Fact or Fiction #20: Sears Lawn Chair Mystery

So, I was contacted by a Retrospace reader who had been looking into the infamous flying lawn chair story - you know the one: where a guy named Larry Walters ties a bunch of weather balloons to his lawn chair and sails 16,000 feet above North Hollywood.  It's not an urban legend - it really happened.  There's an excellent breakdown of the adventure on SB Nation here.

The mystery is a small one: Larry's supplies included a BB gun (to pop the balloons for his descent), a parachute, and a lawn chair that was reported to cost $110 - a lot of money for a lawn chair, especially in 1981 dollars.

Larry said he got the chair from Sears.  So, the aforementioned Retrospace reader knew I had the catalog from an old post and asked if this highly expensive chair was in it....

Here is the Spring/Summer 1981 Sears catalog lawn chair pages.  I see a bunch of crummy director's chairs, but nothing resembling a chaise lounge which Larry might have taken to 16,000 feet.

So, I checked the Fall/Winter 1981 Sears catalog with similar results.

This can't be it.  No way that lawn chair was wicker.
So, if any of you have a Sears catalog, magazine insert, newspaper advertisement, etc. from 1981, maybe we can help solve the lawnchair mystery. We solved the Too Close for Comfort rape mystery back in 2011; we can do it again!


  1. Solve the mystery of why "Small Wonder" is currently in syndication(onTHiS TV). I doubt if your eightiest of eighties fans would defend it.

    1. I'm not even an eighties fan and I'll defend it. It's such a train wreck I find myself marveling at its very existence. I just watched the one with Hulk Hogan and I don't think I blinked once, mouth agape from beginning to end. This should never be allowed to leave the airwaves.

  2. DiscoDollyDebAugust 04, 2015

    Unfortunately, this is only available to New Yorker online subscribers (which I'm not), but possibly someone else can dig out the whole thing:


  3. A couple updates received via email:

    There is a good closeup of the chair at 39 seconds into this news video:
    It appears to be brown nylon straps on an aluminum tube frame.

    Also: "it does look like a normal lawn chair and not a lounge chair" - http://publicradio1.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/newscut/files/legacy/content_images/lawn_chair_larry.jpg