Balloonist and Parachute Artist Drowned at Havana, on Saturday — Body Recovered.

LEWISTOWN RECORD — Chockley Ridgley, a young man who daily made a balloon ascension and parachute drop at Havana during the week of the street fair and carnival, was drowned in the Illinois river, above the Havana bridge, on Saturday shortly after the noon hour.

The advertised time of the balloon ascension and drop was 12:30 p.m., and Saturday all preparations were made as usual, excepting that the balloon was only partially filled before being released. Rising slowly, Ridgley, clinging to the swing, narrowly escaped hitting the corner of a tall building, and after sailing a mile or more up the river, the balloon was observed to gradually approach the surface of the river. When within 40 feet of the water the performer released his hold, thinking perhaps to escape from under the descending bag and parachute. He was never seen again alive. All afternoon and night the river was dragged in an effort to recover the body, and the work was continued through Sunday. The remains were found at about 2 o’clock Monday afternoon in a pile of drift three miles below the bridge, and possibly four miles from where he sank.

The opinion was generally expressed that Ridgley was not drowned, but had that Ridgley not drowned, but had taken a very sensational method of escaping from his pursuer — a woman who had arrived in Havana and claimed to be his wife. It was contented that Ridgley, being a good swimmer, could easily have gained either bank of the river and hidden himself in the woods. This theory was strengthened by the fact that the performer refused to don his usual costume that afternoon and wore his ordinary street clothes. It is also rumored that he spent Saturday night in Lewistown and left this city on one of the night trains.

It is said that Ridgley was prepossessing in appearance and well liked by those with whom he worked. It is perhaps the old story of carrying the pitcher to the well.


Published in the Astoria Argus on 8/6/1903

[Related article? Name is different … maybe Bockling was the man who died, instead of Ridgley. Curious.]

Wants Damage.

HAVANA REPUBLICAN — The heirs of Theodore Bockling, the man who made the balloon ascension in Havana during the street fair week, and was drowned in the Illinois river, brought suit against C. W. Parker for $20,000 damages. The allegations are that in obedience to Mr. Parker’s orders he made his last ascension, claiming that the weather was unfit for making the trip, the day he was killed.

Published in the Astoria Argus on 8/27/1903


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