Short Documentary : The Cocoanut Grove Disaster


Short Documentary :The Cocoanut Grove Disaster

On the 28th of November, 1942,  a hanging decoration in one room   of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston,  Massachusetts, caught fire. The flames were   initially quite trivial. Some of the patrons  who witnessed them were even amused by the   efforts of waiting staff to extinguish them  using glasses of water and seltzer bottles.   They could not possibly have known, at  that moment, that this tiny flame would,   within minutes, grow into one of the  deadliest nightclub fires in American history. The Cocoanut grove first opened in  1927 in the Bay Village area of Boston,   where it was situated across the basement and  ground floor of a converted warehouse complex.   At the time Prohibition was in full force,  and so for the first few years the venue   operated as a speakeasy, selling alcoholic  beverages even though alcohol was illegal.   It was able to get away with this  thanks to connections the owners had   with the world of organized crime. From 1927 until  1933 the club had a somewhat unsavory reputation:   it was known as a favored spot for gangs and  mobsters. This changed in 1933 when two things   happened. First and foremost Prohibition ended  and the sale of alcohol became legal once again.   Secondly, the then owner of the  Grove was gunned down by a rival,   and ownership of the property passed to  his lawyer, a man named Barnet Welansky.   Under Welansky’s management, and without  Prohibition to hold it back the club   flourished. It expanded into a warren of rooms  across two stories with multiple lounges bars,   dance floors, and restaurants. Many of the rooms  had a tropical theme with extensive decoration   including fake palm fronds and fabric wall  hangings. There was also a famous “rolling roof”.   In good weather this could be cranked open  to allow patrons to dance under the stars. Pleasant as it all might sound, Welansky  hadn’t entirely steered the club away from   its unsavory origins. His connections with the  mob (which he denied in public but often boasted   about in private) allowed him to flagrantly  ignore building codes and safety regulations.   For example, Welansky had  several emergency exits hidden   locked or boarded up in order to prevent guests  from leaving the venue without paying their bill. Nevertheless, the club soon became one  of the most popular spots in Boston,   with a constantly changing  roster of live entertainment   and flocks of paying customers  filling every room most nights. On the night of the disaster the club was  packed far beyond its listed capacity. In the Melody Lounge, which  was situated in the basement,   singer and pianist Goody Goodelle was performing  on a revolving stage. Patrons watched from booths   and tables surrounded by fake palm fronds  and lit by lamps nestled in coconut sconces. One couple, wanting a little more privacy,   unscrewed the bulb in the sconce  nearest to them, extinguishing it.   This was witnessed by waiting staff, one of  whom ordered a busboy to go and fix the lamp.   The busboy did so, striking a match in the  process to help him better see what he was doing.   With a few quick twists the lamp was fixed, the  busboy extinguished the match and everyone went   about their business. Moments later, however,  witnesses saw the first flames in the fake palm   fronds which adorned the wall and ceiling around  the sconce. Waiters rushed over and tried to   extinguish the flames using water and seltzer  – a sight that some found comedic at first.   Soon, however, the incident  stopped being funny at all.   The fire spread from one palm frond to others  and then to the fabric covered false ceiling.   Waiters hauled decorations down from the walls in  a last-ditch attempt to extinguish the fire… but   in doing so opened up the space above the false  ceiling, allowing the fire to spread more freely. The flames swelled, feeding on the hanging  decorations and fabric wall and ceiling coverings.   Sparks and burning scraps of material rained  down on patrons, many of whom now recognized   the seriousness of the situation. They  were sitting in a crowded basement room   along with a rapidly-growing fire. From this point  onwards the flames spread with astonishing speed.   Patrons sprinted for the staircase from the Melody  Lounge up to ground level.

300*600 2

ASMR Horror
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