Wallendas have rich history, not without tragedy
FILE- In this July 18, 1970 file photo, daredevil Karl Wallenda nears the end of his tightrope walk across Tallulah Gorge, Ga. On Friday, June 15, 2012, Karl’s great grandson, Nick Wallenda, will attempt a high wire walk over Niagara Falls on live television, hoping to write his famous family's name into the 153-year-old legend of daredevils who've "conquered" the natural wonder. (AP Photo/Bob Schutz, File)
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) — When Nik Wallenda sets out for his tightrope walk over Niagara Falls late Friday, he'll be adding another chapter to his family's storied daredevil history which dates back more than two centuries. Wallenda has said he is disappointed he is being made to wear a tether by the event's sponsor, ABC, since his family has performed over the years without such safety precautions.
Here's a look at the first family of funambulists, along with some of their notable feats and tragedies:
— The Wallendas trace their fearless roots to 1780 Austria-Hungary, when ancestors traveled as a band of acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, animal trainers and trapeze artists.
— John Ringling of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus recruited the Wallendas after seeing them perform in Cuba. In 1928, the family gave its inaugural performance at Madison Square Garden earned a 15-minute standing ovation from an astounded audience, who marveled at them performing without a safety net.
FILE- In this Jan. 30, 1962 file photo, the Great Wallendas walk the high wire during their three-tier seven-person pyramid performance at the State Fair Coliseum in Detroit, Michigan. During the performance the pyramid formation collapsed and the performers fell to the ground injuring performers Jana Schepp and Mario Wallenda, as well as killing performers Richard Faughnan and Dieter Schepp. From left to right, bottom row, are, Dieter Schepp; Mario Wallenda; Richard Faughnan and Gunther Wallenda. From left ro right in the second row are Karl Wallenda and Herman Wallenda. Sitting on chair is Jana Schepp. On Friday, June 15, 2012, Karl’s great grandson, Nick Wallenda, will attempt a high wire walk over Niagara Falls on live television, hoping to write his famous family's name into the 153-year-old legend of daredevils who've "conquered" the natural wonder. (AP Photo, File)
— The signature performance of the group that came to be known in the 1940s as "The Flying Wallendas" was the seven-person chair pyramid: Two pairs of performers walk the wire, each supporting another aerialist on a pole. Those two aerialists, in turn, carry a pole upon which the seventh member of the troupe balances in a chair.
— The chair pyramid went terribly wrong in 1962 when a misstep at the State Fair Coliseum in Detroit sent two men to their deaths and paralyzed a third performer.
— In 1944, the Wallendas were performing at a Hartford, Conn., circus when a fire broke out. All the Wallendas slid down ropes to safety but 168 people died.
— The following year, Rietta Wallenda, sister-in-law of family patriarch Karl Wallenda, fell to her death in Omaha.