Wyoming October 03, 2017
On This Day In 1941, The Unthinkable Happened In Wyoming
When you think about Wyoming history, it’s usually cowboys, Indians, miners, and mountain men that come to mind. One of the most extraordinary events to take place in the history of the state, however, had nothing to do with the Old West.
During the first week of October in 1941, a daredevil set out to drum up some publicity by parachuting onto the top of Devil’s Tower. Although the escapade didn’t go off as planned, in the end, he got more attention than he’d hoped for.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
George Hopkins had already set several parachuting records in the early 1900s when he came up with the idea of setting a world record for the most parachute jumps in one day.
In order to make a really big splash, though, George thought he should build publicity by first making a really fantastic, amazing jump. He set his sights on parachuting onto the top of Devils Tower in Wyoming.
The surface of the tower measures about an acre. Though it is rocky, it's fairly flat, leading George to believe that it offered a satisfactory surface to land on.
On October 1, without asking permission from the National Park Service or even notifying them of his plans, George boarded an airplane with his parachute.
He also took along a few supplies he thought he would need to climb down the side of Devils Tower.
George safely and successfully landed on top of the monolith, but the rope that was supposed to be his way down fell partially down the side, coming to rest just out of his reach.
It didn't take long for news to spread that someone had parachuted onto the top of a national monument. Crowds began gathering, and park rangers and news reporters started showing up.
The National Park Service had two initial responses: first, George needed to be brought down safely. Second, he would be arrested the minute his feet touched the ground.
Another rope was loaded onto the plane and dropped onto the tower. This time, it was left uncoiled to reduce the chances that it would bounce. Unfortunately, the rope got jumbled and twisted during the drop, leaving George with a huge knotted mess to untangle.
Over the next few hours, as George was working on his rope, a park ranger decided it would be too dangerous for him to try to descend Devils Tower on his own.
The concern was that the craggy sides of the tower would cut the rope as George attempted to climb down, causing him to fall and be injured or killed. The park ranger made an executive decision that George should stay on top of Devils Tower while a professional climber was located who could help him get down safely.
Once more the plane was loaded up and flown over the tower, this time dropping supplies to get George through the next few days. In addition to food and water (which was poured into hot water bottles so that it could survive the impact of being dropped from a plane), they also dropped a load of coal so George could build a fire to keep warm...
...and a little shelter was quickly built and dropped down to the hapless daredevil so he would have some protection from the elements at night.
A team of eight climbers was assembled and, finally, on October 6, 1941, they climbed up the side of Devils Tower and brought George safely down.
The entire episode had generated tons of publicity for the Devils Tower, and tourism to the national monument spiked. Needless to say, threats to take legal action against George were forgotten, and he was hailed as a hero rather than being sent to jail.
What other bizarre moments in Wyoming history have you heard of?