Hysterical strength is defined as a display of extreme strength by humans. They usually come in urgency, when someone is facing death. The savior comes into action, blood pumping, adrenaline racing, and somehow does the impossible.
To witnesses, it appears as if they’re superhuman. To Scientific American, there’s a science behind it: “Under acute stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for sustained, vigorous action. The adrenal gland dumps cortisol and adrenaline into the blood stream. Blood pressure surges and the heart races, delivering oxygen and energy to the muscles. It’s the biological equivalent of opening the throttle of an engine.”
How boring. I’d rather enjoy the thought of miracles. The following stories exhibit feats of strength that are seemingly impossible. When one considers that record-holding professional weightlifters barely eclipse 1,000 pounds during deadlifts, it boggles the mind that—given the right circumstances—normal people have lifted four times that. Call it science, call it the criticality of a life-or-death situation, call it what you want. The fact remains these people are superheroes.
10. Grandmother Lifts Chevy Impala Off Teenage Grandson
Disaster struck Lawrenceville, Georgia on a casual Friday in 1982. Angela Cavallo told the local paper that prayer gave her that special touch. Her grandson Tony Cavallo, a high school junior, was working beneath his 1964 Chevy Impala. The bumper jack propping the car up slipped and it fell on the teen’s head, knocking him unconscious. His grandma witnessed the accident and leaped to the rescue, lifting the 1.75-ton vehicle four inches high.
“I was kicking him, saying ‘Get out, get out,’” she said. Amid the commotion, an 11-year-old neighbor summoned the help of two other neighbors who reinserted the jack, allowing them to pull Tony out. As luck would have it, Tony suffered no brain damage and he was out of the hospital within two days.
9. Arizona Man Beats Heaviest Deadlift on Record (1,015 Pounds) by 2,000
One normal summer in Tucson, Tom Boyle and his wife had just finished eating dinner at a shopping mall. When they got into their vehicle, they witnessed a car smash into a young cyclist, dragging him 30 feet before coming to a stop. He was trapped underneath. Boyle, without hesitation, came to the rescue.
Granted, Boyle is as grizzled and built as they come, standing 6’4” and weighing 280 pounds. Still, one can’t fathom what happened next. He summoned the strength to lift a 3,000-pound Camaro off the 18-year-old Kyle Holtrust. For 45 seconds (it only took that long because the dummy driver was in shock; Holtrust screamed, “Mister, mister, higher, higher,” until the driver came to his senses and pulled him out).
“As soon as I get to the car, the boy is just screaming his head off, and I could tell he was in a lot of pain,” Boyle, a paint shop supervisor, said. The local YCMA granted him an award for his heroics and numerous media outlets made him a local legend.
8. Ottawa Man Lifts Mercury Sedan to Save Girl
Diminutive 32-year-old Nick Harris said he tried later that day to lift other cars, but couldn’t. It took the urgency of his 6-year-old neighbor Ashlyn, to be in peril to exhibit such Herculean strength. Harris, standing at a mere 5’7”, witnessed someone backing up and over Ashlyn. “I didn’t even think. I ran over there as fast as I could, grabbed the rear end of the car and lifted and pushed as hard as I could to get the tire off the child.”
“He really is Superman,” said the child’s mom, Kristen Hough. After Harris pulled Ashlyn to safety, he dialed 911. “Somehow, adrenaline, hand of God, whatever you want to call it, I don’t know how I did it.” Ashlyn suffered only minor injuries. “I don’t consider myself a hero at all,” he said. “To me, it was payment enough when she gave me that huge hug and said, ‘Thanks, Superman.’”
7. College Football Player Lifts 3,500-Pound Cadillac Seville Off Pinned Trucker
He was later drafted by the Indianapolis Colts.
One night on USF’s campus in 2011, Danous Estenor was really hungry. So he stopped at an eatery called the Bulls Den Cafe. But his hunger would have to wait, because he heard a lady crying for help.
He ran outside and saw the wife of a truck driver and two men trying to pry a 1990 Caddy from the ground. But to no avail. Said Estenor: “I just see his legs. The car is crushing him. He’s not moving. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, God, this guy is going to die.’” As an offensive lineman for the University of South Florida, he clocked in at an immense 6’3” 295 pounds. But no one could’ve predicted what happened next. “I tried to lift the car, and when I first tried, it didn’t budge. I backed up. I don’t know. But I felt this energy come, and I lifted it. I don’t know how, but somebody pulled him from the car.”
That “energy” is a common denominator in each of these stories. Call it adrenaline, brute panic, or a divine interjection of Hulk blood into the veins, but it did the trick. Estenor was a town hero after that, and his coach even sat the entire team down to praise him for his momentary freakish nature.
6. Daughter Lifts BMW Off Unconscious Dad
While working on his BMW which had a flat tire, Alec Kornacki wrenched too hard and the jack slipped. The luxury vehicle commonly reserved for A-holes crushed him. His daughter, 22-year-old Lauren Kornacki, had casually come outside to see if she could borrow it. “I didn’t hear my dad, so I went back inside and asked Mom where he was.” When she went back outside for another look, she saw that her father was unconscious and in a deadly predicament. Kornacki, a regular-sized early twenty-something chick, lifted like a champ. She then dragged him out and worked CPR on him until he choked up a breath.
“My dad means everything to me. I’m having a hard time with this attention.” Here’s one more bit of attention for you, Lauren.
5. 3,000-Pound Tractor? No Problem for Two Teen Girls
In April 2013, Jeff Smith was trying to pull a tree stump from his yard in Lebanon, Oregon. The tractor flipped unexpectedly, pinning him, crushing his chest. He was unable to move. He screamed. His two daughters, Haylee Smith, 14, and Hannah Smith, 16, were nearby. “I was losing more and more breath every time I screamed,” the father told the Albany Democrat-Herald. The two young girls lifted just enough to get his chest free, and Haylee ran to a neighbor to get the rest of him out from under.
The family has since nicknamed the tractor Satan.
4. Man Hulkishly Lifts SUV Off Tiny Child (Yes, A Freaking SUV)
A 5-year-old Newfoundland boy was playing in the street last September. An idiot driver ran him over and in shock, ran him over again on accident. The boy would later have tire tracks all across his body. He could’ve died, but didn’t, thanks to one Nick Williams.
Williams later said that he saw the boy’s face in a “deathly grey blue” state, eyes bulged, mouth foaming. So Williams conjured every bit of hysterical strength in his average frame. “I don’t know how long, maybe a couple minutes or so, I had it up. I was bawling out and bawling out, then I started thinking, jeez, if I drop this it will kill him.” He didn’t drop it, and the boy’s father came to pull him out. The boy survived just fine. One month later, Williams said his back was still acting up. But it was well worth it: “I don’t know what it’s like to win the lottery, but it felt better than that.”
3. Daughter Rescues Dad, Then Rescues Family—Like a Boss
Just days after Thanksgiving, the Heffelmire family had one more thing to be thankful about—their daughter.
It happened in an instant. The patriarch of the family, Eric, was working on his GMC truck. As he said it, “I was on my back, face up, and I was trying to get some corroded brakes lines when apparently the jack slipped and fell down on me. Pinned me across right here on my shoulder.” Then an explosion happened. Gas spilled and everything caught on fire. But his 19-year-old Air Force Academy attendee daughter Charlotte would have none of it. She lifted the massive truck and freed her dad. She then got in the truck, put it in four-wheel drive, and “just mashed on it with three wheels and just drove it out.” Casually as John McClane, Charlotte then went in the house and informed her family to get the hell out. She even retrieved a garden hose to tame the flames.
Last week, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue gave her a Citizens Lifesaving Award.
2. Firefighter Lifts 4,700 Truck Up One Foot
Martial arts instructor and fireman Chris Hickman out of Ocala is nothing short of an action hero. One day in 2008 while responding to a routine call involving a car wreck, he stumbled upon a lady whose arm was pinned by a 1986 Chevy Trailblazer. These hunks of metal clock in at 4,700 pounds. He lifted one up a foot. “I made the call to lift the vehicle. I pretty much lifted the vehicle so my partners could place board or cribbing under the vehicle to create a lift to lift her arm up.” And then he presumably used this story to get chicks for the rest of his life. I would.
1. Minnesota Man Bends SUV Door in Half
How does a man bend an SUV door in half? Well, Robert Renning could tell you. Or perhaps he couldn’t.
Renning was driving with his girlfriend when he noticed the car behind him had enveloped in flames. He stopped 200 feet away and sprinted toward it, noticing smoke engulfing the inside. He couldn’t open the door, and the power windows had failed. No problem. Renning gripped the door frame, put his foot against the SUV, and pulled. The door basically broke in half and the window shattered.
When state trooper Zachary Hill came to the scene, he thought the Good Samaritan simply opened the door. “He bent the door in half. I don’t think I could take a crowbar and fold the door like he did.” The 52-year-old Renning to this day has no explanation. “I’m just a slightly overweight Air Force First Sergeant, for crying out loud.”