Two Wallendas Fell To Their Deaths At The Circus in Detroit in 1962
If you follow enough history-related accounts on social sites like Twitter, you will invariably learn things that will make you say "I didn't know that". That happened to me this weekend when I saw an "On This Date" feature note that two members of the famous tight wire walking family, the Wallendas fell to their death at the State Fair Coliseum, during a performance of the Shrine Circus on January 30, 1962.
You'd think death would've been more common, but according to an article from Sarasota, where the two family members who died in Detroit are buried, the incident in Detroit was the first time anyone from the act had died. (In 1944, a fire broke out in a giant tent in Connecticut. That fire killed 167 people, but the Wallendas were not hurt.)
In 1962, the Wallendas were attempting a seven-person pyramid at the Coliseum.
"It's a stunt they'd been performing for more than a decade. 'As they made their way on that wire, the pyramid collapsed and two of the members were actually killed. One of my great-uncles, Mario, was paralyzed from the waist down.'" - Nik Wallenda.
There were only a few photos of the failed stunt, so the family doesn't have a definitive explanation of what went wrong. Wallenda did say the person on the front of the pyramid was not feeling well that day.
The founder of the act, the family's patriarch, Karl Wallenda fell to his death during a fairly routine stunt in 1978, but there's some speculation that he might have had a heart attack.
The family says they do this to inspire others that nothing is impossible, but you have to wonder if this is all worth it?
Coincidentally, the State Fair Coliseum is currently being torn down to put up an Amazon distribution center and a bus station. The building was built 100 years ago, hosting the country's oldest state fair until 2009.