Evel Knievel: Soaring Over Snakes And Snake River Canyon

By | November 29, 2016

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Left: Evel Knievel is helped to his feet after crashing during his attempt to jump thirteen buses inside Wembley Stadium, London, 26th May 1975. Right: The popular Evel Knievel toy manufactured by Rival in the 1970s. Sources: (Photo by Express/Hulton Arch

As the greatest stunt performer of modern times, daredevil Evel Knievel captivated a nation with his death-defying adventures. The list of things he jumped -- cars, canyons, snakes, fountains -- is as long as a list of injuries he sustained. Although he never realized his dream of jumping the Grand Canyon, settling for an attempt at Snake River Canyon, he achieved a remarkable level of fame for a daredevil, transforming what was usually a sideshow or midway act into a dramatic national spectacle.

Evel Knievel was born Robert Craig Knievel on October 17, 1938. Robert was an American daredevil known to the world as Evel Knievel, known around the world for dazzling his audience by performing death-defying motorcycle jumps. During his life span, he made more than 75 jumps, some amazing successes, and some bone cracking failures.

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Left: Young Evel Knievel. Right: Knievel in his hockey-playing days. Sources: (theculturecrush.com; celebyoung.com)

Born in Butte, Montana, Knievel developed his persona after a night spent in jail with a cellmate named William Knoful, who the officers rightly called Awful Knoful. Knievel took some inspiration from his mate’s rhyming nickname and branded himself Evel Knievel, and thereby taking the first step to becoming one of the most prolific daredevils the world had ever seen.

Knievel's path took a few twists and turns -- after all, there's no prescribed career path for "Daredevil." He worked at a mine, started a local hockey team (on which he played), sold Honda motorcycles, and even sold insurance. He had always been a risk taker, and occasionally a law-beaker, and had always been attracted to speed and motorcycles. Eventually, he began to see flying through the air on a bike as a valid career.