"I was sitting in the fifth seat from the aisle,
said Miss Coulter, "but the fire, which was bursting
out from both sides of the stage, had such a
fascination for me that at first I could not move.
Finally, by an effort, I gathered up my coat and
rushed into the aisle, looking back as I did.
"Helen Dickinson was standing up, her eyes fixed
upon the blazing stage, and that was the last I saw
of her. I did not notice Mr. Collins. When I reached
the aisle I was swept along so fast that I had no
time to think, and before I knew it I was at one of
the exits leading to the alley. It was a frightful
jam, and all the time that awful screams were
ringing in my ears. I was in a crush of women, as
there were but few men on the lower floor.
"There was a momentary jam at this alley door, and
just before I fell into the alley I looked toward
the stage. The house by this time was full of smoke
and several women and children near me were
strangling. I could hardly breath. The stage was one
mass of flame, the fire reaching out into the
auditorium, while the boxes on each side were
at once I was pitched into the alley upon the bodies
of a lot of people, and then several men and women
fell upon me. After I had disentangled myself and
managed to get up I found myself standing on a young
girl. She was apparently unconscious so I lifted her
"The stairways leading to the
balcony and gallery were crowded to their utmost
and I saw several women, girls and men hanging
from the platforms by their hands. Before I
could get away I saw some of these fall into the
alley. Smoke was pouring out from everywhere
about the theater, and the alley becoming so
thick with smoke I ran toward State street."
Sixteen year old Lila* Coulter, who
sometimes went by her
middle name, Hazel, was the only child of John
“Johnny” Coulter and Ella Coulter. Her father worked
for the Chicago Evening Post and the New
York Herald. The family
was prosperous enough to own their home and
socialize with the Plamondons. The Coulters lived at
4760 Champlain Avenue.
Kenneth Collins was said to live on Wabash Ave.
He had just turned eighteen a month
before the Iroquois fire. He was the only child of
Anna E. Collins. His late father, John L. Collins had
died two years earlier in a horrific elevator
accident at the Masonic Temple (see accompanying
story). Kenneth was the grandson of a celebrated
civil war naval commander, Napoleon Collins.
Helen M. Dickinson lived at in a boarding house
named Josephine Apartments at 3637 Michigan Avenue in
Chicago. In 1903 her name appeared in city
directories, suggesting that she was older than Lila
and Kenneth, but the directories did not list her
occupation, so she may have been a student living
with a relative of a different last name.
*Also spelled Lela and Leila in newspapers