The Wallendas were truly an incredible, loving, and brave family; this is their story. Below is the video of Karl falling to his death, among other deadly Wallenda accidents.
It’s said that the Wallenda family has been performing for 200 years, no that’s not a typo! The family’s performances can be traced back to 1780! The Wallendas have done it all, they’ve been everything from juggling clowns, to animal trainers, and of course, daredevils. Pulling off extreme stunts and living for the cheering of a crowd is in their blood. The Wallenda family were well known and loved throughout Europe for their 4 man pyramid, walking, riding a bicycle, and even doing headstands while on a tightrope. They’re truly incredible to watch! Karl Wallenda became the best known of the group, and the patriarch of the infamous Flying Wallendas.
Born into this family in 1905, Karl began working with a German circus by the time he was 6. Sadly life had not been great as a child, his abusive father, Englebert, has been abusive. The man had beaten Karl so badly that he lost all hearing in one ear. At the age of 8 Karl was introduced to death when his sister passed away. After Englebert abandoned the family, young Karl went to work; he provided for his family not only by working with the circus but also in the coal mines. As a teenager he answered an ad in the paper which had wanted someone to perform in a balancing act; Karl answered that ad, learned everything he could from his employer, and put together his own act. They became famous all throughout Europe, and in 1928 the Wallenda family was discovered by a big time American circus. They were recruited to move to the states where they quickly became known throughout the world! In 1947 Karl put together a stunning 7 man pyramid, something which has never been done before.
There have been many accidents, and because the Wallendas were known not to use a net, deaths were imminent. On January 30th of 1962 two of Karl’s family members perished during a collapsed 7 man pyramid. Karl’s son, Mario, was paralyzed from the waist down, and Karl himself had been injured during the fall as well; though the man had broken a hip, but that didn’t stop him from climbing right back up on that tightrope. Within the next few years two more Wallendas would lose their lives in terrible accidents; Karl’s sister in law fell to her death, and his son in law was electrocuted when he grabbed the wrong wire during a show. It was all very dangerous but Karl has been the best at what he did; still, the man couldn’t continue to cheat death forever.
When he was 73 years old, Karl had planned to walk the tight wire 10 stories up in the air, in between two towers in Puerto Rico. This was the type of stunt Karl had lived for, and he’d done it repeatedly throughout his career; sadly on this day, the wire was not supported properly, and the wind had been blowing much too hard. Knowing how dangerous this was, many pleaded with the performer to reschedule, but Karl’s heart had absolutely been set on it. This particular walk had been to help bring publicity to a show that was very special to him, something he was doing with his granddaughter. In the video below, you see Karl walking across the wire, he makes it about halfway before he begins to lose his balance. You can see him attempt to grab the wire below, sit and balance himself a minute, but ultimately this man fell to his death among the stunned onlookers below.
Karl Wallenda was pronounced deceased on arrival to the hospital on March 22nd of 1978; his body is buried in Bradenton, Florida.
As someone who personally has a hell of a time walking in one inch heels or even up the stairs barefooted without breaking an ankle, these people just amaze me!
Many of Karl’s grandchildren continue to perform today, they say it’s simply in their blood. Though there are approximately a half dozen Wallendas to be seen, most often you hear of Karl’s great grandson, Nik. It seems Nik had been using some backup for a while there, nets and safety harnesses in place to catch him in the event of a fall, but he’s been doing without those things as of late. In recent years Nik has crossed the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and a live volcano in Nicaragua; in 2008 he managed to break his predecessor’s skywalk record, and he has performed the same walk in Puerto Rico which killed his grandfather. Nik seems every bit as passionate about his work as his grandfather before him; the trick is to not look down, he just concentrates on the tightrope and prays that Mother Nature cooperates.