Leapin' Lunatics,
or Things not to do for five dollars.

     In 1880, East Baltimore resident Jim Horney needed some cash. As the story goes, Horney bet a friend that he could jump off the top of the two hundred foot Shot Tower , and live to collect a whopping five dollar wager. The friend, obviously not a very good one, slapped cash on the table.

     Horney was a short, thin man who drove a horse cart for a living. Already planning how to spend his five bucks, he removed the large sun umbrella that was fastened to the front seat of his cart and climbed the tower. Reaching the top, Horney opened the umbrella, presumably stopped to consider that maybe this wasn't the safest bet he'd ever taken, then took the leap into folk history.

     Horney fell like a sack of crabs. Somehow, though, the combination of the umbrella and his slenderness allowed him to land, shaken, but alive, on the roof of an Exeter Street house, nearly a block away.

     We could pass judgement on Jim Horney, call him a dim bulb, or question his sanity. In the end, though, Jim got the final laugh. He emerged a folk hero. While nobody seems to know if he collected on the bet, we like to assume that Jim walked away five dollars richer, though doubtlessly no wiser.

An excerpt from "Don't Eat the Devil: A Dirty Hands Guide to the Meat of Baltimore", Copyright © 1998, Snalygastr@aol.com Rob Wallace and Chris Lease"

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