The Beauty and Power of Niagara Falls
The mesmerizing beauty of Niagara Falls, Ontario draws approximately 30 million visitors a year. Local residents know the true strength and beauty of the Falls which is a powerful example of Nature’s awe-inspiring force —one that commands respect. Still, a number of people have tried to tame the Falls in death-defying stunts. Some of these thrill seekers have even lived to tell their tale.
Annie Taylor – The First Person to Take the Plunge and Survive
Annie Taylor, a school teacher from Michigan was 63-years old when she went over the Falls on October 24, 1901, strapped to a barrel. Amazingly she survived. How did she do it? She was strapped into a special harness in the barrel which was towed into the mainstream of the river and let loose. Spectators held their breath for seventeen minutes – the time it took from the plunge down the Falls until the barrel was close enough to the Canadian shore to be retrieved. Annie Taylor was relatively unscathed, although she did suffer a cut to her head and remarkably she became the first person to ever survive a trip over the Falls.
Did Mrs. Taylor’s Cat Accompany Her Down the Falls?
Although Niagara Parks claims that Annie Taylor was strapped to the barrel along with her cat, other sources report that the cat with which she is photographed with after her trip down the Falls actually went down two days before Annie to test if the barrel and strap system were safe. The cat did survive the drop.
Other Attempts to Go Over the Falls Are Not So Lucky
According to the History Channel, Jean Lussier followed in Annie Taylor’s footsteps in 1928 and lived to tell the tale, as did Canadians Peter DeBernardi and Geoffrey Petkovich who went over together in 1989. However many others were not so lucky:
- In 1920 Charles Stephens went over the Falls in a 600-pound oak barrel which was ripped apart by the force of the water, killing Stephens.
- In 1930 George Stathakis went over the Falls in a barrel with his pet turtle Sonny Boy and was caught behind the curtain, running out of air before being rescued. Sonny Boy, who was 105 years old, survived.
- In 1951 Red Hill Jr. plunged over the Falls on a raft. He did not survive.
- In 1990 stuntman Jessie Sharp attempted to go over the Falls in a white water kayak without a helmet or life vest. His body was never found.
- In 1995 Robert Overacker died going over the Falls on a jet ski
In 1995 Steven Trotter and Lori Martin survived the drop over the Falls together in a barrel but theirs was the last attempt. The Niagara Parks Commission has since refused to issue permits to people who want to plunge over the Falls.
A Balancing Act – Tightrope Walkers and Niagara Falls
According to the History Channel, Jean Francois Gravelet-Blondin (also known as the Great Blondin) successfully executed a series of tightrope walks across the Niagara gorge in the summer of 1859. Blondin is one of many people who have successfully walked across the falls, others include:
- Maria Spelterina (1867)
- Samuel Dixon (1890)
- Clifford Calverly (1892)
- James Hardy (1896)
- Nik Wallenda (2012)
The only tightrope walker believed to have died while crossing the Falls was Stephen Peer who died in 1887. The native Ontarian’s body was discovered a few days after he disappeared in what authorities thought was a failed attempt to cross at night.
Niagara Falls Still Draws Thrill Seekers
Today, many Fallsview thrill seekers still flock to Niagara Falls, but for stunts in more controlled and sanctioned settings. If you want to test your limits, then check out the following thrilling attractions:
- Skydive in a safe environment at Niagara Freefall Indoor Skydiving
- If you want to experience the thrill of skydiving from a plane then check out Skydive Burnaby
- Fly over the Falls in an exhilarating helicopter ride.
- Enjoy the thrill of being over the Falls in the Niagara Skywheel
- Soar over Niagara Gorge in the Whirlpool Aero Car
- Experience the Falls up close with Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours
- Fly without wings on WildPlay Niagara’s Zipline to the Falls
- Try your agility at the new Whirlpool Adventure Course.
If you are visiting our Hotel in Niagara Falls in search of an adrenaline-pumping good time then consider staying at Holiday Inn by the Falls, just steps away from the falls and located next to the famous Skylon Tower, which has its own history as a base jumping hotspot. With one of Holiday Inn’s Packages, you can enjoy discounts at the Skylon Tower restaurant and gift shop.