Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wonderologist. Wonderologist Wonders, “How many bones did Evel Knievel break?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wonderologist!
Can you look danger in the eye without blinking? Are you invincible? Today’s Wonder of the Day is about a man who pulled off some amazing stunts. He left people believing he could answer those questions with a loud “Yes!”
Who are we talking about? No one other than the famous, the legendary…Evel Knievel! Perhaps no one else in the history of stunts and entertainment has left a more lasting mark.
With a name like Evel Knievel, how could he not become famous? But he wasn’t always called Evel. He was born in Butte, Montana, in 1938 with the name Robert Craig Knievel. When he began to perform as a daredevil, he used the stage name “Evel.” He chose the name because it rhymed with his last name.
As a kid, Evel watched entertainers called daredevils attempt dangerous stunts in automobiles. This thrilled audiences, including young Knievel. Inspired by their feats, he would jump off homemade ramps with his bicycle. Eventually, he moved on to motorcycles.
In 1966, Knievel started his own daredevil show. The main event of each show was usually a daring motorcycle jump. He would race up a ramp and soar over a chasm or series of objects. Finally, Knievel would attempt to land safely on a ramp on the other side.
Throughout his career, he attempted over 75 such motorcycle jumps. His first major shot at fame came in 1967. That year, he attempted to jump over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. His attempt was filmed for television. Unfortunately, he crashed upon landing and spent almost a month in a coma.
Undeterred, Evel continued to attempt more stunts. His most successful jump was in 1975 at the Kings Island amusement park in Ohio. He successfully flew over 14 buses in a jump that drew his largest television audience.
His career was marked by even more spectacular failures, though. For example, in 1974, he attempted to jump across Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho. He did so in a steam-powered rocket. The vehicle’s parachute deployed upon takeoff, causing Evel to land at the river’s edge.
Knievel’s motorcycle jumps were some of the most popular televised sporting events of his time. He was definitely one of the most recognizable cultural of the 1970s. He was known to wear a red, white and blue “stars and stripes” outfit with a cape. In 1999, Evel Knievel was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
Have you ever seen an old video of an Evel Knievel jump? Talk with your adult family members about the daredevil—they’ve likely heard of him! Of course, always remember that stunts should be left to the professionals. Never try pulling off an Evel Knievel trick at home!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2