This blog is officially "retired," but my other blog,
"The Lair of the Silver Fox," is still open for business!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Up, Up, and... Oh, Sh*t..." (Superman, Again)

In a New Yorker article written by Michael Chabon, he tells of a "religious-school teacher," Mr. Spector, who told "a fine story about a boy who loved Superman so much that he tied a red towel around his neck, climbed up to the roof of his house, and, with a cry of 'Up, up, and away,' leaped to his death. There was known to have been such a boy, Mr. Spector informed us—at least one verifiable boy, so enraptured and so betrayed by the false dream of Superman that it killed him."

(And I'll bet my bottom dollar that, as he plummeted downward, the poor kid was singing that unofficial "Supe - er - maaannnnn!" tune I wrote about here at the top of his lungs, in case that could provide the power of flight which the makeshift cape hadn't.)

Ah, yes, the towel-necked kid who jumps off the roof... I've always put that particular urban legend one notch above that damned Walt Disney story.

So. I interrupted my reading of Chabon's article and took a brief time-out to check, the internet's best urban legend debunker (at least, it is in my opinion, which, as you may have noticed, is pretty much the only one that counts here at David'Z RantZ), to see if they could shed any light upon the old "kids-dies-trying-to-fly-like-Superman" tale. Nothing.

There is this, however, taken from a short article in the September 11, 1939 issue of TIME Magazine : "[Y]oungsters have taken to wearing Superman capes and carrying shields. In Milwaukee one enthusiastic young Superman fan jumped off the roof of his house and survived."

(Aside: "Shields?" WTF?)

Okay, so TIME says the kid didn't actually die. Small consolation, I suppose. But the article doesn't offer any actual substantiation for the story, either. Hell, even Wikipedia doesn't let people get away totally unscathed for that!

But even as I sat there wondering if anyone ever could or would prove the roof-jumper story true or untrue, another thought came to mind: Long before the modern days of political correctness and the tendency to childproof everything in sight, this planet and the people on it operated under the "survival of the fittest" principle. Cars didn't have seat belts. Nobody wore crash helmets just to ride a freakin' bicycle. Anybody who could pull open the door to the cabinet under the sink would have access to ammonia, and bleach, and Pine-Sol, and all sorts of cool stuff! And if somebody wanted to smoke a cigarette, he or she would just light up anywhere and you were pretty much required to suck in the smoky air just like the rest of us! (Possibly the true origin of the phrase, "sucks to be you." Just a thought.)

Anyway, I'm enough of a comic fan not to want to step on anybody's wanting to indulge in a little bit of fantasy, especially a child's, but... It does occur to me that even if you could truly acquire the power of flight by attaching a freakin' towel to your neck, you still needn't jump off a roof to fly. You could either simply jump upwards from a starting spot on the ground, or get a running start and then leap... and with or without that shout of "Up, up, and away!" you'd be... well... up and away. Wouldn't you? I wouldn't climb up on a freakin' roof to try it unless I was... oh... 101% sure it'd work! I mean, were these legendary kids that stupid?

Look, even I'm not so cruel as to actually suggest that the little roof-leapers deserved whatever they got, but... well... come on.

Thanks for your time.


  1. Kids don't have imagination, anymore, unless it pertains to video games, T.V. or MySpace. I mean, we woulda got( and did get ) our hides tanned for pulling a stunt like that. Too much too list.

    Now-a-days a kid can divorce his/her parents! Just for getting a wrong look! FCOL no one wants the responsibility of disciplining there offspring, for fear of reprisals by the Man. It's a croc of...shaving cream!!!

  2. hey, there are people who think Batman and Capt. America can fly, maybe the kids with the shields thought they were Cap?

  3. Let's face it. Any hero that wore a cape, we thought could fly. We pretty much stuck to war games and cops and robbers( remember that )? There may have been an occasional roof-top leap, but no-one ever got hurt, too bad.

  4. Subtorp: Hm. When you say, "no-one ever got hurt, too bad" do you mean that nobody ever got too severely injured, or do you mean that it's a shame that nobody ever got seriously hurt?

    Superfan: That "shield thing" couldn't have been about Captain America, because it was written in 1939 and he didn't debut until 1941. Maybe kids were inspired by Superman's chest insignia, which looked more like a triangular shield as it was being drawn in those early days? I dunno.

    (Yep, I'm a comic book geek, guilty as charged.)

  5. By "not too bad", I mean no broken bones. Just a few cuts and bruises. The belt came out later, if the old man found out about it. Which was not a deterrant to trying something else just as stupid.

  6. Cops and robbers? Not me...I was born in 1955 and the popular game for my group was cowboys and indians! Until the spy-craze of the mid-60s, it was either playing "war" or cowboys and indians. By the way, war is not healthy for children and other living things.

  7. Subtorp: Oh. It would've been funnier if you'd meant "too bad no one ever got hurt." Shucks.

    Cousin Saul: "War is not healthy for children and other living things." Yeah, I remember that hippie-era wall poster, too. I also remember the sarcastic poster they released in "answer" to that poster, something to the effect of, "War is healthy for the economy and other growing things." [emphasis added]

    You know, all through school I read about how, regardless of the excuses publicly offered for declarations of war, wars were usually declared and fought to reverse economic recessions or depressions. You know, "Screw the citizenry, there's money at stake here!" But strangely enough, that no longer seems to be the case. (Referring to the resultant economic reversal, that is. The governments all still have that "screw the citizenry" attitude.) I mean, here we are, already in a war, and the economy seems ready to crash and burn regardless. Wonder why that is. Any history majors or economists out there who can explain that to me? (Yeah, like they all read my blog... )

    Oops! Sorry, Cousin Saul, didn't mean to go all serious on you. I leaned my PC too far to the left, and all the jokes slid off of my reply to you.

  8. David: I tend to agree that the opposite is happening in regards to the economy. Guess who the big winner(s) are? Aw g'wan guess! Here's a clue: they run everything the military needs, to keep on the move. From meals to wheels. And members of the military ,now have to pay for it all, with taxed tax dollars. I could never figure out why I had to pay taxes on money that was already a tax. Hmmm.

    To get back on track( sort of ), yeah, we played the occasional spy games, also. Living part of my life in what was West Germany, it's really all the kids could comprehend( at the time ).

  9. Back in the 1930s and 1940s parents used to tie towels around their kids necks and toss them off of roofs.

    It was a home abortion thing. Quite simple and fairly cheap.

    Check it out on

  10. Hey, yeah, I'd forgotten about that!

    Reminds me of the time in the 1990s, when that couple dressed their kid up as Buzz Lightyear, brought him up to the roof, and promised him a trip to McDonald's if he'd scream "To infinity, and beyond!" loud enough for all the neighbors to hear. Then they threw him off the roof.

    Check it out at

  11. ...and totally tasteless. I thought the "steak around the neck to play with the dog" was bad. Or you could do what they're doing in N.H.-forced sterilization( can you imagine if that law passes )? I know my old man never did any of this hero stuff. All his sibs were to busy beating each other up( when they weren't fishin' huntin' or helping Gramps with the hooch brewin' ).

  12. Hey, what a great idea!

    ::ties towel around kids' necks, throws them off roof::

    Uh oh...

  13. Gee, I would have thought that someone named LOIS LANE wouldn't have needed me to give her an idea like that!

    Don't suppose you have any inside information that would shed any light on this?

  14. I asked my "Mexican Pet" about these shield-bearing, cape-clad, tot-leapers but she was too busy eating her pop rocks and coke (and suffering the consequences) to reply...

  15. Pop-rocks and coke. Another urban legend disproved. Now as for original coke( where do you think Coca Cola got the short name? )

  16. Hahaha I felt bad at first because I was like, "If this actually happened, that kid was a total fucking idiot!" but now at least I know one person agrees with the insensitive observation. I will say that I had a buddy back in the day who, at the age of 6 or 7, tied a towel around his neck, was dumb enough to believe he had the power of flight, and tried to "fly" down the stairs in his house. I am sure he was in mid-air at some point. Luckily for the damned fool, all he got out of it was a broken arm. I think I should also mention that he grew up to be one of those people who...never really grow up. Drugs, no job, total lack of responsibility....So yeah, if the story is true the kid was probably lacking in a few essential brain cells to begin with and it may have actually been a mercy killing on the part of the side walk below. hahahahahaha Damn, I hope the story isn't true because I might feel like a bad person for being so cruel.......


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