By heck, I thought we were all for the can then!

WALLACE in A Close Shave

Lucky Escapes

Lateness Saves Lives

At 7.25pm on 1 March 1950, the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, exploded. No one was hurt, despite the fact that the explosion happened five minutes into the local choir’s weekly rehearsal. Extraordinarily, on this one unique occasion, every single one of the normally punctual choristers was running late:

Royena Estes’ car wouldn’t start; nor would her sister Sadie’s car; they called a friend called Ladona Vandergrift who was stuck on a homework geometry problem and had lost track of time; the Reverend Walter Klempel and his wife and daughter were delayed because a dress needed a last-minute ironing; Marilyn Paul overslept following a nap, and her mother – the choir leader – was therefore also delayed; Herbert Kipf desperately wanted to finish writing a letter; Lucille Jones wanted to hear the end of a radio show; her friend Dorothy Wood waited for her so that they could walk together as usual.

Similar stories were told by all 15 members of the choir. 

The 1902 eruption of Mt Pelée killed 40,000. One of only three survivors was a convict locked in an underground cell, which saved his life.

Attempts on the Archduke

On the morning of 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip tried to bomb the car of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but failed because the crowds were too heavy for him to penetrate. Half an hour later, he was drowning his disappointment in a local café when Franz Ferdinand’s car, which had taken a wrong turn, stopped 20 feet away from him. He seized his opportunity, and the rest is history.
Meanwhile Princip’s co-conspirator, Nedeljko Cabrinovic, had also failed in an attempt to kill the archduke earlier that day, missing him with a hand grenade. To avoid capture, Cabrinovic decided to commit suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill and throwing himself into the River Miljacka. Unluckily for him, the cyanide pill was expired and failed to kill him, and the river was only 10cm deep; he was lifted from the water and detained by police within moments.


In 1937 a baby fell from a window onto Joseph Figlock, who broke its fall; both survived. In 1938 another baby fell on him; again, both lived.

Saved by Skiving

Businessman and former Sony Corporation boss Sir Howard Stringer’s life was saved by a stroke of luck while he was, to some extent, skiving off.

As a soldier in Vietnam, Stringer and some fellow soldiers were tasked with filling sandbags. It being very hot work, they took an unauthorised break to have a rest and get a drink. During this time the Vietcong ambushed the quarry where they would have been working, and where, had they remained there, they inevitably would have been killed or captured.

A chief assistant of Charles VII of France, the Duke de la Trémoille, was so fat an assassin's dagger didn't reach his vital organs.

A woman in China survived a plunge from a sixth-floor balcony because she landed on a fortuitously placed pile of excrement.

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When I was a teenager, I dreamed about escaping. I was lucky. I succeeded.