Karl Wallenda had actually been performing stunts because he was six years old. He was trained to walk on a high wire, cycle across a tightrope, and balance as one of a seven-man pyramid. Hardly ever was a safety and security net used. Because that him, that seemed, nothing to be impossible.

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Then, on march 22, 1978, the civilization watched in horror as knife Wallenda fell to his death. Together he attempted come walk throughout a high wire strung between the 2 towers the the Condado Plaza Hotel in mountain Juan, Puerto Rico, the 73-year-old Wallenda lost his balance, teetering top top the cable for 30 heart-stopping seconds prior to plummeting 10 stories.

Karl Wallenda’s death can not have been so very publicized had actually it not been because that his daredevil reputation and also the reality that it was broadcast live ~ above television.

The paris Wallendas’ Balancing Act


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State Library and also Archives the FloridaThe flying Wallendas do their famous pyramid plot in the 1960s.


Born in 1905 come a circus family members in Germany, Wallenda began learning stunts together a young child. By 1922, he developed The flying Wallendas after training with another performer while tho in his teens.

He enlisted his brothers Herman, girlfriend Helen Kreiss (who eventually ended up being his wife), and also school girlfriend Joseph Geiger — every one of whom had actually circus training — to join him in developing the travel balancing act.

Also well-known as The good Wallendas, the group toured Europe for number of years, performing tightrope walking and high-wire bicycling, and perfecting a four-man pyramid act.

Eventually, they to be noticed through American circus entrepreneur john Ringling, who automatically hired the Wallendas to execute at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. In 1928, castle debuted at Madison Square Garden in new York City to a stand ovation.

The flying Wallendas soon acquired international fame for their superior acts, virtually entirely emerged by karl Wallenda. One of the most death-defying stunts he came up with was the three-tier, seven-person chair pyramid, in i beg your pardon the team walk the tightrope through the peak member balancing high in the wait — frequently on a chair.

Over the years, karl had gained married and also had numerous children, all of whom join the family business, together with their respective significant others and also their own children.

Daredevil Stunts turn Deadly


As jaw-dropping together the Wallendas’ acts proved to be, they to be dangerous as well.

During a performance at the Shrine Circus in Detroit in 1962, their signature seven-person pyramid caused mayhem as soon as the frontman faltered and also the whole group collapsed.

In the fall, Wallenda’s son-in-law, tightrope partner, and nephew were all killed. Wallenda’s kid Mario was paralyzed native the belt down, and also his niece continual a head injury after bouncing out of the security net.

During a performance a year later, Wallenda’s sister-in-law dropped to her death from a tightrope. A few years after ~ that, Wallenda’s son-in-law to be electrocuted after accidentally grabbing a live wire during a stunt.

Despite every one of the tragedies linked with his act, Wallenda soldiered on, proceeding to carry out with smaller groups, and even through himself together a solo act.

Wallenda made history several times, performing a high-wire walk throughout the Tallulah Gorge, and also breaking a people high-wire document by go 1,800 feet throughout Kings Island.

He performed stunts into his 70s, acquisition on every challenge with the very same excitement he had all his life.

Karl Wallenda’s Final, deadly Walk


With a job that covered over half a century, Wallenda was much from retiring once he top to mountain Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1978. He to be there to encourage a circus action he would be performing with his granddaughter.

Wallenda’s last stunt was captured on live tv by a local film crew who had actually come the end to watch the show. Around halfway across the wire he can be viewed struggling v his balance and also then falling. That struck a parked taxi and was pronounced dead.

A later examination revealed that a mix of high winds and the fact that the wire had been improperly secured was what resulted in Wallenda’s catastrophic death.

Though he’s lengthy gone, Wallenda’s tradition lives on through his great-grandson Nik Wallenda. Nik followed in his great-grandfather’s footsteps, and also continues to execute alongside his siblings, hope to respect the heritage that karl Wallenda spent his life building.

In fact, Nik has because outdone his legend relative. He holds 11 Guinness world Records, consisting of performing the longest and highest bicycle drive (at 250-feet long and also 135-feet high), and also the highest tightrope go while blindfolded.

In 2011, Nik, alongside his mom Delilah (Karl’s granddaughter), recreated the very same walk that had actually led to Karl’s death some 33 year prior. The duo walked a tightrope between the two towers of the 10-story Condado Plaza Hotel in Puerto Rico.

Nik claimed he wasn’t scared throughout the performance, but was honored to be able to recreate the dangerous feat: “To be able to walk in his specific footsteps is an extremely huge honor, and also I did this because that him as lot as i did it for my family to get some closure too,” he had said.

His great-grandfather absolutely would be proud.

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Next, read around a millennial daredevil whose stunt became his downfall. Then, discover the story of Budd Dwyer, the Pennsylvania state official who committed suicide at a press conference.