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Wallenda family high wire artist

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Wallenda Family- The Flying Wallendas

For information on NIK WALLENDA please CLICK HERE

(Jump to: Karl Wallenda - Detroit Fall)


Watch Wallenda Video
Click image to watch a 23min.Wallenda video from 1963
The original Wallenda family
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Wallenda 7 man pyramid
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Karl Wallenda
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Karl Wallenda
Tino Wallenda, Richard Guzman, Carla, Rick Wallenda and Karl Wallenda
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Left - Right: Tino, Richard Guzman,
Carla, Rick and Karl Wallenda
Photo Credit: Detroit News
Wallendas fall in detriot
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Karl, Herman and Jana cling to wire
Gunther remains standing
Jenny watches from platform
Photo Credit: Detroit News
Karl and Herman hold Jana
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Gunther drops to help the others
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The name Wallenda is perhaps the most recognizable family name in the circus world. The family's history is filled with triumphs and tragedies. The Wallendas have been performing in circuses worldwide for many generations, some accounts claim a circus history as far back as 1780.

Their signature trick, the seven person pyramid has been keeping American audiences on the edge of their seats since 1948 and is one of the most dangerous and thrilling acts ever performed in modern circuses. In 1962 in Detroit Michigan two members of the act were killed and one crippled for life while performing this stunt, (Click here for details of the accident).

The 1962 fall in Detroit was not the only fatal accident, one year later Karl's sister-in-law Henrietta Grotefent (March 2, 1920 - April 18, 1963), while performing in Omaha, died , Nebraska form a fall from a sway pole. In 1972 ,Richard "Chico" Guzman (1943 - 1972), husband of Karl's daughter Carla, was electrocuted when a balancing pole he was holding, touch a live wire during a performance, July 28 1972 at Wheeling Island Stadium, Wheeling, West Virginia.

The family's American circus history began in 1928 when Karl Wallenda and his troupe of high wire artist arrived in the United States to perform with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Circus owner John Ringling first saw the act while they were performing in Cuba, he immediately offered them a contract, they began with the show April 5, 1928, at Madison Square Garden.

In 1978 a made-for-TV movie was aired base on the Wallendas life story. "The Great Wallendas", stared Lloyd Bridges as Karl, Britt Ekland as Jenny and Taina Elg as Helen.

In recent years the Wallenda family have split up into several troupes, 14 members of the Wallenda family continue to entertain crowds around the worlds.


Top Photo: Helen Wallenda bottom center, Karl Wallenda Left, Joe Geiger top, and Herman Wallenda right.


Karl Wallenda

Karl was born Jan. 21, 1905 in Magdeburg, Germany to parents Engelbert Wallenda and Kunigunde (Jameson). He began performing in Europe at age 6.

Karl performed acrobatics with his family's circus act for many years. In 1922 Karl and his brother Herman, along with Joseph Geiger and 16 year old Helen Kreis formed their own high wire act. The act toured Europe and then other parts of the world before being discovered by John Ringling.

In 1944 Karl and his brother Herman began discussing the concept of a seven man, three tier human pyramid on the high wire. Over a year was spent in trial and error, experimenting with different techniques and practice. In 1948 they debuted what would become their signature trick the "Seven Person Human Pyramid", a trick that would propel Karl and his team into circus stardom.

Although often criticized for his "the show must go no" attitude and lack of regard for safety, Karl's achievements have been nothing less than spectacular. He did not permit the act to work over a safety net, believing the net created over-confidence in the performers and caused injuries rather than preventing them.

In his later years, Karl performed many solo "Sky Walks".

On July 18, 1970, at age 65, Karl performed a walk of approximately 1300 Ft., 750 Ft. above the Tallulah Gorge, Tallulah Falls, Georgia. An estimated 30,000 spectators watched, as Karl performed two head-stands during his crossing.

Aug. 13, 1972, Karl performed a a 640 Ft., 160 Ft. high walk across Veterans Stadium, in Philadelphia, Pa.

On May 25, 1974, at age 69 Karl broke the world's wire walking distance record, when he walked a distance of 1,800 Ft. at Kings Island, Amusement Park in Ohio. The record stood for 34 years until July 4, 2008 when it was broken by Karl's great grandson Nik Wallenda.

May 31, 1974 Wallenda performed 125 Feet above Cleveland Stadium, Cleaveland, Ohio.

On March 22, 1978, 73 year old Karl Wallenda was to walk 120 feet above the ground, between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He began the walk and as he approached the half way point it was apparent that something was wrong. The wire began swaying side to side approximately on foot in each direction. Karl slowly leaned forward and attempted to grasp the wire. His body rotated to his left around the cable, Karl lost his grip and plummeted to the pavement below killing him.

The news media immediately began assuming that it was the wind that caused the accident. Karl wore a sash about his waist that day, and one could see that it was blowing slightly in the light wind, however Karl had performed many times in much higher winds without difficulties. The family members who witnessed the accident, and others that reviewed the video afterwards are convinced that it was not the wind, but a faulty rigged wire that caused the tragic fall.

More than thirty years later, the great grandson of Karl would complete Wallenda's fateful walk.



The Detroit, Michigan Fall

Wallenda seven Person Pyramid
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On Tuesday January 30, 1962, the Wallenda family were performing for the Shrine Circus, at the State Fair Coliseum in Detroit Michigan. The coliseum was packed with an estimated 7,500 in attendance

The family had performed their trade mark "Seven Person Pyramid", hundreds of times since 1948, no one expected this nights performance to be any different than the those of the past.

The human pyramid started across the wire. Jenny Wallenda, (Karl's daughter) had completed her part of the act and remained on the platform at the end of the wire.

For unknown reasons the front man in the pyramid Dieter Schepp, lost his footing causing the rest of the pyramid to collapse. Schepp fell to the concrete floor below, Richard Faughnan and Karl's adopted son Mario Wallenda fell behind him.

Karl and his brother Herman grabbed the wire and caught Jana Schepp as she fell by, (Schepp was seated in a chair atop the pyramid). Herman's son Gunther managed to keep his footing but dropped to the wire to help hold Jana.

Jenny remained on the platform and watched helplessly and in horror as her husband Richard Faughnan fell to the floor and her father Karl, hung on for his life.

Men rushed to the circus ring and held a safety net below the dangling performers. Jana age 17, dropped to the net but the impact tore the net from her rescuers hands, she struck the concrete head first and receive a serious concussion.

Richard Faughnan age 29, died soon after the accident, Dieter Schepp age 23, died in the hospital three hours later.

Mario Wallenda age 21, receive serious injuries that would leave him paralyzed from the waist down for life and required years of rehabilitation.

Karl Wallenda age, 57 received pelvic injuries, but would soon recover.

The fall did not stop the Great Wallendas, the following night Herman and his son Gunther along with Gene Mendez, returned to the wire and did an improvised performance to the thunderous cheer of the crowd.

On November 20, 1963 in Ft. Worth, Texas, the Wallendas again performed the seven person pyramid. After the engagement the family announced they would never again perform the trick.

The pyramid was performed once again in 1977, and once more in 1998.



Wallenda Family video

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Wallenda high wire act
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Karl Wallenda above Veterans Stadium, Philadelpia, Pa.
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Karl Wallenda above Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, Pa.
Karl Wallenda Londa
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Photo Credit: Alvan Quinn/Associated PressJenny Wallenda
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Jenny Wallenda
October 8, 1927 - April 4, 2015
Photo Credit: Detroit News
Janna Wallenda drops to net
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Jana Schepp drops to net
Photo Credit: Detroit News
Wallendas perform the day after the fall
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Wallendas perform the day after the fall.
Wallen 7 person pyramid detroit 1998
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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Re-creation of the 7 person pyramid
Detroit, MI. 1998
Bottom row from left: Tino Wallenda
Sacha Paulata, Nikolas Wallenda, Terry Troffer,
second row, Tony Hernandez, Alida Wallenda,
on top is Delilah Wallenda.


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