While Niagara Falls is certainly a majestic wonder all on its own, the Falls have also been made famous by the numerous attempts of people to go over the hill in a life-or-death daredevil move. If you aren’t familiar with some of the most famous daredevils to go over the Falls, you’ll enjoy reading about these harrowing tales:
Annie Edson Taylor – In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, a school teacher from Michigan, went over the Falls in a barrel to gain her fame and fortune. She made a unique contraption to carry her downstream, and her entire ride was over in about 20 minutes. She walked out of her barrel mostly unscathed, but her goal of becoming rich and famous in her lifetime was never successful. She remained a poor widow until her death. Today, “Barreling Annie” is known as the first person and first woman to successfully go over the Falls.
Bobby Leech – Bobby Leech was a notorious daredevil who attempted the Falls multiple times. The first was in a wooden barrel which was badly dented upon landing. Bobby survived, but was severely injured and spent 23 weeks in the hospital recovering. After his recovery, he was undeterred from attempting to swim across the river below Niagara Falls, but was unsuccessful due to the loss of his false teeth as he was swimming, which caused him to inhale too much water to continue. Finally, in his final attempt over the Falls, he successfully dropped by parachute from an aeroplane over Falls View.
Charles Stephens – Charles Stephens was a barber from Bristol, England who met an untimely fate while attempting Horseshoe Falls. Strapped inside a barrel with an anvil at his feet, his barrel did not survive the ride, and the anvil took Charles to his watery grave. His body was not recovered, with only small pieces of debris coming to the surface after his failed attempt.
Jean Lussier – A machinist from Niagara Falls, New York, Jean Lussier successfully attempted the Niagara Falls plunge in a rubber ball that he designed and built himself. Made of auto tire material and connected by rubber compartments filled with air, Jean’s ball was only out of sight during his Falls debut for 65 seconds! He survived the trip with only a minor bump on the head.
Charles Blondin – The name Charles Blondin is synonymous with tightrope walking, and it only makes sense that a daredevil tightrope walker would attempt to cross Niagara Falls. In 1859, Charles crossed the Niagara river the first time on an 1,100-foot tightrope to a large crowd of spectators without any safety netting below. He made the journey successfully again many times, including blindfolded, trundling a wheelbarrow, and even carrying another person on his back!
William Fitzgerald (a.k.a. Nathan Boya) – William Fitzgerald’s excursion provides the most secretive trip over the Falls. Launching himself into the current in a round ball contraption, by the time the authorities were alerted and went to retrieve the ball, Fitzgerald had already gone over Horseshoe Falls and his vessel was swirling at the turbulent base. Once the authorities retrieved the ball, they attempted to arrest him but were thwarted by the ball suddenly taking off down stream. Once William was in custody, he complained of an injury for which he was treated at the hospital. When he finally had his day in court, he simply paid the $100 fine and left without any explanation.
Nik Walenda – There are many other daredevils who have faced the Falls, including stunts in the 21st Century. One such person is Nik Walenda, who crossed the river on tightrope in 2012. During his 25-minute walk, he spoke to his family and ABC new broadcasters through a microphone about the challenges, the unexpected conditions, and how training was critical to his success.
Here at Niagara Falls Craft Distillers, we honour the history of the Falls with our unique whisky and enjoy sharing stories with people all over the world. Contact us today to learn more.