Louis “Speedy” Babbs
Wing-walker, aerial daredevil, extreme parachutist, “practising voodoo priest”, madman. A fantastic article can be read here.
After a parachuting accident in 1927, Speedy turned to motorcycling feats - including the “Globe of Death”, above (photo via). He also “went in the bull ring to fight a wild bull while riding a motorcycle..”
Also suffered serious burns after an aerial feat on July 4th, 1932:
“Speedy had made a deal with the Venice Pier manager to jump from an airplane at night and set off a bunch of fireworks on his way down. He went from airport to airport, looking for a pilot to take him up, but was turned down cold..
..Speedy’s angel of mercy was Chuck Sisto, a barnstormer who later made headlines himself as an airline pilot by accidentally, when his trim tabs stuck, doing half an outside loop over Texas with a DC-4 loaded with terrified passengers.
Sisto flew Speedy up to eight thousand feet over Venice Pier in the early evening and found the pier obscured from view by a three thousand foot cloud layer. Babbs decided to jump anyway, needing the money, so he crawled out to the wingtip, waved goodbye to Sisto, and did a pull-off.
Hanging from his feet was a hundred pound gunny sack full of star bombs and powerful red-white-and-blue flares, and a big inner tube for a life preserver.
“I thought I’d light a couple of star bombs and see how the fuse was timed for distance,” he relates. “The first bomb I lit dropped sparks inside the sack and all hell cut loose. The inner tube caught fire and blew out, and I set it swinging so that it would only burn me as it passed below my feet. The star bombs were blowing up inside the sack and my clothes caught fire. The only was to unload the sack was to reach inside and throw the stuff out…many of the pieces exploded in my hands, and I could smell my own flesh burning. But I had to keep on going - in the bottom of the sack was a detonating bomb that was to be the finale. I knew that if the bomb exploded while still in the bag, it would also blow me to little bitty pieces. How I did it, I’ll never know, but I finally got it overboard..and you know something? It never did go off!”
The irony of this occasion was that all this action took place high above the cloud layer. Says Speedy, “No one saw it but me. My only regret was that I was the only one who saw that magnificent display!” (via)