Cautionary Tales – The Final Illusion of The Great Lafayette

3rd February, 2023

Golden sparks rained down on The Great Lafayette’s famous show, “The Lion’s Bride”. They looked like they were part of the performance. They weren’t — and soon the theatre was ablaze. How to save the three thousand audience members now trapped in a burning building?27 years previously the Brooklyn Theatre had gone up in flames too. The terrified spectators became a frantic, trampling mass, and nearly three hundred people perished in the flames and smoke. Panic in an emergency can kill. But keeping calm can also be lethal…

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Alice Fiennes, with support from Edith Rousselot.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, including Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Nicole Morano, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

If you have questions for our Listener Q&A episodes please send them to Or, you can leave a voice note at 914- 984 – 7650 (US number, so international rates may apply). Please be aware that we may use your question on the show.


The Death and Life of the Great Lafayette, Gordon Rutter and Ian Robertson, New Lands Press, 2011

Investigation into the Kings Cross Underground Fire, Desmond Fennell, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1988

Body 115: The mystery of the last Victim of the King’s Cross Fire, Paul Chambers, Wiley, 2007

The Mass Psychology of Disasters and Emergency Evacuations: A Research Report and Implications for Practice, John Drury and Christopher Cocking, University of Sussex, 2007

To Prevent ‘Panic’ in an Underground Emergency: Why Not Tell People the Truth? Guylene Proulx and Jonathan D Sime, Fire Safety Science – Proceedings of the Third International Symposium, pp. 843-852

Evacuation behaviors and emergency communications: An analysis of real-world incident videos, C. Natalie van der Wal, Mark A. Robinson, Wändi Bruine de Bruin, Steven Gwynne, Safety Science Volume 136, 2021

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This