He was coined the ‘Human Fly’ by many, but his real name is George Willig and he was of the craziest, most talented daredevils to ever walk on earth.
On May 26, 1977, an unlikely stunt brought the entire population of New York City to a standstill for 3 hours. That morning, George started a historic climb up Tower 2 of the World Trade Center.
At the time, the South Tower was the third tallest in the world, behind the North Tower and the Sears Tower. That morning, George started from the bottom, destined to make it to the top of the 110-story building.
The only thing George had with him during the climb was a climbing tool he designed himself, a little water and few sandwiches. (What’s a free climb without sandwiches)!
Police arrived quickly and had a few officers and even a suicide-prevention expert loaded up in a window washing bucket in an attempt to chase George up the face of the tower.
The police tried to pull George into the bucket, but he managed to escape, all the while explaining to officers that he knew exactly what he was doing. The police even passed George a note trying to reason with him. George signed the note “Best Wishes to my co-ascender” and passed it back.
George finished the climb and made it to the top! After the stunt, George advised the world that he had only done it to prove that it could in fact be done.
Mountain climbing was a passion for the 27-year-old toy designer from Queens. George was inspired by the climbing grooves the tower’s window washers used, and built a special tool that let him easily scale the South Tower. While Willig didn’t use a safety rope, his weight was supported by a gripper slotted into the building’s grooves.
Check out video of the climb below!
Before police took him into custody, they let Willig sign his name and the date on a steel bar on the tower’s roof, where it remained until the building was sadly destroyed in the 2001 terror attacks. At first, Willig was slapped with a $250,000 fine by the city, but it was reduced to just $1.10 (a penny for every floor he climbed) by New York’s Mayor Abraham Beame.
George gained quite the reputation and was called “the Human Fly”. His stunt earned him lots of TV appearances, and work as a stuntman on actions shows like the Six Million Dollar Man.