Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman (5-25-1981)

A reporter asked mountain-climber George Mallory why he wanted to scale Mount Everest.  Mallory replied, “Because it’s there.”

Chicago doesn’t have a mountain.  But in 1981 the city had the world’s tallest building, the Sears Tower.  That was good enough for Dan Goodwin.

5-25--Sears Tower.jpg

Goodwin was a 25-year old acrobat in a Las Vegas lounge show.  He’d noted how hard it was to rescue people trapped in tall buildings.  In his own unique way, he wanted to publicize the problem.  He decided to climb up the outside of the Sears Tower.

He had a orange-and-blue Spiderman costume made.  He assembled a collection of suction cups and climbing hooks.  Then, enlisting a friend to serve as his “ladder man” on the ground, Goodwin was ready to make his 1,454-foot statement.

He began climbing at 3 a.m.  The Sears walls had track runners for window washing, and these made Goodwin’s task easier.  Three hours went by before security spotted him—it was Memorial Day, and the building was empty.  By then Goodwin was at the 25th floor.

5-25--Goowin on Sears.jpg

The fire department was called.  When they got to the scene, the crew chief rejected the idea of punching open a window to grab Goodwin.  Instead, three firemen were lowered in a window-washing rig to negotiate.

A deal was worked out.  Fire officials would allow Goodwin to finish his climb.  But he’d have to be attached to a lifeline, with a safety net deployed beneath.

With that settled, Goodwin went back to work.  Meanwhile, word of the Spiderman on the Sears Tower was spreading.  A crowd of about 200 gathered at the foot of the building.

Goodwin had planned to plant an American flag somewhere along the side, but high winds made this impossible.  At 10:20 he passed the 103rd floor.  Five minutes later he completed his climb at the roof and was arrested.  He was soon released, without being charged.

Spider Dan became a folk hero.  During the next several years he made more climbs—including an ascent of the John Hancock Building, where the fire department tried to knock him off with water hoses.  In 2010, at age 55, he scaled the 58-floor Millennium Tower in San Francisco.

Readers of this blog are advised not to attempt these stunts themselves.




2 Responses to “Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman (5-25-1981)”

  1. 1 mkstichauf May 25, 2015 at 8:31 am

    What a great memory John. I remember this stunt. What I also remember was when those firemen tried to hose him off the Hancock! That was crazy!!

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt May 25, 2015 at 8:46 am

      That’s one of the fun things about doing research for my history books–I get to relive old memories.

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