The ‘Human Fly’ climbs the Troy Hotel in early 1900s

Published 7:30 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2022

In the early 1900’s, Jack Williams was known as the original “human fly.”  He was also nicknamed “Crazy Jack” because he would climb giant buildings with his bare hands.  He made being a dare devil profitable.  Often businesses around the country would hire him to climb their buildings.  Not only was this a good marketing tool but it was also used to raise money for charities.  Crazy Jack began climbing buildings in 1915 and in 1918, came to Troy.

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

Jack Williams, a Human Fly, successfully climbed from the ground to the roof of New Troy Hotel building last night, giving the people a thrill as he went over the cornice at the top, his body dangling in the air.

The night was bad, but there was a large audience to watch him climb.  There had been rain almost all day, and the white walls of the building were wet.

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In a talk before his climb Mr. Williams made a plea to the people for a thorough cooperation with the government in all of its food plans; and also a plea that the people aid in every movement for the benefit of the soldiers who are  giving their blood for us in Europe.

His collection, 30 percent of which was to go for the soldiers’ tobacco fund, was slowly secured, the gross returns being under thirty dollars.

The climber had some trouble immediately after his start, in the first window.  He said that the reach was too long to secure a sufficient hold, and it took him several minutes to work his way out of the window.  After that he had no trouble in going up the building, and finally out over the cornice of the roof.

The building is four stories high, the tallest building in Troy.  The climber is said that he preferred a higher building as high climbs add more thrills.

The Messenger will forward the tobacco to the soldiers in Europe or add the money to another tobacco fund in the state through which the tobacco will be sent to the Alabama boys who have gone across the waters.

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.