15 Shocking Survival Stories You Didn't Know

Posted Jun 17, by Val Liarikos

During WWII, 5 people ended up in a lifeboat with no food, water, oars or mast after their ship sunk. They survived a typhoon and a 300 mile journey and made it home alive

In the beginning of WWII, Japan found itself capturing many more prisoners of war than they anticipated. They built a number of ships to transport these POWs, known as Hell ships. One of them, the Arisan Maru, was hit and sunk by a US submarine.

After the Arisan Maru sank, five of its passengers made it into a lifeboat. They had survived the sinking but they had no food, water or way to move the boat. A number of amazing occurrences fixed all of this. First, a keg of water floated by. Then the mast to the lifeboat came along in the water. Finally, they plucked a box from the ocean that contained the sail and rope.

While they were making a rudder for the boat, they found a stash of food hidden in an inner compartment in the boat. With these new supplies, they were able to sail 300 miles through a typhoon to China. The one civilian passenger happened to know celestial navigation, which allowed them to orient themselves.

When they made it to China, they were fed, clothed and guided by friendly natives, who took them to a US airbase in the hearland. They eventually made it back home 8 months before the war ended.

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The luckiest man on Earth has survived multiple near-fatal accidents, then won a million in the lottery!

It seems like lady luck is in love with this man. Frane Selak is known for getting into fatal accidents and, perhaps more so, for surviving them. His first near-death experience began in January 1962.

Selak was on a train when it suddenly derailed into an icy river, killing 17 passengers. He however, escaped with a broken arm, minor scratches, and bruises.

Since then, he has survived a door coming off an airplane, a bus crash, two car crashes, and a firey car. Oh, but it gets better.

In 2003, Selack won the million dollar Croatian lottery. This probably makes him both the world's unluckiest and luckiest man.

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The guy from Into the Wild could’ve saved himself if he had walked a quarter mile!

Christopher McCandless was an American adventurer who, in 1992, trekked into the Alaskan wilderness with the goal of living more simply. Four months later, his remains were found in Denali National Park. They weighed only 67 pounds; it was apparent that he had died of starvation.

McCandless became famous after Jon Krakauer published his story in an article in Outside magazine in 1993 and then in greater detail in his book “Into the Wild” in 1996. The book was adapted into a film by Sean Penn in 2007 with Emile Hirsch playing McCandless.

Many have criticized McCandless for his apparent lack of common sense and argue that he could have prevented his own death if he had been more prepared. For example, he did not notify anyone that he was going off into the wilderness and lacked any emergency communication equipment.

In fact, McCandless could have perhaps survived if he was able to cross what he believed to be an impassable river and find his way back to civilization. In fact, there was a hand-operated tram only a quarter of a mile down the river from where he attempted to cross. His final months will always remain somewhat of a mystery, but McCandless’s death seems to many a great waste.

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A hit man tried to kill a nurse. She ended up killing him!

Susan Walters from Portland Oregon entered her home one night only to be confronted by a man that she instinctively knew had been sent to kill her. Her attacked, Edward Haffey, came at her with a hammer and began hitting her in the face as well as her head. Her will to live was able to help her overpower the hit man and she was able to put him on the ground and lie him flat on his back.

She began choking the hit man and before she knew it, he was dead. The man was hired by Michael Kuhnhausen, for $50,000, and Kuhnhausen is now serving a 10 year prison sentence. The scary thing is that Michael Kuhnhaused, is Susan Walters ex-husband.

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A man survived multiple murder attempts by his friends, including making him drink antifreeze and rat poison!

His name was Michael Malloy, and after all this, he became known as Mike the Durable and Iron Mike. He was a homeless Irishman living in New York city in the 1920s. He was most famous because 5 acquaintances tried to murder him to collect on life insurance policies that they took out on him.

Three of the 5 got policies on Malloy, which came up to be over $3500 (in 2011 dollars, over $60,000). This set off the plot to kill him. One of the conspirators owned a bar, and gave Malloy unlimited credit, thinking that he would drown himself to death in alcohol. When he did not die in alcoholism, they mixed in antifreeze instead of liquor. Malloy still lived. Then, they substituted it with turpentine, horse liniment and even, rat poison. He still lived.

They tried feeding him raw oysters soaked in methanol, and then a sandwich of spoiled sardines mixed with poison and carpet tacks. Their attempts got more and more ridiculous! They eventually decided to see if they could freeze him to death.

On a night that reached -14F, Malloy blacked out drinking. The murderers carried him to a park, poured 5 gallons of water on his bare chest and left him to die. He came back for a drink the next day. Then they hit him with a cab at 45 miles per hour. Iron Mike still lived.

They finally managed to kill him one night when they strapped him to a gas hose and turned it on. He was pronounced dead of lobar pneumonia. However, there was justice in this case. The 5 men squabbled too much on how to divide the loot and when the police heard rumors of Mike the Durable, they investigated and it led to their arrest. 4 were given the electric chair.

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In 1971, a 17 year old German girl was the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Amazon surviving 10 days on her own!

Juliane Koepcke was the daughter of two famous Zoologists who ran a research station in the Amazonian Jungles of Peru. She was on a flight with her mother going from Lima, Peru to Pucallpa, Peru in the Amazon jungle. The flight would take less than an hour. They were flying to spend Christmas with Juliane’s father. The flight went fine until halfway through it. A lightning bolt hit a fuel tank and ripped the right wing off.

Presents were flying around the cabin and then Juliane was sucked out of the airplane as it spiraled to the ground. She was still attached to a row of chairs. She fell two miles before she landed in the jungle among thick foliage. She knew about the Amazon and how to survive, because her father had taught her. She had a broken collarbone and one eye was swollen shut.

She had major lacerations on her arms and legs. She found a creek and began walking through it to find a stream that would lead her to a river and civilization. She survived crocodiles, piranhas, and devils rays. She walked for 10 days before she found a boat and a hut. She was starving and had maggots infesting her wounds. She stayed in the hut for the night and the next day Peruvian lumberjacks found her and brought her to a nearby town.

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A pilot ejected his seat over a thunderstorm and survived a 45-minute fall!

 

William Rankin is the only person known to have survived a fall from the top of a cumulonimbus thunderstorm cloud. Rankin was a pilot in the US Marine Corps and participated in both World War II and the Korean War. One day in 1959 he was flying from Massachusetts to South Carolina when he encountered a massive thunderstorm. 
He began to climb, attempting to fly over the worst of the storm, yet at 45,000 feet he heard a loud thump and was forced to eject his seat into the -58 degree Fahrenheit air. Frostbite hit immediately and the decompression was so intense that his eyes, ears, nose, and mouth started to bleed. Rankin began to fall to the ground and severely panic after five minutes had passed and his parachute still hadn’t deployed. 
With almost zero-visibility and surrounded by a massive thunderstorm, Rankin was extremely confused why he had still not hit the ground after ten minutes. Carried by updrafts and being pelted with hail, he realized that he was being dragged up and down in the wind, which lasted over 45 minutes! 
He says that although it sounds amazingly cool after the fact, during the event he was absolutely terrified and had never felt so terrible as he continually vomited from the spinning and pressure changes. At 6:40 pm he descended into a forest in North Carolina and strangely was completely healthy. 

Two Australian planes collided midair in 1940 and managed to land while still connected!

Two Avro Ansons from Forrest Hill air base in New South Wales, Australia were flying together for a training exercise. They were flying to Corowa, New South Wales piloted by Leonard Graham Fuller and Jack Inglis Hewson. They were flying at an altitude of 1,000 feet when they banked. 

Fuller lost sight of Hewson’s Anson below him and the two planes collided one on top of the other. They stayed stuck together with the upper plane’s engines knocked out, but the lower plane’s engines still turning full speed. The navigators in both planes bailed along with Hewson, the lower plane’s pilot who hurt his back in the crash. 

Fuller realized he still had control over the planes and managed to fly another five miles and make an emergency pancake landing in a large paddock by Brocklesby. The plane on top was fixed and put to flight again. All four crew men survived the bizarre ordeal. 

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A cat survived the sinking of three separate ships in World War Two, earning the moniker "Unsinkable Sam."

If you’ve ever watched a war movie and felt unfazed by the countless dead bodies due to the survival of one precious animal, this article is for you. In the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor, after the chaos from the Japanese attack, one dog is seen amongst the wreckage, having survived unharmed. While in film this is used as a gimmick to distract audiences, it turns out it’s based in reality. 

Unsinkable Sam was a cat aboard a German ship in World War II. Having cats aboard ships is something that’s been common for hundreds of years mainly due to their ability to catch rodents. He first served on the Bismarck during its first and only mission on 18 May 1941. After a sea battle on 27 May, the Bismarck was sunk and only 115 of the 2,200 crew members survived. 

Sam was found floating on a board later- by the British. The British then employed him (and named him Oscar) on the HMS Cossack, until it was hit by a torpedo on 24 October and sank three days later. Though 159 people died from the torpedo, “Oscar” survived. He was officially named “Unsinkable Sam” and was transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which had played a role in the destruction of Bismarck. 

Unfortunately, this ship also sank just days later on 14 November, once again due to torpedo. Sam survived again, and was described as “angry but quite unharmed.” The British decided to retire Sam to a seaman’s home in Belfast. There he lived for 14 more years. Who knows why… Sam still had at least 5 more ships before he was in real trouble no? 

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In WWII, JFK saved a shipmate by towing him with his teeth three miles through the water to an island.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy joined the US Navy in the early 1940’s. In 1941, Kennedy was appointed Ensign in the Naval Reserve, and in 1942 he was assigned to an ONI field office in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1943, he was assigned to Panama, and later that year he was moved to the Solomon Islands seeking combat duty. He was placed in charge of PT 109. 

In early August 1943, fifteen boats, including PT 109, were sent out on patrol to intercept Japanese warships. Around 2 in the morning, a Japanese destroyer cut PT 109 in half in ten seconds. The Japanese destroyer, Amagiri, was so large and moving so fast that the crew didn’t even realize they had struck a vessel. JFK and ten other men survived. Kennedy swam to the aid of one man, Patrick Henry McMahon, who was badly burned. 

Kennedy towed him through the ocean by his teeth for three hours to reach the remnant of the PT109, but upon reaching it, he realized it was starting to sink. Upon realizing this, Kennedy decided to swim all the way to an island on the south east, three miles away- all still while towing McMahon.

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A boy survived a hit from a 30,000 mph meteorite.

Have your parents ever told you that “there’s more of a chance that you’ll be struck by a meteorite.” Well, it seems that schoolboy Gerrit Blank, 14, is a statistical miracle, for having been struck by a meteorite and more so for staying alive to tell the tale. 

The chances of all of this were 1 in 1 million. He was on his way to school when he was a “ball of light” heading straight towards him from the sky. A hot, pea sized piece of rock, hit his hand before bouncing off and causing a foot wide crater in the ground. 

Scientists are now studying the pea-sized meteorite, and chemical tests have proven that it did indeed fall from space. Most meteorites don’t make it to ground level because they evaporate in the atmosphere and of those that do, 6 out of 7 land in water. It seems as though this improbability has high fived Gerrit, leaving him with only a three-inch long scar on his hand. 

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A one week old puppy survived being flushed down a toilet!

In Britain, a four year old flushed his puppy down the toilet accidently while trying to give it a bath. The one week old cocker spaniel got muddy while playing in the garden, so the little boy thought he needed a bath to clean up. 

The puppy got stuck in the wastepipe for four hours. Firefighters and animal welfare officers were called to the house to help the puppy, but they couldn’t get to it. The mother finally called a plumber who found the puppy upside down in a pipe about 20 meters from the house in London. 

The plumber used a long rod to push the puppy to the nearest manhole where he could safely be removed. Amazingly, the puppy survived and was named Dyno after the plumbing company that rescued him. The little boy blamed his twin brother for getting Dyno dirty in the first place, but promised he would never flush him down the toilet again. 

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One man survived both atomic bombs!

Tsutomu Yamaguchi  was a 23-year-old businessman working for Mitsubishi in 1945. While he was in Hiroshima on a business trip, the first bomb was dropped by the USA. Luckily, Yamaguchi was far enough from the explosion to escape with minimal damage.

The next day, Tsutomu returned to his hometown. Nagasaki. You can probably see where this is going, but while he was at work, the second bomb fell. He survived this explosion relatively unscathed.

Mr Yamaguchi became an advocate against nuclear weapons and called for their abolition in 2006 at a UN conference. He lived a long life and died at the age of 93 in 2010.

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A woman survived a fall from a plane!

 

This is one must be one of the craziest stories on our site. Shayna Richardson had turned 21 in May of 2005 and began skydiving fairly often afterwards. On her tenth, and first solo jump, however, everything went terribly wrong. Shayna’s chute failed to deploy shortly after she jumped, at which time she says she panicked. Falling at over 50 mph, Shayna struggled to release her back up parachute, but without any luck. She says that moments before she hit the ground she simply gave up, praying and putting her life in God’s hands asking that He simply, “not let it hurt.” 
Shayna struck the ground face first in a parking lot and says she doesn’t remember it at all. Rescuers hurried over to her, expecting her to be dead, but were amazed to see that she wasn’t. Shayna sat up and attempted to move around, until she collapsed. The first thing she remembered was being in the ambulance minutes later. After surviving the fall Shayna had fifteen plates put into her face for multiple fractures, had to undergo four operations, two breaks in her pelvis, and a broken right fibula. Shayna surviving is amazing in itself, but this story gets even more unreal. 
In the emergency room after the fall, doctors discovered that she was two weeks pregnant and the baby was unscathed! Experienced divers believe that the fall was more Shayna’s fault than an equipment malfunction, yet the story is still amazing. Today Shayna and her son are both perfectly healthy. 

John R. McKinney held off over 100 Japanese soldiers single handedly in WW II!

McKinney was serving in Company A 123d Infantry Regiment, 33d Infantry Division in the Philippines when he and two of his comrades were snuck up upon by over 100 Japanese soldiers. The three American troops were guarding a machine gun at the time and the other two American soldiers were wounded before they could aid in the fight.

Single handedly and armed with only a rifle, McKinney killed 38 Japanese soldiers, successfully holding the broken machine gun until aid arrived. He was able to hold off the rest of the soldiers until help came. He survived with only a minor head wound and was awarded the Medal of Honor by the President of the United States. 

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