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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: The city’s ‘Human Spider’ explained what really scared him after a daring rooftop headstand

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

Bill Strother, “The Human Spider,” climbed out the ninth floor window of the Paulsen Building and scaled his way to the cornice at the top.

Then he “stood on his head, while he continued to hold conversation with those about him.”

“Those about him” included a Spokane Daily Chronicle press photographer, since this was a high-altitude publicity stunt. Strother was drumming up interest in a climb that evening. He planned to climb the Stevens Street side of the Paulsen building, all the way from the sidewalk to the “gilt ball” on top of the building’s flagpole.

Strother was a veteran performer, having traveled around the country during the war for Liberty Loan and Victory Loan drives.

When asked if he ever got scared, he said, “Say, listen! Sometimes I get scared stiff. My tongue gets all twisted in my mouth. I can’t seem to work my legs.”

When the photographer asked how he could stand to climb if it was so frightening, the Human Spider said, “Oh, I don’t mean this stuff. Climbing and balancing is nothing.”

He said he gets stage fright when asked to speak to the crowd.

It was a benefit for the Spokane Home of the Washington Children’s Home Finding Society, which would get half of the proceeds. The YWCA girls were planning to take up a collection amongst the gathered crowd.

From the bank robbery beat: The spate of bank robberies continued with the holdup of the Metaline Falls (Washington) State Savings Bank.

Two unmasked bandits accosted the bank president and cashier and said, “Put ’em up and be damned quick about it, too.” They locked them in the vault and escaped with cash and bonds.

As they tried to escape, the alarm spread through town and 50 armed men took up the chase. The robbers were said to be surrounded near Sullivan Creek.

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