Daredevil and flat-Earth conspiracy theorist “Mad Mike” Hughes died in a DIY rocket crash in the Barstow, California desert, local authorities, TMZ, local media, and the Associated Press reported Saturday. He was 64 years old.
Footage shot by journalist Justin Chapman (embedded below) appears to show his parachute disconnected during the rocket’s ascent; Hughes fell several hundred feet without a parachute and crash-landed onto the ground. Hughes had a long history of launching himself on his crowd-funded, DIY, steam-powered rocket emblazoned with the words “FLAT EARTH” in an attempt to prove that the Earth is indeed flat.
In 2017, he raised $8,496 on GoFundMe for the rocket. In previous launches, he flew as high at 1,875 feet into the air at speeds of about 350 MPH. The eventual goal of these launches was to launch himself up to the required 35,000-foot altitude needed to see (or, in Hughes’ case, not see) the curvature of the Earth. A video posted before Saturday's launch attempt shows a larger rocket than one he'd flown on in the past, and the words FLAT EARTH had been replaced with an ad for Hud, a hookup and dating app. His official YouTube page posted a music video of the Death Valley Girls' "(One Less Thing) Before I Die," cut with previously shot footage of Hughes' previous crashes. It was posted with the hashtag #RIPMADMIKE in the title of the video.
Hughes acknowledged in a previous interview with VICE that he realized his stunts were dangerous.
“When I’m walking up the ramp, and I'm thinking: Am I walking up to the gallows where I am going to hang myself? That goes through your mind. I was asking myself if this was the last thing I was going to do,” he said. “I'm a real guy. I put on my big boy pants and I man up and I do things and I will roll the dice. Very few people will roll the dice with their lives. I play Russian roulette.”
In that interview, Hughes said he believed that gravity doesn’t exist, that the Earth is "stationary," and that he would not take any government agency's word on the shape of the Earth.
"I don't care if it's Russia, the United States, or China. I'm going to go up there and I'm going to see it for myself. I'm going to have cameras with me," he said. "Most people are afraid to follow their dreams. People want the security, the insurance, the 401K, and all that stuff and it's all crap, OK. There is no such thing as security. What you've got is right now—you don't have tomorrow; you don't have next week. You have right now. Do the most with what you've got today. But, in the end, just be nice to people."
Warning: This video shows the fatal crash of Mad Mike Hughes.