The Rhythm Night Club Fire or The Natchez Dance Hall Holocaust is still today the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in world history.
It was Tuesday, April 23, 1940 and the famous Walter Barnes Orchestra from Chicago was playing at the Rhythm Club Dance Hall. Spanish moss had been hung from the ceiling for decoration and sprayed with a highly flammable insecticide and became ignited and large flames quickly developed. The windows and entrances had been boarded up to keep out people who had not paid admission out.
The fire trapped all of the attendees inside and took the lives of 209 people. Barnes and his band continued to play “Marie” in an effort to calm the crowd.
The Rhythm Night Club Onsite Memorial Museum was constructed by the Sago Family in 2010, as a place to honor those wounded and killed in the tragic 1940 fire that took the lives of over 200 Natchez citizens. There are actual accounts of survivors, newspaper clippings, stories from eye witnesses and images housed in the museum, and it’s a “must see” attraction, which is worth giving to, an hour or more of your trip.
Today, the Rhythm Night Club Fire is remembered through the chilling songs of other blues musicians, such as Howlin’ Wolf’s The Natchez Burning. A documentary was also made about the Rhythm Night Club Fire and was taken to several film festivals where it went on to win several awards.