Fact Check: About Those Claims of Woman Surviving Jump Off Empire State Building

Daniel Schwen, Public Domain
Daniel Schwen, Public Domain


In 1979, Elvita Adams survived a jump from the Empire State Building in New York City.


Rating: Mixture
Rating: Mixture

What's True:

In 1979, Elvita Adams, 29, jumped from the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building and survived. However ...


What's False:

She didn't fall all the way to the ground. A gust of wind broke her fall, and she landed about 20 feet down on the 3-foot-wide ledge of the floor directly below.


What's Undetermined:

Snopes was unable to trace the origins of a black-and-white photo commonly shared on social media claiming to depict Adams after the fall. Our newsroom was also unable to confirm other details surrounding the event, such as Adams' supposed motivations or what came of her in the decades following.


If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health, suicide or substance use crisis or emotional distress, reach out 24/7 to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) by dialing or texting 988 or using chat services at suicidepreventionlifeline.org to connect to a trained crisis counselor.

For decades, the miraculous survival story of Elvita Adams has saturated corners of the internet. Social media posts (here, here, here and here, for example) claim that Adams, 29, survived after jumping from the 102-story Empire State Building in New York City in 1979. 

In reality, Adams jumped from the observation deck on the 86th floor but landed on a 3-foot-wide ledge 20 feet down (one floor) after a wind gust broke her fall. In other words, she did not fall 86 floors to the street. She reportedly suffered a fractured pelvis and was taken to Bellevue Hospital.

But Snopes could not trace the origins of the black-and-white image commonly shared in posts or confirm whether the above photo genuinely depicted Adams after the fall. We contacted The Empire State Building and will update this article if we hear back.  

The incident was outlined in a Dec. 3, 1979, article in The New York Times titled, "Woman Survives Fall At the Empire State." It read: 

A 29‐year‐old woman apparently jumped from the 86th‐floor observation deck of the Empire State Building last night, but survived when she landed on a three‐foot ledge about 20 feet below, the police said. She was admitted to Bellevue Hospital with a fractured pelvis.

Authorities at the 102‐story building on West 34th Street theorized that strong wind gusts — and no small amount of luck — saved the life of Elvita Adams, of 975 Walton Avenue in the Bronx.

George Reice, night supervisor at the observatory, said that a guard heard calls for help at about 8:15 last night and found Miss Adams lying on the 85th‐floor ledge of the building.

A spokesman for the building said that ordinarily four guards patrol the 86th‐floor observation deck, which is surrounded by an eight‐foot, ironspiked fence. But, the police said, no one saw Miss Adams jump. The police said they were considering the incident an attempted suicide.

Snopes also searched through the online database New York State Historic Newspapers, which archives newspaper issues dating back to the 18th century. We found the scan below of an Associated Press article titled, "Wind thwarts suicide attempt." 

(Courtesy of Adirondack Daily Enterprise/NYS Historic Newspapers)

Adams is also mentioned in the 1996 book, Skyscrapers: A Social History of the Very Tall Building in America

Interestingly enough, the Empire State's fence, a seven-foot wire mesh affair with incurving steel spikes, did not completely deter would-be suicides. Some people have managed to get over it and have successfully plummeted to their deaths. Others have gotten over and still been frustrated. On the cold and windy night of December 2, 1979, Elvita Adams got over the fence and jumped, but a strong gust of wind blew her right back to the building at the eighty-fifth floor. She landed on a ledge fracturing her hip, but was shortly hauled to safety. 

The 1980 book The Empire State Building Book, by Jonathan Goldman, also included a photograph of an article published by the New York Post on Dec. 3, 1979, titled, "Gust of wind saves woman who leaped from 86th floor of Empire State Building." On page 60, the report read, in part: 

Officials said today it was miraculous that a woman who jumped last night from the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building survived … 

[She] landed on the ledge directly below 

Her only injury was a fractured pelvis, according to Bellevue Hospital. 

She was discovered at 8:20 p.m., when a security guard Frank Clark heard a woman moaning in pain. 

He looked out of an 85th floor office window and saw Miss Adams lying on the concrete ledge. 

After just over a year of construction, the 102-story Empire State Building opened its doors to the public in 1931, making it the world's tallest building at the time, according to the building's website. At its top floor, the Empire State Building reaches a height of 1,250 feet but stretches to 1,454 feet when including the 1950 addition of an antenna. 


Douglas, George H. Skyscrapers: A Social History of the Very Tall Building in America. McFarland, 2004.

Goldman, Jonathan. The Empire State Building Book. New York : St. Martin's Press, 1980. Internet Archive, http://archive.org/details/empirestatebuild00gold.

History | Empire State Building. https://www.esbnyc.com/about/history. Accessed 28 May 2024.

Leer, Miranda. Elvita Adams Miraculously Survived Jumping Off the Empire State Building. 22 Dec. 2022, https://www.historydefined.net/elvita-adams/.

TikTok - Make Your Day. https://www.tiktok.com/@mrbetyoudidntknow/video/7285878589176761633. Accessed 28 May 2024.

"Woman Survives Fall At the Empire State." The New York Times, 3 Dec. 1979. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/1979/12/03/archives/woman-survives-fall-at-the-empire-state.html.