Charles Darwin at a green chalkboard.
1997 Darwin Awards
Urban Legends

The following stories are apocryphal. They are included on the Darwin Awards website because they are inspirational narratives of the astounding efforts of legendary Darwin Awards contenders. Next

Raccoon Rocket 
1998 Urban Legend

(1998) In rural Carbon County, Pennsylvania, a group of men were drinking beer and discharging firearms from the rear deck of a home owned by Irving Michaels, age 27. The men were firing at a raccoon that was wandering by, but the beer apparently impaired their aim. Despite an estimated 35 shots fired by the group, the animal escaped into a 3' diameter drainage pipe 100 feet away from Mr. Michaels' deck.

Determined to terminate the animal, Mr. Michaels retrieved a can of gasoline and poured some down the pipe, intending to smoke the animal out. After several unsuccessful attempts to ignite the fuel, Michaels emptied the entire five-gallon fuel can down the pipe and tried to light it again, to no avail.

Not one to admit defeat by wildlife, the determined Mr. Michaels proceeded to slide feet-first approximately 15 feet down the sloping pipe to toss the match. The subsequent rapidly-expanding fireball propelled Mr. Michaels back the way he had come, though at a much higher rate of speed. He exited the angled pipe "like a Polaris missile leaves a submarine," according to witness Joseph McFadden, 31.

Mr. Michaels was launched directly over his own home, right over the heads of his astonished friends, onto his front lawn. In all, he traveled over 200 feet through the air. "There was a Doppler Effect to his scream as he flew over us," McFadden reported, "followed by a loud thud." Amazingly, he suffered only minor injuries.

"It was actually pretty cool," Michaels said, "Like when they shoot someone out of a cannon at the circus. I'd do it again if I was sure I wouldn't get hurt."

Submitted by: Peter Putrimas © 1994 - 2012

Peter Putrimas, who submitted the story, searched the New York Times' electronic morgue, but could find no reference to "Irving Michaels." It is almost certainly an Urban Legend... or is it? We recently receive the following email, sent through an anonymous remailer:

2 April 2000

You can give this anonymous message whatever value you care to. I just wanted to say, without attaching my name to it, that this "Irving Michaels and a raccoon" story is true. I know, because I was there.

It happened pretty much as described. In fact, the role of beer and the number of shots fired are almost certainly understated :-) The person in question was indeed the victim of a self-inflicted directed-pressure explosion. You probably assume this is an UL because no newspaper covered it. That's true, because Mike wasn't seriously hurt, so there was no need to involve emergency medical services, which would have been sufficient to generate an official report.

The fact that he was not seriously injured is hard to get over for the people who saw the event. I was sure he would be dead when we got to him. Happily, the reports of his non-demise are quite correct.

The subject's name, "Irving Michaels" was juxtaposed by the original poster. Mike Irving is the name of the gentleman who did the Superman imitation. It was posted to rib Mike, more than anything else. I think we're all just as happy, and Mike for sure, to have this listed as an UL.

I just wanted to let you know that just because a story wasn't in the papers doesn't mean it never happened.

Warmest regards,
An innocent bystander :-)

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