal trainer Clyde Beatty. Gilbert’s escape threw the hundreds of parade spectators along North Boulevard into a panic. According to reports, the lion’s cage door burst open suddenly and the lion leaped to the pavement and growled at the crowd before running off. The 1934 front-page story in the Times-Dispatch described the scene as, “One of a mass of screaming men, women and children in a frenzied scramble for safety.”

The lion’s tirade ended in a local machine shop where he was shot dead by two local men and a crew of police according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The Times-Dispatch reported, “The lion was killed by Marvin “Scotty” Cramer, menagerie guard, with a rifle after James Flammia…and half a dozen city police had emptied their revolvers into the beast’s hide and failed to stop the fury of its rampage.”

Richmond’s second paper, the News Leader told a bit of a different story. The paper named Richmond City Police officer James R. Paul as the hero of the day. The News Leader’s story was headlined “Mounted Officer Kills Escaped Circus Lion.”

The News Leader story began, “The parade had gone only three blocks when Officer Paul’s attention was called to the fact that a lion was out.”

A twist of the wrist and a jab with his foot sent Officer Paul and his Harley-Davidson toward the scene of the escape like a streak…The lion had already leaped upon the head of horse, clawing and biting in an effort to cut its throat. Officer Paul dismounted, ran to within six to eight feet of the beast and fired. The first shot did not take effect. A second shot “dropped” him and he fell to the feet of the horse which stamped him. The enraged lion sprang to his feet and charged after Officer Paul. Another shot halted him momentarily. Officer Paul pulled the trigger again but his pistol was empty. As soon as he had reloaded, he followed the lion into a field where three shots were fired into his head and had a telling effect. The lion dragged himself to a garage where circus employees’ rifles ‘finished’ him.

W.A. McNeill of the Richmond AP was at the scene of the escape. When Officer…

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