Bad Luck


Supporting Member
This is a bricklayer's accident report, which was printed in the newsletter of the Australian equivalent of the Workers' Compensation board. This is a true story.

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block 3 of the accident report form. I put "poor planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building.

When I completed my work, I found that I had some bricks left over which, when weighed later were found to be slightly in excess of 500lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley, which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks. You will note in Block 11 of the accident report form that I weigh 135lbs.

Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel, which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explained the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collar bone, as listed in section 3 of the accident report form.

Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of beginning to experience pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight.

As you can imagine, I began a rapid descent, down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and several lacerations of my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope and I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back down onto me. This explains the two broken legs.

I hope this answers your inquiry.


Supporting Member
PeterBale said:
It was lot funnier when told by Gerald Hoffnung :wink:
rutty said:
This one's even older than Peter Bale
Sorry. but I did get it from an "older" work colleague.

I must try harder
I must try harder
I must try harder
I must try harder
I must try harder
I must try harder

:wink: :roll: :cry: :roll:


Staff member
If you ever get a chance to hear the Hoffnung version you should do. It was performed and recorded at the Oxford Union, and it is around in a few versions on tape and cd, one being on the BBC Radio Collection, ZBBC 1062, entitled "Hoffnung - a last encore".

I picked mine up recently on ebay very cheaply :wink:


Active Member
There's a show on the Discovery Channel here in the US that tests whether stories like this could be real. They actually tested this one, using a crash test dummy, a real barrel, and real bricks, etc. The sequence works just as in the story if you set everything up right. I doubt that this actually happened, but it is theoretically possible :)


Active Member
There was a similar sort of show on BBC2 were they tested out things that were done in films (Hollywood Science I think it was called). Included doing such things as making soap out of human fat (Fight Club), making a bus go over a 50 ft gap (Speed) and eating a ridiculously big steak (The Great Outdoors). Can't remember most of them, but it was suprising how many worked, even if it was to a lesser degree than in most of the films.


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