The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 17: Elevator of Death, Levitation Machine

Premier Date: October 6, 2004

It is possible to survive a free-falling elevator by jumping up at the last moment before it hits the ground.


The jumping power of a human being cannot cancel out the falling velocity of the elevator. The best speculative advice from an elevator expert would be to lie on the elevator floor instead of jumping. Adam and Jamie speculated the attendant survived because the tight elevator shaft created an air cushion. This together with spring action from slack elevator cable could have slowed the car to survivable speeds.

(This myth is fueled by the story of an elevator attendant found alive but badly injured in an elevator car that had fallen down a shaft in the Empire State Building after a B-25 Medium Bomber crashed into it in 1945.)

An average person can build a home-made makeshift hovercraft on a budget of under $500.


While they did cheat and go slightly over-budget both Adam and Jamie built two separate functional hovercraft. While Adam’s “Lilypad Flyer” and Jamie’s “Hyneman Hoverboard” were both rather impractical they worked nonetheless.