Nothing is certain but death and taxes. We don’t know if the heroes of the following 15 stories could avoid paying their taxes, but for sure they managed to cheat Death. No matter how healthy we eat and how often we do cardio, sooner or later we face the inevitable. It is true that life is a fragile thing that can be easily taken from us any second, be it due to natural causes or because you slipped in the bathroom and hit your head. But sometimes humans prove to be more tenacious than is expected for such an easily “breakable” biological species. They survive plane crashes, shark attacks, walking for thousands of miles through deserts and snowy mountains, severe physical traumas, frostbite, hypothermia– you name it. It seems that life after all is a stubborn little SOB and will find its way out even in the most unthinkable circumstances.
Meet these 14 lucky and courageous people and one legendary chicken who all looked Death in the eye and made it pack its lethal scythe and turn its back to them.
15. Stewardess Rides The Tail Of A Plane
The date is January 26, and the year 1972. The 22-year-old stewardess Vesna Vulovic was serving beverages and hot peanuts onboard Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 flying from Copenhagen to Belgrade when the unthinkable happened. A bomb placed in the cargo department by a Croatian separatist group exploded. The plane with 28 passengers and crew fell apart and crashed onto the mountains. Vesna was the only survivor after a horrendous 10,000-meter fall sitting on the tail of the plane! The young woman spent months in and out of hospitals; she had a fractured skull, three broken spine bones and multiple fractures on her legs. She was at risk of being paralyzed from the waist down, but a couple of operations allowed her to walk again. Vulovic made a complete recovery and became a celebrity for her miraculous survival.
The ironic thing about the story is that on that day she was not even supposed to be onboard DC-9. It was another Vesna who was assigned that shift, but Vulovic was happy for the mix-up as it was her first time flying to Denmark and she was looking forward to it.
14. Marathon Runner Survives 9 Days In The Sahara Desert
The then 39-year-old Italian police officer Mauro Prosperi took part in the 1994 Marathon des Sables in Morocco – the most challenging endurance sports event in the world. On the sixth day, a sandstorm caused him to lose orientation. Soon, it became clear to him that he had walked 300 km in the wrong direction. Prosperi found shelter in an abandoned mosque and for some more days maintained his life by drinking his own urine and eating bats and snakes. At some point, however, he lost hope and attempted suicide by slitting his wrists with a pen knife. But the lack of water had caused his blood to thicken and clot, so it was impossible for him to bleed to death. On the ninth day, he was found by nomads and taken to an Algerian military camp, and from there to a hospital. Prosperi was severely dehydrated and had lost 18 kg.
13. Swede Spends Two Months Trapped In His Snowbound Car
People living in northern countries are believed to be tough and resilient to the harsh climate conditions. But this story goes beyond everything you’ve imagined a person can endure.
On February 15, 2012, in the Swedish town of Ulmea, just a few kilometers south from the Arctic Circle, the 44-year-old Peter Skyllberg was found in his snow-covered car by a passer-by. When he was brought to the nearest hospital, he told the doctors that he had been stuck in the car since December the previous year. The outside temperatures had been steadily below -30°C over the whole period, but what kept Skyllberg from freezing was the fact that the air trapped around the car had formed something like a natural igloo. Doctors were flabbergasted that the man was able to survive in these conditions for such a long time. The only explanation they could come up with was that Skyllberg somehow managed to put himself in a hibernation state just like bears do when they cool their bodies in order to slow down metabolism.
12. A Guy Gets Cut In Two By A Train
We all have been astounded by magicians’ classic illusion of a blade passing through an assistant in a box, severing her body into two pieces that are then moved apart. Although the trick seems 100% genuine, in the back of our head there’s always the thought that the assistant is going to be just fine and in one piece at the end of the show. However, for the railroad switchman Truman Duncan from Texas, this entertainment trick turned into a brutal reality.
In June 2016, Duncan fell off a moving train car and for some twenty seconds hung on to it, trying to get back on the platform. He couldn’t keep up with the speeding train and fell under the car. The steel wheels supporting 20,000 pounds ran him over.
Miraculously, he didn’t lose consciousness, and was able to dial 911 on his cell phone. The paramedics came 45 minutes later to find Duncan STILL alive, although he had lost both his legs and a kidney. Despite being severely handicapped even after 23 surgeries, the switchman is now enjoying his life to the fullest, playing ball with his kids and still doing the job he loves so much.
11. Window Cleaner Falls 47 Floors And Lives
Five of ten people who fall three floors survive. Falling from the tenth floor gives you almost zero chances. This is the story of a humble window cleaner who made it to a full recovery after a 47-floor fall from the roof of a skyscraper in New York.
On December 7, 2007, the Moreno brothers were cleaning the windows of a luxurious building in Upper Eastside, Manhattan. At some point, the cable securing their platform snapped and they headed for a free-fall. When the platform hit the ground, one of the brothers, Edgar, was killed instantly as his body landed on a wooden fence. His elder brother, Alcides, survived the horrific fall. He was rushed to the nearest hospital and induced in a coma. He had multiple fractures and damage to his spinal cord. Nevertheless, he made a full recovery and was even able to walk again. The sober-minded doctors were convinced that “a higher hand was in control” in this case.
10. Russian Man’s Head Is Hit By A Particle Beam (And Half His Face Stops Aging)
This unbelievable story takes the dream of eternal youth to an entirely new level. The thing is that you can spare yourself a fortune on Botox and plastic surgery if your face gets hit by a beam coming from a particle accelerator. This is exactly what happened to Anatoli Bugorski 39 years ago, in 1978.
Bugorski was then a researcher at the Institute of High Energy Physics in Protvino. One day he was checking the equipment when he stuck his head in a running particle accelerator. He saw a flash “brighter than a thousand suns”, but felt no pain. The beam measured 2000 greys. Just FYI, absorption of over 5 greys leads to death within 14 days! Bugorski, however, not only stayed alive, but the left half of his face stopped aging due to the fact that it became paralyzed over the course of the following couple of years. Although the beam went through his brain, his intellectual capacities remained intact and, all in all, he recovered marvellously after this incident.
9. Race Car Driver Has His Head Re-Attached After Decapitation
When the 14-year-old junior racing star Chris Stewart from Fareham, UK crashed his car, the force of the impact was so great that his head got severed from his spine, which the doctors would rather describe as decapitation. It took 90 minutes for the firefighters to cut the boy free from the smashed vehicle. Although he had less than 10% chance of survival, he did live, and became one of the six people on this planet to have recovered from such an injury. Unlike the other five victims who were left completely paralyzed, Stewart made a full recovery and was able to go back to his normal life and could keep practicing his favorite sport. This was due to the ground-breaking operation in which the surgeons re-attached his skull to the top of his spine with metal plates and bone grafts taken from the boy’s hip.
8. Castaway Woman Survives Alone On An Uninhabited Island For Two Years
When in 1921 the 23-year-old Inuit Ada Blackjack signed for a top-secret Arctic expedition, her goal was not heroic, but quite simple – to earn some cash and find herself a husband. But sometimes things don’t work out the way we planned them.
The goal of the expedition was to claim the Wrangler Islands Canadian territory in competition with Russia. Blackjack was hired as a cook. She and four more people were left on the island, but their rations were scarce and soon they ran out of food. Three members of the expedition left the camp in order to search for help, but never made it. Blackjack stayed behind to take care of the only remaining crewmate. He was very sick and died, leaving her completely alone on the island. The girl managed to survive for two years, which was not an easy thing to do, given the constant risk of polar bear attacks. Eventually, she learned how to hunt seals and fed on their meat. She was rescued on August 23, 1923. Sadly, Blackjack was deprived of a hero’s welcome when the family of the last crewmember accused her of not having done her best to save their son’s life.
7. Newborn Baby Stays Alive After Falling Through The Toilet Onto Railroad Tracks
Some people come to love life since the first breath they take into this world. And they love it so much that they are not willing to let go of it even in the most remarkable circumstances.
In 2009, passengers on the West Bengal Express raised the alarm when they witnessed a young woman jump from the moving train car. Everybody thought Rinku Debi Ray was attempting suicide. But moments later, it became clear it was just the opposite – the young woman was actually trying to save someone’s life; her child’s life, as a matter of fact.
Mrs. Ray was travelling to her parents’ home where she was planning to deliver their second grandchild, when she suddenly felt a sharp pain. She went to the toilet hoping to relieve the pain, but what happened was that she gave birth. The baby fell through the hole onto the tracks under the speeding train. The mother panicked and jumped off the carriage to rescue her newborn child.
6. Climber Cuts His Arm Off To Save Himself From Certain Death
Engineer by vocation and avid outdoorsman, Aron Ralston became widely known in 2003 for having survived a canyoneering accident in Utah. He got trapped in a canyon crack for five days and seven hours. After running out of food and water, Ralston was forced to drink his own urine. On the fifth day, he videotaped his last goodbyes to his family as he didn’t expect to live through the night. He did, however, and in the morning, he took the decision to amputate his stuck arm with the only available tool he had – a dull two-inch knife. The amputation went for more than an hour. After freeing himself, he descended a 20-m sheer wall and hiked his way out of the canyon.
This story about the greatness of human spirit was made into a film under the title 127 Hours, directed by Danny Boyle and starring James Franco. In 2011, it received six Oscar nominations.
5. Chicken Lives For 18 Months Without A Head
Yeah, yeah, we know, a chicken is not a person, but the story of this heroic bird is definitely worth telling– and we never said this list would be strictly related to people!
On September 10, 1945, farmer Lloyd Olsen was sent to the hen house by his wife to get a chicken as his mother-in-law was visiting for dinner. Olsen chose a particular chicken named Mike and did not hesitate to chop its head off. The axe removed almost the whole head, but missed the jugular vein, leaving most of the brain stem intact. Because of Olsen’s clumsy attempt to kill their dinner, Mike was still able to balance on a perch and walk around the yard. As the bird didn’t die, Olsen decided not to finish his murderous deed but to care for it. He fed Mike a mixture of milk and water through an eyedropper and occasionally gave him some grains of corn.
18 months after the decapitation attempt, Mike choked on a grain, and although Olsen hurried to his aid, he couldn’t save him and Mike met his maker.
4. Lucky Girl Is The Last Woman Standing An A Boat Tragedy
When it comes to disastrous boat trips, some people just turn out to be lucky. And in the case of Deborah Kiley – extremely lucky!
In 1982, Debbie and four other people set out from Maine to deliver a 58-foot yacht to Florida. The vessel was caught in a ferocious storm and sank. The crew was left adrift in a rubber boat without food or water. Some of them were so desperate that they started drinking seawater, which led to mental failure. One of the guys died in agony. Another one fell into the water and was eaten by sharks, which tore his body apart just underneath the boat. The third crew member drifted away in the ocean, never to be seen again. Deborah and one other crew member made it for four more days until they were rescued.
3. Ranger Gets Struck By Lightning 7 Times And Lives
Most men are attracted to the opposite sex. This guy, however, showed an unusual attraction to… lightning. Or, better say, lightning had an unhealthy liking for him. Roy Sullivan had a 36-year long career as a forest ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. He became known for the fact that between 1942 and 1977 he was hit seven times by lightning and survived all of them. The first strike knocked his big toenail off. The second one burnt his eyebrows and left him unconscious for a couple of hours. The third strike put his hair on fire, but he was lucky to have a bucket of water nearby. And so on, and so on. The seventh strike caused serious chest and stomach burns, but it was kind of worth it because it also put him in the Guinness Book of Records.
2. 17-Year-Old Survives A Plane Crash And A 9-Day March Through The Rainforest
On December 24, 1971, Lansa Flight 508 from Lima to Pukalpa flew into a thunderstorm and crashed in the Peruvian rainforest. The lone survivor was 17-year-old schoolgirl Juliane Koepcke. She survived the crash mostly because she was catapulted out of the plane while still strapped to her chair and the foliage of the trees softened her fall. As she hit the ground, she lost consciousness. When she regained it the next morning she found herself in the middle of the rainforest, with a broken collarbone, a deep cut on her right arm and no training or gear whatsoever for surviving in the wild. However, she did not panic but stayed focused, and was soon able to track a small stream, which she followed for nine days. Finally, she came upon an abandoned canoe and a shelter where she stayed until two loggers came to her rescue.
When her story spread she became kind of a celebrity and received hundreds of letters from people who were moved by her incredible survival story.
1. Guy Is Attacked By An Angry Hippo Which Almost Swallowed Him
Paul Templer, a former soldier from the British Army, was working as a tourist guide in Zimbabwe. On a particularly tragic day in 1995, he was leading a group of tourists on a kayaking trip down the Zimbabwe river, when they were attacked by an enraged hippo. The animal threw another guide into the water and when Templer hurried to help him, the hippo took the opportunity for a quick-served meal and swallowed Templer’s head. Somehow he managed to set himself free from the beast’s jaws but the hippo wouldn’t let him be. It attacked the guy several more times, tearing off his arm, breaking ribs and leaving puncture wounds in his back and chest.
After a seven-hour operation, Templer did lose his arm, but stayed alive, and is now again leading safari trips.