Is this Jackie Chan's long-lost grandfather?

Okay, so technically at this musty time in history these acrobatic feats weren't called "parkour." It was just a strange man (or men – more on that in a minute) scurrying up a drainpipe, scaling a building and leaping off a bridge long before Jackie Chan's snapping ankle had entered this world.

But that doesn't make it any less impressive. The ease with which that dude ascends a tree, in particular, suggests muscles strong as oak burls and reflexes quicker than a snapping rat trap. Toss in some quality child endangerment with that alley scene, and you have a show of danger and physical prowess that would lure in crowds of suckers at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.

And to believe one account of this leaper's identity, he did perform at a circus. The nature of this footage has been debated all around the Internet, with folks saying it's either John Ciampa, the "Human Fly" from Brooklyn who performed at the Rodeo and Thrill Circus, or Arnim Dahl, a German stuntman who's said to have fractured 100 bones. The men were contemporaries, mugging for the spotlight in the 1940s and '50s with death-defying antics like dangling from a flag 10 stories up (Dahl) and getting arrested for climbing the Astor Hotel's facade (Ciampa, who was mistaken for a suicide case).

The general consensus is that Ciampa is the guy doing more parkour-ish stuff at the beginning, and Dahl comes in later with the typical stuntman tricks of running atop speeding trains and jumping out of a high window. Traceurs and traceuses – you too, parkour dog – prepare to be wowed:

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A new map of neighborhood change in U.S. metros shows where displacement is the main problem, and where economic decline persists.

    From Gentrification to Decline: How Neighborhoods Really Change

    A new report and accompanying map finds extreme gentrification in a few cities, but the dominant trend—particularly in the suburbs—is the concentration of low-income population.

  2. Life

    Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

    A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

  3. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  4. Environment

    No, Puerto Rico’s New Climate-Change Law Is Not a ‘Green New Deal’

    Puerto Rico just adopted legislation that commits it to generating all its power from renewable sources. Here’s what separates that from what’s going on in D.C.

  5. a photo of Northern Virginia's Crystal City.

    What Happens When a Company Renames Your Neighborhood

    From National Landing to SoHa, neighborhoods often find themselves rebranded by forces outside the community, from corporations to real estate firms.