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How Evel Knievel Worked


Evel Knievel: Early Career
Evel Knievel waves as he's lowered to his rocket prior to his failed attempt at a highly promoted leap across Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 8, 1974.
Evel Knievel waves as he's lowered to his rocket prior to his failed attempt at a highly promoted leap across Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 8, 1974.
AP Photo

Knievel launched himself into the public eye one New Year's Eve, 1967, with a jump over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for Knievel, he also launched himself into a lot of other things on that day, too.

While Knievel cleared the 151 feet (46 meters) of fountains at Caesars Palace, he failed to stick the landing, vaulted over the handlebars of his motorcycle and slid 165 feet (50.3 meters) on concrete before finally coming to a rest. The jump left him with a broken skull, pelvis and ribs. He spent nearly 30 days in a coma and millions of people watched the accident on television.

The fact that the jump wasn't technically successful didn't seem to matter to Knievel. The jump (and the crash) had won him legions of fans as well as regular appearances on ABC's Wide World of Sports. Between 1973 and 1976, Knievel appeared on the Wide World of Sports seven times, jumping everything from wrecked cars to double-decker buses. His jumps were some of the highest rated episodes in the program's history.

In 1974, Knievel was paid $6 million dollars to jump the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. For the jump, which required him to clear 1,600 feet (487.7 meters), he used a specially made rocket-propelled motorcycle, dubbed the "Skycycle." While the launch portion of the jump went well, the parachute on the jet-bike deployed too early, causing the entire rig to float down into the canyon.

Knievel's next stunt was also unsuccessful, and one of the most famous of his career. In London's Wembley Stadium, Knievel was slated to jump 13 buses in front of 70,000 fans. On his Harley-Davidson, he hit the ramp at 90 miles per hour (144.8 kilometers per hour), and barely cleared the 13th bus. But once again, the landing wasn't so smooth. But what shocked his fans the most wasn't the spectacular jump or even the grisly crash -- it was what Knievel said only moments after the impact.

So, what was on the daredevil's mind just minutes after the crash that left him with a broken hand, pelvis and compressed vertebrae?


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