What accounts for the glut of internet movies which show people doing incredibly dumb and disgusting things, like lighting their beards on fire, drinking their own vomit or jumping in front of moving cars? Surely it goes back further than Johnny Knoxville, back even further than The Gong Show. Finally, some proof that the practice goes back nearly to the early twentieth century: here's a film shot in 1912 of an Austrian tailor, Franz Reichelt jumping off the Eiffel Tower in a combination overcoat-parachute of his own design, expecting to fly. Or at least to to float gently to the ground. Suffice it to say things didn't go quite as expected. The film ends with men ceremoniosuly measuring the crater left by Reichelt: (download video, 1.5 meg wmv). More info on Reichelt here.
Here's the text that accompanied this footage:
Unused / unissued material - Paris, France. Franz Reichelt wearing the parachute that he designed and invented before ascending the Eiffel Tower. Reichelt standing on platform high up on the tower preparing to jump he hovers on the brink for some time and then eventually jumps falling straight down to his death. Police and small crowd around the body of Reichelt as it is carried away, they then measure the depth of the hole made by his fall. The film has French intertitles. Cataloguer's Note: Old record suggests this event happened 4th February 1912.