From moans and groans to broken bones; find out how these six stunts went wrong in the worst ways possible.
Life needn’t always be so serious. It shouldn’t always be about the humdrum, work-consume-die existence. We live, too, to be entertained.
Stunts do this by impressing us with people’s breath-taking skill and bravery, and are often spectacular.
They might involve escape artists like Houdini’s escape from a tank of water whilst suspended upside down in a straitjacket or Charlee Fotheringham who performed the first ever double backflip in a wheelchair.
Sometimes these shenanigans can go wrong, however. When they do it can lead to embarrassment, or worse – tragedy.
Here are 6 of the most disastrous stunts.
Fhat Sam’s Epic Roof Jump Fail
First up, some people have all the best ideas. A pseudo-genius going by the name ‘Fhat Sam’ decided to jump off a 5m (15ft) high roof onto a giant inflatable ball below in a parody of Felix Baumgartner’s jump from the edge of space.
We can only guess he doesn’t really fear pain like the rest of us because even if the stunt went as planned, the rebound off the ball would surely fling him up again and hit the ground with a heavy tumble anyhow. Unfortunately it went down even worse for this crash test dummy role model.
He dons a mock space suit and, as a young woman steadies the ball below, he gives the inspiring line “Sometimes you have to go really high to see how small you really are.”
Then he jumps. It’s taking the run-up that ruins it for him; he over jumps the ball, just brushing it with his cheeks before hitting the ground with an almighty phwack, bum first. His lower spine takes the full brunt and he lies in agony whilst the camera guy helpfully gets a closer camera shot of his friend’s distress.
The girl asks if he is alright — I’ll be honest, he wasn’t. Just imagining it makes you cringe. He broke two vertebra in his back and spent a week in hospital. Lesson learned, hopefully.
Evel Knievel Canyon Jump
In the 1970s there was a man named Evel Knievel who became a US icon for his incredible motorcycle stunts. These typically involved launching himself off a ramp, flying over something crazy like ten lorries, then crashing upon landing, breaking numerous bones.
The man actually holds the record for most bone fractures — 433 by 1975!
Anyway, the problem with being a stuntman is in order to keep spectators coming back for more, you have to keep upping your game with ever more death-defying antics.
By 1974 he decided to attempt to jump the 487m (1600ft) wide and 152m (500ft) deep Snake River Canyon in a ‘Skycycle’ named so, despite being a steam-powered rocket.
The day came, the massive crowds gathered and cameras began to roll. Evel, donned in his iconic star-spangled jumpsuit, was ceremoniously lowered into his Skycycle.
His fans waited with bated breath as he was strapped in. It was one thing to jump a load of lorries but a whole canyon? This was something else.
The countdown reached zero then, whoosh, the rocket shot up the steep ramp it was mounted on. But something went immediately wrong; the safety parachute deployed as it lifted off the ramp, slowing its flight badly. Even though the craft soared all the way across the canyon to the north rim, winds caused it to drift back into the canyon.
By the time it hit the bottom of the canyon, it landed only a few feet from the water on the same side of the canyon it had been launched from. If he had landed in the water, Knievel said that he would have drowned, due to a harness malfunction which kept him strapped in the vehicle. As it was, he survived the failed jump with only minor physical injuries this time.
Chili Eating Burns Hole in Throat
While most of us enjoy a curry with a good kick to it the thought of eating a seriously hot chilli pepper would fill us with dread.
Eating a Jalapeno pepper is bad enough for most; the pain is pretty intense and fills the mouth and back of the throat and it makes you sweat and tear up. On the Scoville scale, the measurement for how hot a pepper is, a Jalapeno scores 5000.
Sounds pretty high? Then compare that with a Ghost Pepper which scores a whopping 850,000!
Of course, there are these hardy souls in the world who chow down on super hot peppers just for fun, presumably with wax-lined innards to bear the heat and actually enjoy eating the things. Well, one guy tried to join this pantheon of gods but couldn’t quite cut the mustard.
In 2016 an unnamed American tried to step up to the mark and it went disastrously.
The man reportedly ate a burger smothered in Ghost Pepper puree and the heat was so intense he writhed in pain and vomited so badly that he tore a 2.5cm (1 inch) hole in his oesophagus. After spending 23 days in hospital he was discharged with a gastric tube.
Bloody End to Tiger Performance
Performing with animals, though more frowned upon nowadays, has always drawn in the crowds, perhaps because it displays our mastery over the rest of the animal kingdom.
To tame a mighty lion with a chair or stick one’s head in the gaping, tooth lined crocodile’s maw is to defy a beast’s instinctive savagery.
Siegfried and Roy, a duo who performed magic tricks and worked with white lions and tigers, were one of the top headline acts on the Las Vegas Strip.
One performance with a white Tiger named Mantecore, however, would almost end their double act for good in 2003.
During a show at the Mirage Casino Mantecore attacked Roy. Roy held a microphone to Mantecore’s mouth and told him to say “Hello” to the audience when something triggered Mantecore to attack.
Why is anyone’s guess; perhaps they caught him on an off day and failed to see the signs or maybe it’s because, you know, Mantecore was a 230kg (500lb) apex predator.
Anyway, Mantecore sunk his teeth into Roy’s sleeve as Roy swatted the Tiger and barked “release!”. Mantecore then knocked Roy down with his leg and pinned him to the floor. As standby trainers rushed in from offstage to fight off the big cat, Mantecore bit into Roy’s neck and carried him offstage.
Trainers were finally able to get the tiger to release Roy after spraying him with CO2 canisters but not before the attack severed Roy’s spine, inflicted critical blood loss, and caused severe crush injuries to other parts of his body, permanently affecting his ability to move, walk, and speak. Roy also suffered a stroke.
He would learn to walk and talk again but the duo retired in 2010.
Radio Station Game Leaves Three with Frostbite
Endurance challenges can be fun. Think of holding on to a car with the last person standing winning that car, what’s the worst that could happen, getting a full bladder or a little bit of foot ache from standing for too long? It’s just a question of will power.
That is probably what Birmingham’s BRMB radio station thought in August 2001. Yet, they challenged contestants to sit on blocks of dry ice to win tickets and backstage passes for a music festival in the city.
The payoff for four contestants who endured sitting on the ice was severe frostbite.
That’s right, it didn’t occur to any of the challenge organisers that sitting with bare skin on blocks of carbon dioxide frozen to temperatures of -78C (-108F) might be a tad too cold.
Two women and a man spent about 10 weeks in hospital recovering from extensive skin grafts. They suffered the loss of skin, fat and muscle and were left with permanent scarring.
Helen Terry, 25 recalled: “It was just horrendous. You just don’t think anything like that is going to happen. I was told it was the worst burns that the nurses at the unit had ever seen. The surgeon said that if the burns had been on my hands or feet, they would have been amputated — that’s how serious it was.”
The radio station was fined £15,000 for the gaff.
Train Crash for Publicity
We know that back in olden times people were kind of dumber back then, in the sense that life held less value and so health and safety could be pretty casual and if things didn’t quite go to plan and someone got killed in the process then, well, shit happens.
It’s 1896 USA and you are a marketing guru who has been charged with promoting train ticket sales to Texas, what do you do?
Stage a train crash in a mocked up town, of course! The idea was to sell tickets so that people could visit the town and make a jamboree of it, with amusements and sideshows to the main event. 50,000 people attended.
But, don’t worry folks they weren’t dismissive of health and safety as was the style of the time, they took it seriously big time.
Spectators to the crash rail track had to stay a whole 180m (200yards) back and reporters half that — I bet they couldn’t even make out the names on the drivers’ name badges they were so safely far away.
The plan was that two steam locomotives would be driven at each other on a specially built train track with time given for the crews to jump off before collision. Impacting at 45mph (72kph), the locomotive boilers unexpectedly exploded. Three people were killed and dozens were injured.
Sounds like a scene which could’ve made it into the movie ‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’.