I had been studying Earth science for a few years when I came across a man who called himself Mad Mike. He was a limousine driving daredevil who was proposing to prove the Earth was flat by launching himself in his own homemade rocket! Not only that — he was an Apple Valley resident.
I was writing for the paper at the time and I thought it would make a great story. Coincidentally, I met Mike, for the first time in person, outside Stater Bros not too long after his story was published. On my way in to grab a few items, I approached him and said “You’re Mad Mike.”
Hesitantly he responded “Yeah.”
I introduced myself and told him I was the reporter who wrote his story.
A time after that, while visiting him at his launch site in Amboy, he admitted that when we first met he thought I was someone he owed money.
That was Mike — I never knew what he was going to say but it was always interesting.
After my first story broke, the Washington Post came looking for me. They wanted Mike’s contact info. He had been in the press before but this time was different. His claims about disproving the ball shape of the Earth had catapulted his fame to another level.
I wrote a series of stories on him and he eventually did have a successful launch that made world wide news. By this time he was doing interviews on national TV and had a documentary and TV show in the works. He used this momentum to announce his gubernatorial run which was my final story on him.
My homelife got busy and I took a hiatus from the paper. Mike would contact me periodically to update me on a new project and to get a story covered. I always passed along the story to the newsroom. We eventually lost contact.
A few years passed. Mike did another launch but it was unsuccessful this time. The parachute to slow the rocket during the landing was not deployed properly. Mike died upon impact.
I asked Mike during one of my interviews if he was scared of dying.
He responded “This is serious.” He knew the danger he was getting into.
So this is my tribute to Mad Mike Hughes.
RIP to the man who inspired me to keep asking questions and live without fear.