Riding on the Wall of Death
Charlie Ransom leapt from an eight-foot high platform and ran wildly into the middle of Second Street in Ironton. Moments later he walked back toward the American Motor Drome Company’s Wall of Death with a very fluffy dog waddling behind him.
For a man who rides an Indian motorcycle around the inside wall of a round wooden building for a living, running into the street in the middle of the day seemed like a cakewalk.
“This dog is one of the most interesting parts of this show right now,” Ransom said of the 15-year-old canine as she reclaimed her rightful spot on the dog bed at the base of the drome. “She was born under a motor drome just like this one.”
The dog, Mischief, belonged to Samantha Morgan; a beloved and famous drome rider who died in April 2008 at the age of 53.
“Samantha is why this building was built and why we get to do what we do,” Ransom said. “None of us would be together if it weren’t for that lady.”
Mischief is a reminder to everyone of Morgan’s desire to see the drome live beyond her. “She is hanging on with me,” Ransom said.
Although motorcycles are necessary to perform the show, Ransom says the show is not a “biker thing.”
“Even though I look like this,” Ransom said as he gestured toward his long beard and tattoos, “our show is about this drome, the way we live, the travel and the lifestyle. Motorcycles have kept it alive, but it’s not about the motorcycles.”
Ransom couldn’t describe what he does; he said there’s no way to put it into words.
“This is an old carnival show,” he said. “It’s from back when people still got their entertainment live. This is the way they did it then and the way we still do it. We are real people. There are no cameras, no trickery or anything like that. This attraction is from back when people actually worked for a living.”
Although there are several motor dromes in the United States, the Wall of Death is unique, and, according to Ransom, the most authentic.
“There are a couple dromes that have been in existence longer than us, but we are the only one that’s traveling,” he said. “Other dromes have given up traveling because of the expense and the huge amount of work involved.”
Traveling is a large part of keeping the Wall of Death going. The Rally on the River marks the 10th straight weekend the drome has been on the road. It was in Ohio on July 21-22 at the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, traveled to Butte, Mont., back to Sturgis, S.D., for two weeks, is here in Ironton now and will go to St. Louis next weekend.
“Sometimes it gets old,” Ransom said. “Mainly logistical things and putting this building up and taking it down all the time. I can’t say it doesn’t get old. I have a specific need for time. I asked for specific times in my contract for a reason. Then, I get told we can’t move onto this lot we’re on until 6 p.m., which really messes up my schedule. That kind of stuff gets old.”
Nevertheless, the show must go on, and at the top of the hour every hour from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. the riders perform on the Wall of Death.
The American motor Drome Co. Wall of Death is based out of Santa Clara, Calif., and more information is available at www.americanwallofdeath.com and on Facebook by searching Wall of Death Thrill Show.