Episode 158: Smollop: The Jumper

Are they sharks? If they stop moving, do they die?

Robert Emmet Odlum was named for the martyr for the Irish cause against British rule, Robert Emmet. He was executed by the British for high treason against the king in 1803. Percy Shelley expounded upon his greatness in verse:

…Till thy foes, by the world and by fortune caressed,
Shall pass like a mist from the light of thy name.

and Washington Irving wrote the short story “The Broken Heart”, in The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, to honor the star-crossed love of Robert Emmet and his Sarah Curran.

But that Robert Emmet is not this Robert Emmet. Behold:


Robert Odlum
Back when stuntmen were fierce.

Take that, romantic hero of the ages. Did Shelley’s Robert Emmet have a fabulous body-covering bathing tunic? I rather think not. Did Irving’s Robert Irving have such swagger? Perish the though.

He also didn’t get so obsessed with a certain bridge that he squished his gizzards jumping from it, I god-damn-diddly guarantee it.

the Brooklyn Bridge: 40.70569°N 73.99639°W: crosses the East River, joining the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York City

bridge schematic
Ear­ly plan of one tow­er for the Brook­lyn Bridge, 1867


Sometimes, I think The Dollop’s overriding lesson is pay attention to omens. Not to be superstitious, but the Brooklyn Bridge had a rather Final Destination start. Maybe I’m out of pocket here, but…it ate its architect’s foot!

While conducting surveys for the bridge project, [John Augustus] Roebling sustained a crush injury to his foot when a ferry pinned it against a piling. After amputation of his crushed toes he developed a tetanus infection which left him incapacitated and soon resulted in his death, not long after he had placed his 32-year-old son Washington Roebling in charge of the project. (WP)

I didn’t invoke Final Destination all willy-nilly, now. The mayhem keeps going:

Many workers became sick with the bends in this work…Washington Roebling also suffered a paralyzing injury as a result of decompression sickness shortly after the beginning of construction on January 3, 1870. Roebling’s debilitating condition left him unable to physically supervise the construction firsthand.

He supervised the rest of the construction project from his apartment window, Rear Window style, because the bridge took his ability to walk.


If I’m Odlum, I’d say. “boys, that there is a man-eating bridge, let’s go have a beer”, and that would be that.


the Jackass 0.5 crew:

Paddy Ryan, boxer
William Muldoon, wrestler: he attempted resuscitation and summoned an ambulance

Henry E. Dixey, actor: he timed the three and one-half second plunge into the East River with his gold stopwatch
Paul Boyton: swam out to rescue Odlum; told Odlum the arterial blood spurting from his mouth was just brandy
James Haggart: he served as police decoy

William Muldoon’s cigarette trading card
Paddy Ryan
It’s Paddy, not Patty! I’ll bareknuckle ya!


Robert’s mother wrote his biography later the same year of his jump, and it has a delightfully wordy 19th century title: The life and adventures of Prof. Robert Emmet Odlum: containing an account of his splendid natatorium at the National Capital * Catherine Odlum

I live for that shit, as the wise man says.


1886: Steve Brodie seemed to be the first man to jump from the Brooklyn Bridge and live. However, he cheated by having a friend toss a dummy into the water from the bridge.

One month later, the first confirmed survivor jumped: Larry Donovan.


Defying Gravity: Land Divers, Roller Coasters, Gravity Bums, and the Human Obsession with Falling * Garrett Soden

The Great Bridge * David McCullough

documentary: Ken Burns America Collection: The Brooklyn Bridge


Okay, I have both ends of a ridiculous dive spectrum, just for you.

Odlum jumps
At one end, this florid 19th century depiction of Odlum’s dive. Is he pointing at heaven? Holding a ballet pose?

I do believe that this sensitive artist wanted to distract us, the viewing audience, from the sad but true fact that Robert Emmet Odlum’s innards imploded upon impact. His guts concussed over and over and over, shockwaves of guts.  There was squishing upon squishing upon squishing, and parts insuinated themselves where they were not invited.

Get the picture? ‘Cause I can do this allllll day.




(Also, our boy Odlum preferred tank tops on his bathing attire. Come correct.)


The other end is from a subgenre of comedy movies, outsider goes to college/the workplace: Back to School. Behold, as Rodney Dangerfield demostrates the “triple Lindy”:




My bet? Odlum’s fell somewhere in the middle. (But with concussive squish. And arterial mouth blood badness.)


Fort Monroe, Hampton Roads, Virginia

James Garfield and Lucretia Randolph around the time of their engagement
James Garfield and Lucretia Randolph around the time of their engagement

First Lady of the United States Lucretia Rudolph Garfield: in office March 4, 1881 – September 19, 1881 (President Garfield was assassinated)

Schuyler Colfax: 17th Vice President of the United States, under Ulysses S. Grant:

To date, he was one of only two Americans (John Nance Garner in the 20th century being the other) to have served as both House speaker and vice president. (Wikipedia)

Garner served as VP under FDR.

At 46 and 45, Grant and Colfax were the youngest to serve in their respective positions of president and VP in the 19th century.


I love this picture of the soon-to-be married Garfields. Lucretia is so small and sweet and dainty, while James is this darker, swarthy figure looming protectively over her with this MINE look on his face.

O Lordy, it’s Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. That’s it, I know when to tap out of an entry.


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