Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

The Spectacular Televised Death Of Franz Reichelt: The Eiffel Tower Base Jumper (1912)

Share this:

Neurasthenic Russian valet committing suicide by jumping off the first level of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, on 7 March 1926, Frontpage of French newspaper Le Petit Journal Illustre, March 21, 1926, Private Collection, (Photo by Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)

Neurasthenic Russian valet committing suicide by jumping off the first level of the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, on 7 March 1926, Frontpage of French newspaper Le Petit Journal Illustre,

 

Only a person seeking death would jump from the Eiffel Tower. To jump was certain suicide. Unless you had parachute.

 

Illustration of the first parachute jump by Louis-Sébastien Lenormand from the tower of the Montpellier observatory in 1783.

Illustration of the first parachute jump by Louis-Sébastien Lenormand from the tower of the Montpellier observatory in 1783.

 

Franz Reichelt, Austrian-born French tailor and inventor of the wearable parachute of his own design, would leap from what was then the world’s tallest building and live to tell the tale. Or so he had hoped.

On February 4, 1912, the Parisian Prefecture of Police allowed ‘The Flying Tailor’ to test his device by leaping from the Eiffel Tower. He would jump from the first platform. The device had only been tested on dummies, but Reichelt felt confident that the conditions and design were right for him to test the parachute.

A large crowd watched from below, including most of the Parisien and British media. Reichelt balanced on the rail high above the upturned faces. He looked down. Was it trepidation or showmanship that made him wait?

Finally, he jumped.

The parachute failed.

Franz Reichelt was dead.

The Prefect of Police, Louis Lépine, was forced to make a statement to the press denying that Reichelt had been authorized to make the jump himself.

The cameras continued to roll as Reichelt was carried to hospital and a man measured the depth of the hole made by the impact of his body.

 

(GERMANY OUT) Franz Reichelt, -04.12.1912+, tailor, parachute constructor, Reichelt wearing the parachute he designed, date unknown, probably 1910, photo: Meurisse (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

 

Franz Reichelt jump

ready

 

 

Accidental death of Austrian-born French tailor and inventor Franz Reichelt (1879-1912), by jumping from the Eiffel Tower while testing a wearable parachute of his own design, Illustration from French newspaper Le Petit Journal, February 18, 1912, Private Collection, (Photo by Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)

Accidental death of Austrian-born French tailor and inventor Franz Reichelt (1879-1912), by jumping from the Eiffel Tower while testing a wearable parachute of his own design, Illustration from French newspaper Le Petit Journal, February 18, 1912, Private Collection, (Photo by Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)

 

Franz Reichelt jump 1

 

Franz Reichelt jump 3

 

Several newspapers carried pictures of Reichelt's fatal fall on their front pages on February 5. Le Petit Parisien had this montage.

Several newspapers carried pictures of Reichelt’s fatal fall on their front pages on February 5. Le Petit Parisien had this montage.

And now for the movie:

  • Of course it was filmed rather than “televised”. Why say “televised”?

  • Dave Handerson

    Television didn’t exist in 1912. How could this have been “televised”?

  • Barry Rivadue

    As with the others, “televised” is a distinctly inaccurate term to say the least. This rates 10 out of 10 on the bozo scale.