This Mom Lifted A Car Off Her Trapped Child. And So Can You.

It’s called ‘hysterical strength,’ and it is 100% not made up.

Sarah Cottrell
4 min readJan 23, 2021


Picture it: Lawrenceville, Georgia, 1982. You’re a middle-aged mom and grandmother, and you’re just doing your thing on a Friday afternoon. You’ve got some housework going, your teenager, Tony, a junior in high school, is out in the driveway tinkering under his 64' Chevy Impala, and you’re wondering if anyone will complain if you throw together a casserole for dinner. Everything is going ok until you hear a sickening crash outside. You run to see what it was, and you see your child lying unconscious under a car that has just fallen on top of him.

What do you do?

Well, if you were Angela Cavallo, you summon the strength of ten men, and you lift that car four inches off the ground, enough to drag your son to safety. Except, she couldn’t rouse him from his unconscious state and so a neighbor, an 11-year-old boy, ran to grab help from others. Quickly, hands are pulling on your sweet boy and replacing the jack that slipped and fell out of place, causing the accident.

Your boy is rushed to the hospital where, miraculously, doctors find no brain injuries, and he is released back to your loving but absolutely freaked out arms. You saved your child’s life by lifting a car with your bare hands.

If this sounds like a made-up story, it one hundred percent is not. Angela Cavallo experienced a rare but fascinating phenomenon called ‘hysterical strength,’ and the science behind it is mind-boggling.

What is ‘hysterical strength’?

Hysterical strength is a spontaneous event that occurs when a person faces extreme distress such as the threat of peril. Like when a mother sees her child trapped under the weight of a Chevy Impala.

Researchers don’t know a lot about how hysterical strength works. The working theory is that a human can experience a hyped-up version of fight or flight that causes a surge of the hormone adrenaline. Since the phenomenon is so rare, scientists can’t exactly study it when it happens. Furthermore, hysterical strength can’t be recreated in a lab setting because not only would that be incredibly dangerous, but it would violate ethics. So, scientists must rely on the growing number of well-documented cases that exist in the world, like the story of our heroine, Angela Cavallo.



Sarah Cottrell

Writer + Editor | Slow Living + Science Nerd | Rep’d by Folio Lit | Follow my stories here: