Can you look danger in the eye without blinking? Are you invincible? Today’s Wonder of the Day takes a look at a man who did some amazing stunts that left people believing he could answer those questions with a resounding “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 permanent mark on the memory of so many people.

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” since it rhymed with his last name.

As a youngster, Evel was fascinated by automobile daredevil shows. These entertainers — called daredevils — would engage in dangerous stunts to thrill their audiences. Inspired by their feats, Evel would jump off homemade ramps with his bicycle. Eventually, Evel moved on to motorcycles.

In 1966, he started his own daredevil show. The centerpiece of his show was usually a daring motorcycle jump. He would race up a ramp, over a chasm or series of objects and 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 when he attempted to jump over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. His attempt was filmed for television, and he gained a lot of recognition. Unfortunately, he crashed upon landing and spent almost a month in a coma.

Undeterred by failure, Evel continued to attempt even more spectacular jumps. His most successful jump was in 1975 at the Kings Island amusement park in Ohio. On that jump, he successfully flew over 14 buses and achieved 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, in a steam-powered rocket that was essentially nothing more than an unguided missile. The vehicle’s parachute deployed upon takeoff, causing Evel to land at the river’s edge.

Over the course of his career, Evel Knievel suffered many serious injuries, including an astounding 433 broken bones! That fact earned him a Guinness World Record for “most broken bones in a lifetime.”

During the peak of his career, Evel’s motorcycle jumps were some of the most popular televised sporting events of the time. He was definitely one of the most recognizable cultural icons of the 1970s. He was known as a celebrity who would usually 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.

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  1. Wow, I’m the first person to make a comment, again. Anyway, guess what today is? Today, it’s my dog Snowy’s birthday. Yaay! I did love the article, but can he beat a real life like stunt of a real hotwheel racecar to jump a ramp that might be 100 meters wide. :-D

    • A WONDER-filled birthday to your canine friend, Carlos! We hope you, Snowy and your family had fun celebrating and cheered him on as he performed his own stunt! Have a WONDERful day! :)

  2. I love watching my cousin push it to the limit and he likes doing things I won’t even do but he likes doing thing that he loves to do.

    • Hi there, Jordan! We like that your cousin reminds you of Evel Kneivel– as long as you are both being safe! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :)

    • Great point, David B! Evil Knievel took a lot of risks, and many called him a daredevil when he did so! We hope you have a great time WONDERing and safely imagining what Evil Knievel accomplished! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Zachary! Thank you for sharing your comment about Evel Knievel! The cool Wonder video shows an Evel Knievel toy attempting a jump (it looks like the giant fish was in fact Nemo!) Thanks for visiting us today! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who was Evel Knievel?
  • Was Evel really his first name?
  • What is a daredevil?

Wonder Gallery

Motorcycle jumping from a high rock shutterstock_79084570Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to watch some of Evel Knievel’s most famous daredevil jumps? Grab a friend or family member and watch the clips below:

Do you think you could ever be a daredevil like Evel Knievel? Why or why not? What kind of stunts would you like to try if you were ever to become a professional stunt person? Leave us a comment today to let us know what you thought of today’s death-defying Wonder of the Day!

Still Wondering

Safety first! In ReadWriteThink’s Safety Tips With Officer Buckle and Gloria lesson, children take the lessons taught by Officer Buckle and Gloria to heart as they explore safety in everyday situations.

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