Drama in Real Life: A Collection of Reader’s Digest’s Most Gripping Survival Stories

Can’t get enough of the heart-stopping survival stories in Reader's Digest's Drama in Real Life section? You’ll be on the edge of your seats as you’re drawn into these dramatic tales of everyday people suddenly cast into life or death situations.

Carter Viss FeaturePhoto: Erika Larsen

When a Speeding Boat Severed His Arm, This Diver Fought to Survive

After a speeding boat nearly killed Carter Viss, he vowed to work with the driver to make sure it never happens again.

Great Alaska Earthquake - AnchoragePhoto: Bettmann/Getty Images

After an Earthquake Devastated Alaska, a Reporter Came to the Rescue

In the terrifying aftermath of the Great Alaska Earthquake, 37-year-old broadcaster Genie Chance became the voice of hope and comfort.

Rogue bear rampage - Photo of a black bearPhoto: Shutterstock

Rogue Bear on the Rampage

A tragic true story of heroism in the face of horror from the Reader’s Digest archives, originally published in 1999.

Shortly after he left the main trail, Gayowski realized he’d overshot his exitPhoto: Kari Medig

This B.C. Skier Got Lost in a Snowstorm—Could Rescuers Find Him in Time?

Mark Gayowski took an unmarked ski trail into a deep ravine. Every attempt at escape only left him more lost.

The Newlyweds Versus The VolcanoIllustration: Ryan Garcia

After Her Husband Fell Into a Dormant Volcano on Their Honeymoon, This Woman Had to Carry Him to Safety Alone

A dream honeymoon hike to the rim of a jungle crater ends with a terrible fall. Now a young bride must get her severely injured husband medical care—by herself.

Illustration of the Rigopiano avalancheIllustration: Steven P. Hughes

How a Group of Tourists Survived a Devastating Avalanche in the Italian Alps

Forty people gathered at a hotel high in the Italian Alps. Then came the earthquake, the devastating avalanche—and the race to find survivors.

Grizzly bear attackIllustration: Ryan Garcia

How a Pocket Knife Saved This Man During a Grizzly Bear Attack

Alone on a mountain and pinned under a grizzly, Colin Dowler reached for a pocket knife and struggled for his life.

Mid-air rescueCourtesy of U.S. National Archives (photo no. 127-N-522950)

He Was Dangling Upside Down From An Airplane When Two Pilots Came To His Rescue

When Walter Osipoff’s parachute caught on his plane’s tail, leaving him dangling high above San Diego, his only hope was a daring mid-air rescue.

The Woman Who Wrestled A CougarIllustration: Kagan McLeod

The Woman Who Wrestled a Cougar

With no one to call for help, Larrane Leech put herself face-to-face with a young cougar to protect the children in her daycare. A Reader’s Digest Canada classic, originally published in 1993.

View from atop Burke MountainPhoto: Steve Chapman

To Get Help, This Man Had To Leave His Kids on a Cliff. He Prayed They Would Survive

God asks us to forgive others, but if you’re responsible for your children’s demise, how do you ever forgive yourself?

Bali jungle illustrationIllustration: Mark Smith

How A Facebook Thread Saved Two Friends Who Were Gravely Injured in the Bali Jungle

Michael Lythcott and Stacey Eno’s scooter ran off the road, leaving them broken, bleeding and trapped in a Balinese jungle. Worse: no one knew. Then Michael, hours from death, got a signal on his phone.

Medical mystery - boy survive skewer in headPhoto by Steve Puppe

This 10-Year-Old Got Impaled By A Skewer. Could Doctors Remove It In Time?

Xavier Cunningham fell onto a rotisserie skewer and impaled his face. Doctors couldn’t believe he was still alive.

Snakebite illustrationIllustration: Mathias Ball
A Snakebite Turned This Woman’s Thailand Vacation Into a Fight for Her Life

Doctors raced to find an antidote as the snake’s venom spread through Shalabha Kalliath’s body, attacking her organs and inching her closer to death.

Fire surrounding a car on a highwayPHOTO: NOAH BERGER/AP/SHUTTERSTOCK

Fire Tornado!

Unstoppable wildfires are becoming the new normal. In 2018, an inferno that reached 1,500 degrees Celsius left a trail of destruction and death in Northern California. Here’s the truly terrifying story of the people trapped in the flames.

40 Hours Lost at Sea

Ordered to abandon ship in heavy weather, a badly injured second officer survives for nearly 40 hours in churning seas off Thailand.

Free Fall at Death Canyon

Her climbing rope had malfunctioned. Now, 275 metres above the floor of Wyoming’s Death Canyon, Lauren McLean clung to a ledge barely wide enough to support her broken body. And a storm was rolling in. A Reader’s Digest classic, originally published in 2014.

Glacier illustrationIllustration: Kagan McLeod

Trapped Inside a Glacier

Mountain climbers often fall through cracks in the ice, but those who survive haven’t fallen a long way, aren’t by themselves and aren’t injured. John All was all three.

Jeremy Osheim and Molei WrightPhoto: Courtesy Molei Wright

“Don’t Die. I Love You.”

A devastating collision left Molei Wright’s head attached to her shoulders by nothing but skin and muscle. The odds of surviving the condition, known as internal decapitation, are one in 100.

Bitten by a decapitated rattlesnakeIllustration: Steven P. Hughes

The Rattler’s Revenge

When Jeremy Sutcliffe decapitated the poisonous snake, he assumed that would be the end of it. He was wrong.

Barry Lynch was pinned under a 10-ton trailerPhoto: Veronica Sagredo/Blueclick Photography

Pinned to the Earth—With Only a Pocket Knife to Escape

The sugar-cane paddock was quiet as Barry Lynch’s scream pierced the air. The farmer was pinned to the earth by a 10-ton trailer and kilometres away from help.

I got attacked by a sharkIllustration: Dominic Bugatto

Shark Attack

“Something huge hit me with tremendous force on my left side and heaved me through the water. I realized I had been attacked by a shark.”

Avalanche on mountainPhoto: Shutterstock

On Fragile Ground: Trapped and Alone on Mount Logan

Natalia Martinez’s ambition to stake a claim for female climbers took her to Canada’s highest peak. That same determination would save her life.

An abandoned car in a Manitoba snowstormPhoto: ShutterStock

Blizzard Bound

The day had dawned crisp and clear, but early spring can be an unpredictable time on northern roads. Ernest Castel and his passengers would soon be stranded in their car, buried under a massive Manitoba snowstorm.

Sydnie Uemoto and her co-pilot Dave McMahonPhoto: Oliver Koning/Reader's Digest

Two Pilots Were Flying from Oahu to Hawaii—Then They Heard the Engines Go Quiet

They swam through jellyfish, the threat of sharks and 25 kilometres of exhaustion before being sighted.

David Finlayson snapped this photo of his son, Charlie, in the Bighorn Crags shortly before they attempted their most complex climb.Photo: David Finlayson

The River of No Return

When a rock-climbing trip goes disastrously wrong, a 13-year-old boy is forced to make a heartrending decision: should he leave his severely injured father to look for help?

Drama in Real Life - airplane crisisPhoto: Shutterstock

Failure on Flight 516

High over northern Russia, an airplane’s control systems begin switching off, one by one…

Strong rapidsPhoto: Shutterstock

Stranded at the Top of a Waterfall, These Rafters’ Only Hope Was to Send a Message in a Bottle

It was a long shot… but it worked.

wolf snarlingFreder/Getty Images

The Chilling Story of a Wolf That Tore Into a Family’s Tent During the Night

“Backing out was a wolf, dragging something in his teeth. That thing was a man.”

Can’t get enough real life drama? Take a look back at the worst natural disasters in Canada’s history.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada