1811: Sir John Throckmorton bet one thousand guineas that a woolen coat could be made in its entirety, starting with the shearing of the sheep, between sunrise and sunset. He believed that the wool could be "A Sheep's Coat at Sunrise, A Man's Coat at Sunset." The experiment took place on June 25, 1811, in the town of Newbury, England, and Throckmorton won his bet.
The 'Newbury Coat' maintained the record for the fastest coat ever made until Sep 21, 1991, when an identical coat was made, in the same manner, but an hour faster.
On January 26, 1972, stewardess Vesna Vulovic was working on a Yugoslav Airlines flight when a bomb blew up the plane. She fell 31,000 feet and miraculously survived. No one else on the flight did. She eventually made a near-full recovery and went back to work at the airline, though not as a stewardess. She died in 2016. To this day, she maintains the world record for having made the longest fall without a parachute.
Vulovic is part of a small group of human marvels who have survived very long falls. Another member of this group is English tail gunner Nicholas Alkemade who, in 1944, survived a fall of 18,000 feet out of a Lancaster bomber.
A woman jumps out of a sixth-story window and walks away uninjured. Another slips on a banana peel and is killed. Why? That was the question Hugh De Haven asked himself...
Obviously, De Haven couldn't subject human guinea pigs to experimental accidents in a laboratory. Instead, he analyzed the records of some remarkably lucky and well-documented falls—cases where men and women dropped from as high as 320 feet (the equivalent of 28 stories) and survived. A few of them:
--A 42-year-old woman jumped from a sixth floor. Hurtling 55 feet, she landed at 37 miles an hour on her left side and back in a well-packed plot of garden soil. She arose with the remark: "Six stories and not even hurt." Her body had made a 4-inch hollow in the earth.
--A 27-year-old girl dropped from a seventh story window and landed head first on a wooden roof. She crashed through, breaking three 6- by 2-inch beams, and dropped lightly to the ceiling below. None of her neighbors knew about the fall until she herself appeared at the attic door and asked assistance. And although one of her vertebrae was fractured, the girl was able to sit up in bed the same day.
--Another woman fell 74 feet, landing flat and face down on an iron bar, metal screens, a skylight, and a metal-lath ceiling. The impact made a 13-inch bend in the 1.5-inch bar, but she suffered only some cuts on her forehead and soreness about the ribs. She sat up and climbed through a nearby window.
--After a 72-foot drop, a 32-year-old woman landed in jackknife position on a fence of wire and wood. She picked herself up and marched to a first-aid station but was unhurt.
--A 27-year-old man fell 146 feet onto the rear deck of a coupe. Some of his bones were broken, but he remained conscious and was back at work within two months.
--A man dropped from a 320-foot cliff to the beach below, bouncing from a sloping ledge halfway down. Although his skull was fractured, he fully recovered. DeHaven noted that the man wore a large coat, which may have slowed his fall by a slight parachute action.
--A woman fell seventeen floors onto a metal ventilator box, landing in sitting position and crushing the metal downward 18 inches. Though both arms and one leg were broken, she sat up and demanded to be taken back to her room.
In this evidence, De Haven observed that (1) in each instance the blow was distributed over a large area of the body, and (2) the fall was not halted abruptly—in the ventilator case, for example, it was slowed through a distance of 18 inches and the impact was thus decreased. Even so, she had survived a force of more than 200 times gravity. By contrast, a person slipping on a sidewalk might crack his skull because hitting the unyielding concrete pavement generated a force of more than 300 times gravity.
Other modern record-holders are in the 18-ft range.
But they can't hold a patch to Chief Long Hair of the Crows.
Itchuuwaaóoshbishish/Red Plume (Feather) At The Temple (born ca. 1750, died in 1836) A Mountain Crow leader during fur trade days and signer of the 1825 Friendship Treaty. Traders and trappers called him Long Hair because of his extraordinarily long hair, approximately 25 feet long. At his death, his hair was cut off and maintained by Tribal leaders.
Now because Long Hair lived before photography, there is no visual record of this. However! Supposedly his tresses are part of the exhibit at Chief Plenty Coups State Park in Montana. (Plenty Coups was a descendant of Long Hair.)
The World Championship Sardine Packing Contest was launched in 1970 in Rockland, Maine. But by 1990 the contest had fizzled out, due largely to an inability to find anyone willing to compete in it. This reflected the decline of the sardine packing industry in the region, as well a shift to mechanization.
Five-time champion Rita Willey became known as "the Mahammad Ali of all sardine packers." There's an exhibit honoring her in the Maine Coast Sardine History Museum. According to the museum:
when Rita was the reigning champion, she could pack 400 cans per hour. That means cutting and packing five fish per can. Her fame landed her on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, "What's My Line?", "To Tell The Truth", and "Real People".
When the 35-pound contraption, made of two bicycle wheels, was ready, Williams took it to the roof of a 21-story building at MIT. He anchored the cord to an I beam, hooked up a motor which jerked the line rhythmically like a finger and let the yo-yo drop. The wheels, revolving up to 1,000 times a minute, reached a speed of more than 80 miles an hour. Then, the yo-yo climbed more than two-thirds of the way back up the 400-pound-test-weight nylon cord...
Williams was offered $5,000 for the yo-yo by a Las Vegas casino (“I feel sensitive about selling it”), and laughed off suggestions that he drop it from Canada’s tallest structure, Toronto’s 1,800-foot Canadian National Tower. “There were all sorts of radio and TV offers,” he says wearily.
Arizona Daily Star - Feb 5, 1974
The record no longer stands. According to Guinness, the current record holder is Beth Johnson who, in 2012, successfully tested a yo-yo measuring 11 ft 10.75 in diameter and weighing 4,620 lb.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.