World-Famous “Stratosphere Man” (1889-1951), Buried in Lansing
He was known as “The Stratosphere Man” due to his acrobatic stunts.
His name was Arzeno Eugene Selden, born in 1889 in the Clinton County, Michigan town of Eagle.
Growing up in Eagle, he became fascinated with the aerial acrobatics he witnessed at local circuses and carnivals. Arzeno would try some of these out for himself, using ropes that were hanging in the family barn. He would stand up in a loft, grab the rope, and swing down, attempting to match the aerial tricks that impressed him so much.
He practiced in the time he could spare, and by the time he was eighteen, he got his first job as an acrobat in a small traveling carnival. But acrobatics just wasn't enough; he became a contortionist and a trapeze artist. He learned how to bend backwards and through a 15-inch wide ring.....he could also contort himself in such a way that he could sit on his own head.
For the next few years, he toured the country with different shows. In the off-months, he kept busy by performing in vaudeville houses.....and studying mechanical engineering. After World War I, he and his wife formed their own traveling spectacle, 'Selden's Big City Show'. This went on for a few years until his wife Inez was tragically killed in 1930. One of her acts was grabbing a strap with her teeth and swinging; the strap either came loose or she lost her grip, and she fell to her death.
Arzeno's knowledge of mechanical engineering was put to good use when he made his own unique 175-foot tall “sway” pole; he would climb to the top of this flexible mast and sway precariously back & forth. Arzeno was almost killed himself during an act where he slid down a wire on his neck (!). He fell, crushing his chest, collar bone, and ribcage.....in front of 25,000 audience members.
By 1950, Arzeno must have had some insight or inclination his life was coming to an end soon. He had a massive tombstone made for himself and turned this morbid twist into a publicity stunt. In May 1950 when he revealed his massive grave monument to the public, he proceeded to do his aerial stunts directly above it.
Arzeno's last feat took place in Fort Myers, Florida. He was performing when he slipped and fell 50 feet, smacking into a parked car. Lying in the hospital, he was certain he would be able to keep his booked appearances.....but he passed away a week later from a heart attack. His body was brought back to Michigan, where he was buried in Lansing's Deepdale Cemetery.
ARZENO SELDEN, THE STRATOSPHERE MAN