The creator of the Incredible Hulk, Jack Kirby, claims that the character was inspired by a mother lifting up a car in “desperation.” Seeing this, he alleged that anyone could perform a feat like this in severe desperation, and he just may have been right. Whether from desperation, adrenaline, or what is known as hysterical strength, there have been documented cases of women, men, adults, and kids all experiencing inconceivable bouts of strength when confronted with a life-or-death situation.
10 Angela Cavallo
Angela Cavallo was in her late 50s in 1982, living in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Her teenage son, Tony, had a 1964 Chevrolet Impala and was working on the suspension in their driveway, trying to knock something loose. This knocking caused the car to wiggle off the jack before landing on the high school junior. As he lay unconscious under the vehicle, an eleven-year-old, Johnny Edwards, who was in town visiting his grandparents, saw what happened. He ran to the front door of Cavallo’s home and explained there had been an accident. In a panic, Angela ran out to the vehicle and began attempting to lift the car while screaming for help.
A 1964 Impala weighs 3,295 pounds (1,495 kilograms). This woman put all of her strength into lifting the rear of this vehicle, which weighed almost two tons, to free her son. Unbelievably, even while screaming and kicking at her son to rouse him so he could attempt to free himself from under the wheel well, Cavallo did, in fact, raise the car enough to release the pressure off Tony. Even more incredulous, she held this car up for around five minutes! The eleven-year-old was sent to collect neighbors to help while she somehow kept the car from falling back onto her son.
Finally, two men came and slid the jack back under the Impala so Tony could safely be pulled from underneath. Tony ended up with only scrapes and bruises and was able to leave the hospital after only a two-night stay. This mother may not have tossed the car over as The Hulk might’ve, but she had not only insane strength but also unimaginable endurance.
9 Lauren Kornacki
Lauren Kornacki was a recent college graduate living with her parents in Virginia in 2012. On August 1, she was looking for her dad to ask to borrow the car that weekend and couldn’t find him. After her mother confirmed that her dad was outside, she went back outside and found her father trapped under a BMW 525i. He was unresponsive and trapped with one arm pinned under his chest. She realized the jack had fallen, so she attempted to lift up the BMW herself.
At 22 years old and rather petite, it would be a stretch to believe Lauren would have been able to lift up a one-and-a-half-ton vehicle. Yet, in the extreme adrenaline surge, Lauren not only lifted the car off her father but also “threw it” off to the side. After freeing her father, Lauren started CPR, bringing back his ability to breathe on his own. He was immediately taken to the hospital.
With five fractured ribs, a fractured sternum and vertebrae, and some short-term loss of feeling in his arm, Lauren’s father would recover fully from the accident. It is stunning that a car bears enough weight to crush bones underneath it but can be picked up and tossed aside by someone.
8 Hannah and Haylee Smith
In Oregon, Jeff Smith, a 36-year-old father of two, sent his teenage daughters out to walk the dogs before going to work in the yard. He was attempting to pull a stump out of the ground when his foot stepped off the clutch momentarily as his boot was all muddy. In an instant, the tractor flipped, pinning him beneath it. Barely able to exhale, Jeff did everything he could do to yell for help. Knowing how much pressure was on his chest and that he had sent the girls off just a few minutes prior, Jeff wasn’t sure that anyone would be able to hear him. However, in less than a minute, he saw his girls were right there with him, attempting to dig their father out from underneath the three-thousand-pound tractor.
Hannah, 16, and Haylee, 14, realized that digging would not work. The tractor would need to be lifted if they were going to save their father. He instructed them on where to lift the tractor in between labored breaths. The two girls lifted the tractor the first time only long enough for Jeff to get a breath in before the tractor fell on him again. Thankfully, the girls gave it another try, and Jeff was able to wiggle out to safety.
Jeff escaped with little serious injury: a broken wrist and some bumps and bruises. Haylee pulled a muscle in the struggle, and Hannah reported waking up feeling like “an 80-year-old getting out of bed” the next morning. Jeff understood what was at stake, saying, “They saved my life.”
7 Cecil Stuckless
In July 2013, Frank Vatcher was replacing the brakes on a Jeep in Salvage, Newfoundland, with his father-in-law Cecil Stuckless. Frank sent Cecil out to his shed to grab a clamp he needed for the brakes. While he was gone, the Jeep somehow became unbalanced, and Frank was stuck alone in the garage with an SUV on top of him. Cecil heard Frank crying out for him to help and rushed back into the garage.
Cecil Stuckless was 72 years old when this event occurred. Without hesitation, he ran to the Jeep and was able to lift it enough for Frank to free himself. Upon seeing Frank, Cecil must’ve still been terrified he wasn’t going to make it. The Jeep fell on Frank with such force he needed 38 stitches in his head. Frank made a full recovery, and Cecil was considered to be a “Superman” in his community. Cecil denied this title, however, saying he “just did what he could do.” Cecil claims to have never lifted anything that heavy, which is pretty impressive to make that record at the age of 72.
6 Austin Smith
A 72-year-old lifting a car off a young man is quite impressive, but does a 15-year-old have the strength to lift a car that’s pinning his grandfather? Austin Smith was visiting his grandparents, and his 74-year-old Papa Ernie was in the garage fixing the brakes on an old vehicle, preparing it for another grandchild to use. Ernie noticed an oil leak under the car and went underneath to inspect the source. As Ernie pulled himself out, grabbing onto the bumper for a boost, the car shifted and pinned Ernie underneath. This was a 2,000-pound (907-kilogram) Buick, and Austin was terrified and had no idea what to do at first.
So fifteen-year-old Austin did the only thing he could think of and started trying to lift the one-ton vehicle off his grandfather. He knelt down and used all his might to lift up the Buick. Not only did Austin lift the car, but he also pushed the car back about two feet to free his grandfather.
Austin was a very active teen, involved in many sports and working out regularly, but he readily admits lifting one-ton vehicles is not something he would be able to do again. He stated that the only explanation was adrenaline and that “the good Lord upstairs helped me pick it up.” His grandfather suffered broken ribs and was hit in the head by the vehicle, explaining the feeling as an “explosion in my head.” Because of Austin’s miraculous strength, Papa Ernie was perfectly healed shortly after the incident.
5 Deputy J. Holt
In examples of this kind of miraculousness, many people might assume that the love for the person trapped allows these feats of strength, but that isn’t always the case. Deputy J. Holt, of Gloucester, Virginia, was assisting in an accident and watched as a car spun out nearby. He ran to the scene, where he found the car flipped over, and the daughter of the woman driving the SUV told him her mother was trapped. The child’s screams inside the SUV were horrific, asking someone to please help his mother. Deputy Holt had to coax the young boy out of the vehicle before he could do anything to help the driver. To top it all off, it was Mother’s Day weekend, and these children were on the verge of losing their mom. Once the little boy was out, he knew the only way to save her life was to get the vehicle off her immediately.
Deputy Holt placed his shoulder inside the door frame and told himself, “all I have to do is just stand up.” He then braced himself and did just that. He heaved the car up while the mother was surprisingly conscious enough to pull herself out from the steel deathtrap. She spent the entire time underneath the vehicle unable to breathe but immediately resumed breathing on her own when the SUV was lifted. She was sent to the hospital and made a full recovery. Admittedly, Deputy Holt might actually be a superhero. Holt was a veteran of the Iraq War and, just a year before this incident, had pulled two people from a burning house.
4 Kenny Franklin
Plenty of people have had shocking rides in Ubers for one reason or another, but Kenny Franklin’s experience may take the cake. Off to work one day, Kenny had called for an Uber, as he often did. In heavy traffic, the Uber driver began suffering from a seizure. As his foot was on the gas pedal at the onset of the seizure, his foot bore down on the pedal, accelerating with no one controlling the wheel. Incredibly, from the backseat, Kenny was able to gain control of the wheel, get the driver’s leg off the gas pedal, and pull the car over to safety. Having already saved his own life, the life of the Uber driver, and countless lives by preventing a major accident, he wasn’t finished yet.
A Florida State Trooper, Jack Hypes, pulled up behind the vehicle to assess this vehicle that had been driving erratically and came to a stop on the side of the road. Fortunately, by this time, the Uber driver had awakened but did not have his bearings about him. Unfortunately, thinking he still needed to get the car to safety, the driver mistakenly put it in reverse as Officer Hypes approached them.
He was hit, and as he rolled on impact, his body was pinned under the vehicle. They couldn’t simply move the car forward as Officer Hypes was pinned, and moving the vehicle could cause further damage and pain. The only option was to lift the car. Kenny mustered all his strength and lifted the car, allowing Hypes the time to get to safety. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and Kenny planned to get coffee with him shortly after the incident. Kenny has been called a hero in his hometown, but he just believes he was “in the right place, at the right time to help.”
3 Nick Harris
Nick Harris was dropping his daughter off at school on December 21, 2009. After his daughter happily trotted off to school, another little girl was walking along the sidewalk nearby. As six-year-old Ashlyn Hough walked, a car was pulling out of the driveway. Nick Harris just happened to look over when Ashlyn was struck by the vehicle backing out and rolled underneath it. Without any hesitation, Nick leaped out of his car and ran toward the accident. As he came upon the scene, he realized the vehicle was lying on little Ashlyn’s hips.
Nick has no idea how he did it, but he “grabbed the car, picked it up, and moved it out of the way.” Ashlyn was taken to the hospital immediately, but Nick was able to meet up with her soon after. He was “expecting her to be in a half cast,” but Ashlyn suffered no worse than some lumps and a rash. Nick has tried to lift a vehicle again four or five times but simply could not do it. He believes it was another case of being in the right place at the right time.
2 Zac Clark
Sixteen-year-old Zac Clark was gardening with his mother, Lora, outside their home in Butler, Ohio, on a Saturday in September 2019. A neighbor was working on his Volkswagen Passat in a house nearby. Suddenly, the wife of that neighbor began screaming for help. Lora and Zac both immediately took off running to offer whatever help they could. Zac was shocked to see only the legs of his neighbor while everything from the waist up was pinned under the VW. His head and ribs were being crushed under the vehicle’s weight. Lora told her son, “there’s no way we can lift this car,” but he knew he was not giving up.
Zac found the strength to lift the Passat, weighing over 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms), off his neighbor. Lora and the neighbor’s wife pulled the man from under the car. He had fractured ribs and facial wounds that Zac described as ‘messed up pretty bad,” but the neighbor would recover without any lasting injuries. While lifting an entire vehicle himself was certainly shocking, no one who knew Zac was surprised that he had done everything he could to help. His football coach asserted he “just has a huge heart.” Zac had lost his father the previous year. The incident made him think of his own dad, and he got the strength to lift the car because he “wanted to be able to save him to be with his family.”
1 Lydia Angiyou
Departing from lifting vehicles, Lydia Angiyou discovered her ultimate strength when confronted with something completely different. In a very small town in northern Quebec, Lydia was on a walk with her children and happened upon some kids playing hockey near the Community Center. Only these kids were no longer playing but screaming incessantly. Lydia panicked when she realized they were saying “polar bear.” Lydia was now face-to-face with a 700-pound (317-kilogram) polar bear, with her two sons standing at her side. She told her children to run and attempted to distract the bear from the group of children behind her.
Barely five feet (1.5 meters) tall and under 100 pounds (45 kilograms), 41-year-old Lydia decided the best way to save the children was to wrestle with a polar bear. She yelled and kicked and even punched one of the deadliest bears on the globe. The bear swatted Lydia, and she fell to the ground. As the bear stood over her, Lydia “bicycle-kicked” at him, resulting in another clawed smack to the face. Finally, the kids had gotten far enough away to get help. A neighbor came and saw Lydia “wrestling with the bear” and got his brother’s shotgun from his home nearby.
He shot four rounds up in the air to get the bear’s attention. He needed to get a clear shot as Lydia was still tussling with the bear. After the fourth round, the bear stopped long enough for a clear shot and then three more. After the bear was put down, Lydia was rushed to the hospital, covered in blood. At first, the only thing she could say was “bear, bear,” completely in shock. Incomprehensibly, Lydia was left only with a black eye and some scrapes. A massive polar bear was thwarted by petite and quiet Lydia Angiyou. It’s astonishing what people are capable of when put to the challenge.