We will forever be tempted by the sky. Before we mastered flight we tried all sorts of crazy things. Even after we’ve worked it out we still try weird ways to reach the heavens. This is a collection of attempts from all throughout history.
“#5 Got Off Easy
Paolo Guidotti (Early 1600s)
Lots of Renaissance artists dabbled in flight, though some took looked at it from more literal perspectives—as in, people flying like birds as opposed to using flying machines—than others. Paolo Guidotti carved wings out of whalebone and covered them with feathers. His public demonstration saw him crash through a roof and break his thigh.
Ismail ibn Hammad al-Jawhari (1000)
The quote: “Oh people! No one has made this discovery before. Now I will fly before your eyes. The most important thing on Earth is to fly to the skies! That I will do now.” He then threw himself off the top of a mosque with wooden wings, falling to his death. Oops.
Franz Reichelt (1912)
Desperate to win a hefty prize for inventing a lightweight parachute, Reichelt spent his days working on a parachute suit. His tests with dummies didn’t go well. Even when he directly tested the device with himself it didn’t work. Chalking these shortcomings up to the short distance he was dropping from, he announced a public demonstration wherein he threw himself off the top of the Eiffel Tower. Not only did this fail, it killed him.
Larry Walters (1982)
Walters took to the skies over LA with forty-five helium filled balloons tied to a lawn chair. This worked, though things went awry when he entered federal air space. Originally planning to use a B.B. gun to pop balloons and slowly touch down, the gun fell overboard and he became entangled in powerlines. He survived but was heavily fined.