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Hidden History: The 'Human Fly' climbs the Twin Falls County Courthouse to increase WWI enlistments
HIDDEN HISTORY

Hidden History: The 'Human Fly' climbs the Twin Falls County Courthouse to increase WWI enlistments

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Jack Williams, the Human Fly

'Nutty Jack' Williams, aka the Human Fly, climbs the Oakland Tribune building on March 29, 1919, in Oakland, California. Williams climbed the four-story Twin Falls County Courthouse in August 1918 as a publicity stunt to get men to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.  

Most photographs taken of daredevil “Nutty Jack” Williams were of his backside.

Williams, also known as “The Human Fly,” was said to have scaled — using only his bare hands and feet — more than 5,000 buildings in his career. Fifteen hundred of those buildings were more than 10 stories tall, he claimed.

In August 1918, the U.S. was deeply entrenched in the Great War in Europe. Williams, who served in France during the war, came to Twin Falls to recruit men for the Marine Corps. The 1911 four-story courthouse, Williams said, was a piece of cake compared with other structures he had climbed, such as the Walker Bank Building in Salt Lake City, the Washington Monument, and the Woolworth Building in New York City.

But William’s stunt, according to the Twin Falls Daily News, attracted a large crowd on Shoshone Street in Twin Falls. Williams donated a quarter of the $260 gathered at the event to a local war fund. Twelve men signed up to enlist, but the Marine Corps had already stopped enlistments.

The former vaudeville aerialist, weighing only 122 pounds, could hang from a ledge or cornice by one finger and could crush a potato with one hand.

Mychel Matthews is the Big Story Chief for the Times-News. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and at Magicvalley.com.

If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at mmatthews@magicvalley.com.

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