Topsy (circa 1875 – January 4, 1903) was a circus elephant killed by electrocution on January 4, 1903.
Topsy belonged to the Forepaugh Circus and spent the last years of her life at Coney Island's Luna Park. Because she had killed three men in as many years (including a severely abusive trainer who attempted to feed her a lit cigarette), Topsy was deemed a threat to people by her owners and killed by electrocution on January 4, 1903, at the age of 28. Inventor Thomas Edison oversaw and conducted the electrocution, and he captured the event on film. He would release it later that year under the title Electrocuting an Elephant. Edison used the film in his campaign against Westinghouse and AC technology.
A means of killing initially discussed was hanging. However, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals protested and other ways were considered. Edison then suggested electrocution with alternating current, which had been used for the execution of humans since 1890.
Topsy was fed carrots laced with 460 grams of potassium cyanide before the deadly current from a 6,600-volt AC source was sent coursing through her body, partly as a demonstration of how "unsafe" his competitor's (George Westinghouse) alternating current design was. In Edison's film she topples to the ground and is seen to move for several seconds. According to at least one contemporary account she died "without a trumpet or a groan". The event was witnessed by an estimated 1,500 people and Edison's film of the event was seen by audiences throughout the United States. 
In popular culture
Portions of Edison's film Electrocuting an Elephant have appeared in many works of art such as:
- The 1979 movie Mr. Mike's Mondo Video
- The 1994 music video Stained and Lit by Red Red Meat
- Tourniquet's music video for Ark of Suffering
- Nine Inch Nails' 1997 Closure VHS set.
- The 1998 Documentary Kingdom of Shadows
- Mr. Death, Errol Morris' 1999 documentary about Fred A. Leuchter.
- The 2000 movie Hamlet.
- The 2004 short film "Pope Leo Electrocutes an Elephant"
- The 2006 film "Little Fugitive"
- The 2006 movie Land of the Blind.
- The 2006 short stop motion movie The Origins of Electricity, directed by Benh Zeitlin.
- The 2008 show Elephants we must never forget by American artist Sue Coe at Gallery St. Etienne.
- The 2008 music video Persist by All India Radio
- The 2009 video game Assassin's Creed II
- The 2013 episode "Topsy" of Bob's Burgers
A song called "Coney Island Funeral" recorded by the history band Piñataland for their EP Songs from Konijn Kok tells the tale of Topsy.
Topsy's electrocution is included in Christopher Bram's novel The Notorious Dr. August, Kevin Baker's novel Dreamland, Alice Hoffman's novel The Red Garden,and Nick Arvin's collection of stories, In the Electric Eden.
Topsy is a character in Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon's poem "Plan B" from his September, 2010 book Maggot. Topsy was also the subject of W. S. Merwin's poem, "The Chain to Her Leg," published in the December 13, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.
The history of the event is chronicled in Michael Daly's 2013 book "Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked Tailed Elephant, P.T. Barnum, and the American Wizard, Thomas Edison".
- Thomas Edison
- List of individual elephants
- Mary (elephant)
- Shooting an Elephant
- Tyke (elephant)
- War of Currents
- "Series E, Episode 2". QI. Season E. Episode 2. 2007-09-21.
- "Bad elephant killed. Topsy meets quick and painless death at Coney Island," The Commercial Advertiser, New York, Jan. 5, 1903. retrieved October 27, 2006
- McNichol, Tom (2006). AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War. USA: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-7879-8267-9.
- Fiction: Topsy the Elephant published by The LA Weekly
- Electrocuting an Elephant at the Internet Movie Database
- The Coney Island Museum, Brooklyn, NY
- When Animals Resist their Exploitation by Jason Hribal
- New York honours electrocuted elephant by BBC News
- Topsy: the Electrocuted Elephant, a comic strip.
- An elephant dies at Coney Island Ephemeral New York