New Yorkers were confused and delighted by the appearance of a 270-foot-long inflatable dragon coiled around the mast of the Empire State Building on Monday morning. At first, it was hard to tell if the creature was “real” or not. Video of giant banners flowing from New York City landmarks like Moynihan Train Hall and the Manhattan Bridge made the rounds on the internet, but those were computer generated. Both stunts are to promote HBO’s series House of the Dragon, which debuted the first episode of Season 2 on Sunday. The show will host a weeklong takeover of the Empire State Building with photo ops on the Iron Throne and dramatic light shows. The Empire State Building is no stranger to extreme publicity stunts. Here, we look back at some of the most outrageous from the 1930s to today!

1. King Kong Balloon on the Empire State Building Mast, 1983

King Kong Window empire state building

The last time a giant inflatable balloon was placed on the mast of the Empire State Building, it didn’t go so well! To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1933 film King Kong, an 84-foot, 3,000-pound inflatable version of the destructive gorilla-like monster was placed on the building’s iconic mast. However, the box the balloon arrived in was too big to fit in the elevators. Dozens of workers had to remove the balloon from its case and haul the figure through hallways and out the window. All the pushing and shoving may have resulted in a tear in the balloon’s right shoulder. There were also rigging problems and high winds when the balloon made its debut. Despite these setbacks, the celebration went on as planned with biplanes circling the structure to replicate the film’s climatic scene.

Unfortunately, after the debut, the balloon was quickly removed for repairs. Almost a week later, it was reinstalled, though this time, there was now a rip in his chest. You can watch the saga unfold through news stories in this Youtube video. Kong finally got his chance to shine in 2019 when a photo op installation was unveiled as part of the new Observatory Experience inside the Empire State Building.

2. The Three Jacksons Acrobatic Performance, 1934

On August 21, 1934, Jarley Smith, Jewell Waddek, and Jimmy Kerrigan performed a dazzling array of acrobatic stunts on the very edge of the Empire State Building’s 86th-floor observation deck. Kerrigan, who went by Jimmy Jackson at the time, recalled his memories of the stunt for the New York Times fifty years later. He told the paper he had the idea to do an act atop the skyscraper while he was walking down 5th Avenue one day. He then consulted his partners and the building’s officials.

The daring threesome didn’t have any safety nets or harnesses. No other nail-biting performance of this type has been allowed at the building since. After the Empire State stunt, the trio went on to perform their act for two weeks at the Roxy.

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3. A Ford Mustang Parked on the Observation Deck, 1965 + 2015

Before the King Kong balloon debacle, the elevators almost foiled another stunt. The Ford Mustang debuted at New York City’s 1964-65 World’s Fair and quickly became one of the bestselling cars in America. Robert L. Leury, general manager of the Empire State Building, had the idea of bringing two American icons together by parking a Mustang on the building’s observation deck. The obvious obstacle was figuring out how to get the car up there.

Ford engineers figured out they could split the car into four pieces that fit into the Empire State’s elevators, then reassemble it on the observation deck. They did three practice runs at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan facilities before the real installation on October 20, 1965. Eight Ford crewmembers in white overalls dissembled the car on 33rd Street and ushered it to the 86th floor. The crew worked overnight to assemble the convertible for an early morning photoshoot shot from a helicopter. Once the perfect shot was taken, the car was disassembled and reassembled for a second time inside the observation deck’s glass enclosure where visitors could approach it. The car remained on view until March 16, 1966. On the Mustang’s 50th anniversary in 2014, a new 2015 Mustang convertible was unveiled on the 86th-floor observation deck to kick off the 2014 New York International Auto Show. This time, the car was chopped into 6 pieces to fit into the elevators.

4. Mary Pickford Released Hundreds of Balloons, 1932

Celebrities have been visiting the Empire State Building since the very beginning. In 1932, barely a year after the skyscraper opened, silent screen star Mary Pickford ascended to the 86th floor to release hundreds of balloons. Each balloon was redeemable for 2 tickets to the Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden when returned to 99 Park Avenue, then the headquarters of the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service. A Daily News article stipulated that the tickets had to be redeemed by a child.

5. Jared Leto Climbed the Empire State Building, 2023

Actor and 30 Seconds to Mars frontman Jared Leto became the first person to legally scale the Empire State Building. The stunt was performed to promote his band’s world tour. Leto’s climb started at the 86th-floor observatory and ended with a performance on the 104th floor. Before Leto, many fearless climbers had attempted to scale the building, illegally. The most famous of those climbers is likely the “French Spiderman” Alain Robert who climbed the building with nothing but his hands and feet in 1994.

Next, check out more Secrets of the Empire State Building