Why not a pedal boat after the years of using a barrel over Niagra?
Blondin the Great
The Great Farini
William Leonard Hunt
Captain Joel Robinson
Captain J.D. Rhodes
James E. Hardy
Captain Matthew Webb
Peter "Bowser" Nissen
Captain Billy Johnson
Annie Edson Taylor
George L. Strathakis
William "Red" Hill Sr.
William "Red" Hill Jr.
Major Lloyd Hill
Nathan T. Boya
William A. Fitzgerald
Niagara White Water
Henri Julien Rechatin
Niagara Gorge River Trips
Mr. X (James Randi)
John David Munday
Jessie W. Sharp
The first person to go over the Falls in a barrel was the 63 year old Annie Edson Taylor. In 1901 she made the decision to gamble with the Mighty Cataracts and for over one hundred years we are scratching our heads wondering what would possess a 63 year old woman to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
I suppose somebody had to go first but one would hardly assume it would be a widowed aging school marm ?type?. Attention and fame mongering stunts were not all that uncommon in this era. Stunters were already braving the Niagara Whirpool and Rapids with barrels, some successful and some not. It was a much bigger deal over 100 years ago.
Committing suicide by throwing yourself into the water above the Falls and waiting to be swept over was also vogue. Reporters of the time reported on it and the allure of the wonderfully written free obituary, really helped to make Niagara Falls a great choice for a lot of people that were contemplated the self inflicted premature end to their lives.
Annie Edson Taylor came up with a different idea. She would challenge the cataracts themselves with a barrel and try to survive. It truly was and still is a bizarre thought to creep into a 63 year old woman?s mind.
It is too bad that not a whole lot is known about Annie Taylor. Much of her story before she went over Niagara Falls in a barrell is garnered from her own writings. There has been speculation that some of her writings and statements have been embelished. What we do know is that she was married briefly and her husband was killed in the Civil War. She became a teacher and taught for a while but she was apparently restless and forever looking for that elusive fame and fortune in lands far away. She managed to travel overseas with a few gentlemen friends throughout her life and around the time of her fateful decision to go over the Falls in a barrel, she was grappling with the fact that she was getting a bit ?long in the tooth? for be a successful dancing instructor, her current gig.
Always thinking about the next big break, the stories of the daredevils in Niagara who were attempting the Niagara rapids, had allure to her. She planned her trip strategically. The Pan Am Games were in Buffalo that year and President McKlinley would be there. That was her first plan but when he got assassinated and that grabbed the local headlines, she put her trip off a few weeks until she was sure her news would grab headlines.
Just google a picture of Annie Edson Taylor and it?s clear that the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel was not a ?model type?. She was portly and perhaps looking good for 63 years old, she make the business decision to tell people she was 42. Apparently she thought that this would be more important to the crowd than an old lady going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. This probably shot her dreams of finding a knight in shining armour after the stunt. She wasn?t even an attractive 63 year old and claiming she was 42 was enough to scare the men away. Sadly, in retrospect, if Annie Taylor had just learned to be comfortable in her own skin and her accomplishment with being the first human being to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and surivie, she may have actually found a suitor.
Annie didn?t go over the Falls in a barrel for the historic acclaim it would being. She went over the Falls for the attention and money it would bring after the fact. She didn?t realize any of it. She had no business plan in place in the event she did survive the plunge and she left much of her affairs to unscrupulous managers. Annie?s barrel was literally stolen and used in a theatre act somewhere in the United States. She retrieved it fo a short while but it disappeared again and was never referenced again. I?ve always wondered what happened to it. If it found its way into a private collector?s hands for some reason it has never surfaced. That leads me to think that it was eventually discarded or burnt as firewood.
One of Annie Taylor?s reasons to go over the Falls in a barrel was to avoid the poorhouse. Ironic that this is where she took her last breath. She passed away in 1921 in Lockport, New York in a poorhouse and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, NY.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
When I see Niagra from the air the volume is [B]HUGE[B]. I want no part of either canal or falls.
These people were crazy......
Shortly after being dragged to shore and cut out of the custom-made oak barrel that she?d ridden over Niagara Falls, Annie Taylor told the press, ?If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting that feat?? It was on October 24, 1901 ? her 63rd birthday ? that Taylor packed both herself and a mattress into the wooden vessel and became the first person to ever stunt drop over Horseshoe Falls (all such stunts are performed on the Canadian falls due to the jagged rocky hostility of the American ones). Arriving on shore with a gash on her head, but otherwise intact, the aging schoolteacher patiently awaited the riches and fame that she had been certain would follow her (and her outsized three-quarter-life crisis) over the pummeling torrents of icy water. Alas, Taylor would spend the last 20 years of her Earthly existence hustling pocket change from tourists who, in exchange for a meager fee, could take a picture with the pioneering daredevil and her sidekick, the barrel. It wasn?t just her act of daring that was largely ignored ? it was also those admonishing words she had spoken to journalists.
10 years after Taylor unknowingly opened up a new frontier of falls stunting, English circus performer Bobby Leach, who had already made multiple trips through the Niagara river?s whirlpool rapids, became the second non-suicidal person to purposely careen, unguided, over the perilous 173-foot drop and into the river below. Leach survived the fall, but still managed to break both knees and fracture his jaw. Though he was able to parlay his stunt into a successful touring career, his death was as inauspicious as Anne Taylor?s life ? he broke his leg slipping on an orange peel and succumbed to the resulting infection. Wah wah waaah.
The next person to challenge the falls was Charles Stephens, whose ill-fated 1920 journey ended with the removal of a single severed arm from the splintered mess of Russian oak that had once been the British barber?s protective barrel. Don?t feel bad though ? both Bobby Leach and Niagara River boater William ?Red? Hill, Sr. warned Stephens that his untested barrel was likely to double as his coffin. Sure enough, the anvi-lcum-ballast that Stephens had attached to his feet tore right through the bottom of the cask, ripping Stephens, who was secured into an arm harness, into three distinct pieces.
Stupid and tragic as it was, Stephens? death had a bright side ? the next brave-hearted, fool-headed Niagara daredevil could look at that gross, severed arm and reflect on how not to go over the falls. In 1928, Frenchman Jean Lussier took his reflections beyond the obvious conclusion of ?test your friggin? barrel? and decided to take on Horseshoe Falls in a giant rubber ball. 6 feet in diameter, with a still frame, 32 liner inner tubes and a heavy rubber bottom to prevent rolling, the ball cost Lussier his entire life savings, but earned its keep on July 4, 1928 when it successfully bore its intrepid French cargo over the watery precipice.
In 1930, an obsessive mystic name George Strathkis attempted a barrel ride over Niagara. He survived the drop but suffocated to death when his vessel became trapped behind the falls. Oops.
Remember Red Hill, Sr., who, along with Bobby Leach, called-out Charles Stephens for being a careless idiot? Well Red was a local celebrity, known both for rescuing countless careless swimmers and boaters from the Niagara River?s dastardly current, and for several well-publicized jaunts through the whirlpool rapids. Red had a son ? William ?Red? Hill, Jr. Red Sr. was never goofy enough to attempt a falls stunt, and died of a heart attack in 1942. Nine years later, though, Red Jr. decided that the best way to honor his father?s memory would be a madcap jaunt over the falls. Eschewing wood, steel and common sense for inner tubes, canvas webbing and outright insanity, Red, Jr. built ?The Thing,? a stack of inflatable rubber rings bound together with canvas and fish netting. With a crowd, including his wife and 10-year-old daughter, looking on, Red, Jr. slid inside his maniac tube and rode the river over the falls. The next morning, after Red?s mangled corpse was discovered near the Maid of the Mist boat dock, the Niagara Parks commission declared falls stunting illegal.
Like that ever stopped anybody.
Little is known about Nathan Boya who, in the summer of 1961, showed up unannounced at the falls with a giant reinforced rubber-and-metal orb called the ?Plunge-O-Sphere.? Boya took the plunge, came out unscathed, paid a $113 dollars in fines and went on his way, saying only that his trip had not been a ?stunt,? but rather something he needed to do. Years later, a family member of the Caliguiri Brothers, the owners of a New York fixtures company that helped design the Plunge-O-Sphere, reported that the native Bronxite had performed the feat to impress his girlfriend. Given this information, I?d move the Plunge-O-Sphere from the middle of the ?Necessity? circle to the portion of the Venn diagram where ?Stunt? and ?Necessity? overlap (but, obviously, still completely outside of the ?Revenge? circle).
By the 1970s, the excitement surrounding courageous Niagara plunges had dwindled. More folks survived than not; modern technology continually offered better and better solutions to the problems of air supply, impact and river currents; and the success of survival only meant being pulled from a barrel or bathysphere in handcuffs. A full 12 years after Boya?s necessity, a Canadian named Karl Soucek, who billed himself as ?The Last Niagara Daredevil,? survived a trip over the falls, resulting in the confiscation of his homemade barrel. In 1985, 22-year-old Stephen Trotter became the youngest person to live through a falls stunt (and, later, the only probable member of the 172-Foot-Drop Club: he repeated his stunt 10 years later, this time with his girlfriend riding shotgun). 1989, however, saw the first two-person trip over the falls, when two Canadian men, Peter DeBernardi and Jeffrey Petkovitch, took the plunge in a giant, handcrafted steel barrel. Additionally, Canadian John David Munday took on, and survived, the falls twice: once in 1985 in a homemade barrel and once in 1993 in a converted diving bell.
And that?s it for successful and/or mentally competent trips over Niagara?s Horseshoe Falls. June 5th 1990 saw Tennessean Jesse Sharp steer a kayak over the falls. Yeah ? his body was never recovered. Then in 1995 man named Robert Overcracker jet-skied himself over the brink of the falls. To his credit, he had a parachute, and planned to drift softly down into the river. To his detriment, the friend who prepared the parachute forgot to tether it into Overcracker?s pack. *blushing shrug.* The last person to tumble over was an unemployed Michigan man named Kirk Jones, who successfully blundered over the cataract without any sort of barrel or life preserver or even floaties. Jones? testimony as to stunt vs. suicide attempt flip-flopped several times, though his family remains convinced that the act was a courageous spectacle rather than a gratuitously awesome goodbye, cruel world. The good news is that Jones has a job now ? stuntman at the Texas-based Toby Tyler circus.
The stunts described above were performed alternately by professionals, morons and insane people. You probably shouldn?t try any of them unless you really, really want to.
When people look at a giant waterfall, they instinctually want to send crap over it. Visit Niagara and then tell me you didn?t wish you had a dilapidated schooner full of wild animals to drop over the roaring cataract. I use that example because it?s totally what you wished, but also because in 1827, the owners of the only three Niagara-area hotels had the same collective dream (although their vision also involved lots of flying ?No Vacancy? marquees and airborne dollar signs slam-dunking cash wads through money hoops). After procuring a condemned boat called the Michigan, the intrepid hoteliers began rabidly advertising that the ?pirate Michigan,? along with a cargo of ?animals of the most ferocious kind, such as Panthers, Wild Cats and Wolves,? would plunge over the falls on September 8. Word spread and people gathered. On the publicized date, a crowd of 10,000 onlookers watched as one buffalo, two raccoons, one dog and one goose road the Michigan over Horseshoe Falls (two bears were placed on the boat, but escaped into the river before the vertical drop). Only the duck survived.
I'll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.: LBJ's Ghost
When I see Niagra from the air the volume is [B]HUGE[B]. I want no part of either canal or falls.......
That's the beauty of the Lachine Canal, it bypasses the rapids. But the rapids are beautiful. This is much further down from the actual rapids, but it's a pretty well known standing wave in these parts.