5 of Our Finest Daredevils

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Maybe it’s the extra dopamine steadily flowing through their veins, or maybe it’s the memory of the adrenaline rush from their last jump/dive/shark fight; whatever it is that drives the daredevil to attempt ever more death-defying stunts, when they do it, we watch. Today, we are awed by such feats as a four-minute freefall from the very edge of space, but generations past were no less impressed by the most amazing feats of their day. Daredevils have long been pushing the edge of the envelope – let’s look at a few of history’s finest risk-takers.

5 Sailendra Nath Roy

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Earlier this year, daredevil Sailendra Nath Roy died while attempting to beat his own world record. The cause of his death was only indirectly related to the stunt, however: Roy died of a heart attack. Paramedics could not reach him in time to revive the 48 year old, because he was midway through a record-setting stunt in which he raced more than 300 feet along a zip line from which he hung by his hair.

4 A Bear … on a Motorcycle … on a Wire

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The insanity bar was raised and the decency bar lowered in one fell swoop back in 2010. The impressive “daredevil” in this case would probably have been just as happy not to achieve fame and notoriety, largely because it was a bear. A bear riding a motorcycle across a tightrope with a human suspended beneath it, to be precise. This “act” was put on at a series of events in China and drew the ire of animal rights activists and outraged bears worldwide.

3 John Holtum

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Danish strongman John Holtum lived in the latter half of the 19th century, a time when burly, mustachioed men could be found hoisting astoundingly large barbells all across the globe. Weary of such tired feats, Holtum instead decided to do battle with canons. His act consisted of a cannonball being fired directly at his chest. Holtum would catch the flying cannonball and then hurl it to the ground, to the cheers of his amazed onlookers. And he only lost a few fingers during his long cannonball-catching career!

2 Evel Knievel

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Evel Knievel lived life on his own terms. Most of those terms involved jumping over canyons or buildings or rows of busses on a supercharged motorcycle while wearing a ridiculously patriotic leather suit and cape. It’s a miracle that disease killed this man rather than blunt force trauma. His life was pretty much constantly hanging in the balance from age 18 onward; it was in his 18th year when Knievel had his first motorcycle wreck during a high-speed police chase. He soon straightened out and found his calling, eventually sailing into American history as our most famous daredevil.

1 Zazel

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Gunpowder was first developed in Ancient China sometime around the 11th century. By the 14th century, primitive canons were becoming fixtures in the arsenal of many military forces. So it’s almost amazing that it took until the year 1877 before someone had the bright idea to fire a human being out of a canon. And that person was a 14-year-old girl who went by the stage name Zazel. Her real name was Rossa Matilda Richter, and for the record, she was launched aloft in London – via a spring/rubber-band like mechanism, not gunpowder.

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