Had Karl Wallenda ever imagined that his flying stunt walk on San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1978 could be his final walk?
Otherwise, Wallenda’s history would have been rewritten again.
No one so far would ever imagine that death is approaching!
Even though you will find some mystical guru that they are claiming that they can foresee death!
But is it possible in reality?
If so, by this time, we could have avoided so many death! Especially the death of our near and dear ones as well as the death of our celebrity hero! Even we could have avoided the tragic death of our Indian beloved actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
But death is inevitable.
But what about Karl Wallenda?
Was his tragic demise on that fateful evening of 1978 was a mere accident? Or something mysterious circumstances led him to his tragic death?
Initially, when I first came across this tragic incident of Karl Wallenda in Tony Robbin’s book “The unlimited Power” and that mysterious explanation of his death, I got shocked!
This led me to do a bit of research on his tragic demise which slowly unfolded so many aspects of his life……..
For many of you, this name may be a familiar one.
For many, you might have heard the story but forgot.
And, for many, it’s totally a new name!
Karl Wallenda was a German-American high wire artist and founder of The Flying Wallendas, a daredevil circus act that performed dangerous stunts, often without a safety net. He was the great-grandfather of current performer Nik Wallenda.
With a career that spanned over half a century, Wallenda was far from retiring when he headed for his final walk in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1978!
Wallenda liked stunt! That too, high-risk daredevil stunt, where there is every risk to die!
But as you may be knowing, some people simply like stunt!
They just can’t live without doing stunts!
Probably you know all those stuntmen in Hollywood or Bollywood movies!
It’s really difficult to know why they risk their lives for all such stunts. But they do.
If you ask a psychologist, you will find astonishing facts.
“People like to watch people who are willing to risk everything, people who take these risks and win.”
While, we humans, always like to watch breath-taking stunts like death-defying high wire acts, the longest bicycle ride on a tightrope without a safety net, though it may sound morbid or almost cruel, the urge to witness someone’s ultimate gamble enthralls humans and other primates, scientists have found.
Some scientists think it stems from the early development of mankind when competition for food and other resources was often violent. Those most capable of attacking a rival, or thwarting an attack on them, were most successful, living longer and reproducing more.
One way of gaining that strategic advantage was to watch others go through it and learn from their successes and failures. The more one watched without having to participate, the better-prepared one was when they did need to act.
As per Canadian psychologist Frank Farley, some of the people in the society are deemed to be high-risk takers. These segment of society that loves the extreme risk of dangerous, difficult challenges are the “Type T” personalities, where the T stands for thrill-seeking.
But what comes out from various studies, it refers to one basic question.
Are humans hard-wired to be drawn to death-defying stunts?
That’s why, you will find so many people watch others go through daredevilry, life-threatening acts, and learn from their successes and failures. And, some Type T personality thrives for taking the life-threatening risk to pump out more Adrenaline from common people like us!
So was the case of Karl Wallenda!!
Wallenda began performing with his family at age six.
The Great Wallendas were noted throughout Europe for their four-man pyramid and cycling on the high wire. The act moved to the United States in 1928, performing as freelancers. In 1947 they developed the unequaled three-tier 7-Man Pyramid.
Karl Wallenda had the idea since 1938, but it took until 1946, when he and his brother Hermann developed it and had the right acrobats for it. The Great Wallendas, a 1978 made-for-TV movie starring Karl Wallenda, depicts the act’s comeback after a fatal accident involving several family members during a performance.
- The group toured Europe for several years, performing tightrope walking, highwire bicycling, and perfecting a seven-person act in which the group sat on a stacked pyramid of chairs, while high in the air.
- Eventually, they were noticed by John Ringling, who hired them almost immediately to perform at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. A few years later, they debuted at Madison Square Garden in New York City to a standing ovation.
- The Flying Wallendas soon gained international fame for their impressive acts, almost entirely developed by Karl Wallenda. Over the years he’d gotten married, and had several children, all of whom joined the family business, along with their respective significant others and their own children.
- However, as impressive as the acts were, they were dangerous as well.
- During a performance at the Shrine Circus in Detroit in 1962, their signature seven-man pyramid caused mayhem, when the frontman faltered and the entire group collapsed. In the fall, Wallenda’s son-in-law, tightrope partner, and nephew were all killed. Wallenda’s son Mario was paralyzed from the waist down, and his niece sustained a head injury after bouncing out of the safety net.
The Wallenda family has been tempting fate for generations, but fate hasn’t always been kind.
Mario Wallenda , the adopted son of Karl, fell along with Karl during an attempt to perform the 7-Person Pyramid on January 30, 1962, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
One could reach out and feel the quiver of bad vibrations in this speck of a town. Death, like a giant shadow, has always been near the lives of the Wallendas.
First, there was the accident in Detroit in 1962, which put two of them in graves and one in a wheelchair for life. Then, there was Yetta, who fell in Omaha and lay there with that worried look of the Wallendas lining her face even in death.
Pay attention, what Brother Herman said, “death has become good business for the Wallendas!”
When most of the people want to be spectators of breathtaking stunts on TV or in the reality show, the Wallenda family’s celebrated history of “death-defying” acts is the cold hard fact that sometimes, death is not actually defied.
With a few tools and an awesome ability, Karl Wallenda held the world’s attention for more than half a century! The tools were a pair of red ballet slippers, sewn with the welt of the sole on the inside so there would be no raised edges to catch on a cable, and flexible steel poles, 20 to 25 feet long and weighing from 20 to 42 pounds. The ability was balance.
The balance came naturally to Karl Wallenda!!
Astonishingly, Karl Wallenda’s second wife, Helen, who performed with the act for a number of years, had tried unsuccessfully in the last few years to persuade her husband to retire.
She was in San Juan when he fell to his death but did not see the fall. She had refused .to watch him perform since the accident in 1962.
“I never watch performances anymore,” she told an interviewer in 1973. “I always sit in a back room and pray.”
Her husband Karl Wallenda, on the other hand, often told “I feel better up there than I do down here. It is my whole life.”.You can read Karl Wallenda,s biography clicking here.
He said that he worked without a net because he believed that a net would invite.
Because Karl Wallenda was a risk-taker! He was a high sensation seeker (HSS).
The development of functional magnetic resonance imaging has revealed what parts of the brain are active when doing different tasks or during different emotions. Prof. Joseph scanned people’s brains as they looked at emotionally charged photographs and found the brains of people classified as high sensation seekers (HSS) reacted differently from low sensation seekers (LSS).
And, Karl Wallenda knew one thing for sure, there were also people who got their stimulation vicariously; for them, just watching death threatening act is enough for an adrenaline rush.”
But if just watching provides enough adrenaline for some, why do others like Karl Wallenda needed to go so much further — far enough that they deliberately risk their lives?
It’s all because of Dopamine!!
Dopamine, used by neurons to transmit messages to other neurons, is often described as the brain’s “pleasure chemical”. Dopamine cells lie in the mid-brain, deep in the base of the brain, and send “projections” to brain regions where the dopamine molecule is released – such as those involved in the control of action, cognition, and reward. Studies have shown that the dopamine system can be activated by rewarding experiences, such as eating, having sex, or taking drugs.
Karl Wallenda knew this well which made his life is so mystical!!
But, the question will come to mind again and again, why such a legend like Karl Wallenda died a so tragic death!
You know, Wallenda’s final stunt was captured on live television by a local film crew who had come out to watch the show. About halfway across the wire, he could be seen struggling with his balance and then falling……..
His demise was so tragic!!
But was his tragic demise was really an Accident? Or any mystery??
Though later investigation revealed that a combination of high winds and the fact that the wire had been improperly secured was what led to Wallenda’s tragic death.
But was it????
Then, came the Wallenda factor!!
The Wallenda Factor refers to the fear of falling or failing!!
The shocking revelation came shortly after Karl Wallenda fell to his death in 1978 when traversing a 75-foot high wire in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico, his wife, also an aerialist, discussed that fateful San Juan walk, “perhaps his most dangerous”. She recalled: “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope.”
It’s his thought, his continuous worry which led him to fall and die!!
He struck a parked taxi and was pronounced dead!!
Mrs. Wallenda added that her husband even went so far as to personally supervise the installation of the tightrope, making certain that the guide wires were secure, something he had never thought of doing before. When Karl Wallenda poured his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope, he was virtually destined to fall.
That is the Wallenda Factor!!
The more you keep on thinking something negative, the more it will get hard wired to your brain, and eventually, the negative things will happen!! You can say, its also one kind of law of attraction!!
As you know, that most people and even organisations tend to develop this orientation over a period of time, especially when they become more successful. When one starts off life with little to lose, the focus is on trying new things, experimenting, taking risks.
So, what Karl Wallenda’s tragic demise teaches us?
The focus should be on learning, experiencing, and growth.
Usually, this makes life richer, more interesting, and full of fun. One gets caught in a positive cycle, which often is self-sustaining.
Which is what, Nick Wallenda, the great-grandson of Karl Wallenda doing!
Though Karl Wallenda is long gone, Wallenda’s legacy lives on through Nik Wallenda. Nik followed in his great-grandfather’s footsteps and continues to perform alongside his siblings, hoping to honor the legacy that Karl Wallenda spent his life building.
In fact, Nik has since outdone his legendary relative. He holds 11 Guinness World Records, including performing the longest and highest bicycle ride (at 250-feet long and 135-feet high), and the highest tightrope walk while blindfolded.
Our focus should be on how the average person can recognise and avoid this orientation to living a fuller and more meaningful life. If you are a victim or to be a victim of the Wallenda Factor, you may take note of the following tips :
- Acceptance: Accept that the unknown will always be unknown.
2. Continued focus on learning: There is no greater fun than learning new things. Learning something keeps the mind agile and also diverted. It could be something to do with your line of work, art, craft, or even just plain old whistling!
3. Constantly share and thereby enrich others: Sharing could be anything. Your knowledge, experiences, memories, or money! The Internet today has made sharing so much so easier. Don’t let the imagination die down. We must Die empty.
In short, keep the child inside you alive, well, and kicking. Be curious and enjoy the journey!
After all, Karl Wallenda,s tragic demise might be an accident or later on Wallenda Factor evolved around to make things mystical, but, generation after generation, people will love and watch stunts and great lessons we can learn if we unfold history!
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