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Massachusetts Motorcycle Jumper Doug Danger Honored at Statehouse Ceremony

 Saturday, April 09, 2016

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doug danger.JPGDoug Danger, a world record holder in motorcycle jumping originally from Palmer, visits the Massachusetts Statehouse on April 7, 2016. 

BOSTON - When Doug Senecal was a sophomore at Palmer High School, he got on his motorcycle and drove it through the school hallways on a dare. Palmer High asked him not to come back for his junior year.

Now 54, Senecal – who goes by the name Doug Danger – is one of the world's foremost motorcycle jumpers.

At his most recent jump in South Dakota, Danger flew over 22 cars on a 1972 Harley Davidson that belonged to his mentor – the famous stunt jumper Evel Knievel.

Knievel had tried the same jump but only cleared 21 cars. "I went and finished the jump for my hero. Now him and I hold the world record together," Danger said.

Danger, who lives in Wales, has survived serious injuries and cancer. Today, when he is not jumping over cars and buses on his motorcycle, he is a motivational speaker, telling kids to follow their dreams and stay off drugs.

"A lot of the kids have lost the idea of having a dream, and I want them to learn through my success," Danger said.

"I come from a small town in Massachusetts. ... I don't have any connections to anybody that helped me get to the top. It was just me wanting to be Doug Danger, motorcycle jumper, world champion," Danger said. "I try to teach the kids if you want something, it's not going to come to you. You've got to go get it."

Danger spoke to a reporter at the Statehouse on Thursday, where he was honored in the state Senate as a guest of state Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer.

"I appreciate the fact he takes a story of hope out to the schools. He's a good person, a good humanitarian, and it's nice to just give him a little extra credit today," Gobi said.

Knievel was Danger's childhood hero. Danger first saw him perform in Worcester in 1977, two years before Danger would make his first public motorcycle jump, over 10 cars, in Palmer.

Danger would go on to emulate his hero, and the two became good friends as Danger built up his motorcycle jumping career. In 1985, Danger broke a world record by jumping over 14 buses at Thompson Speedway in Connecticut. He broke another world record by jumping over 25 cars at New Hampshire International Speedway in 1990. In 1991, he made the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest motorcycle jump ever – a 251-foot jump over 42 cars.

But in 1992, Danger missed a jump at Hudson Speedway in New Hampshire and broke 17 bones. He was in a coma for over a month. He had a serious head injury, and his memory was wiped out.

"I had to learn everything all over again," Danger recalled, "And people treated me different.... I just wanted to be back to what I considered normal. And normal to me was being Doug Danger and flying over cars and buses and buildings and airplanes with a motorcycle."

With encouragement from his mother – who at age 77 still rides 100 miles a day on her motorcycle – Danger came back, performing in stunt shows and continuing to break world records. When he fell sick with tonsil cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy in 2012, he did a public jump to benefit kids fighting cancer at a hospital in Pennsylvania. He began motivational speaking in 2012.

Danger quotes Knievel, who told him, "God puts us here in front of all these children for a reason. We're a role model for them."

In Danger's speeches, he encourages kids to follow their dreams. He also tells them to stay off drugs.

Danger's best friend died from drugs two weeks after graduating high school. Now, Danger cites the large numbers of young people who die in Massachusetts each year from heroin.

"Kids have got to have the message that you don't just try it once," Danger said. "I really get the message of what Evel Knievel was saying, you can be anything you want if you give 110 percent, but if you get involved with drugs, you're going to be a loser in life. Stay away from them. Don't even try them."

So what does it feel like to fly through the air on a motorcycle jumping over 15 cars or three school buses?

"Up in the air is great. It's the landings that can be tough," Danger said. "It's like Evel used to always say, anybody can jump a motorcycle. It's the pros that can land them."

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