Many visitors to Niagara Falls are fascinated with the stuntmen (and women) who have plunged down the falls in a rag-tag collection of vessels, to mixed results! If you’re planning to see the falls this year, take a break from looking for the best Niagara Falls hotel and be thankful you’re far more sensible than any of these guys.
The first person to jump the falls was hoping for fame, fortune and a secure retirement. New York teacher Annie Taylor plummeted down the falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901 (her 63rd birthday) and survived. She was instantly dubbed The Queen of the Mist, but despite this title, riches eluded her and she died in poverty in 1921.
Misfortune seems to dog the falls leapers. On July 25, 1911, Bobby Leach braved the falls in a steel barrel, breaking his jaw and both kneecaps. He survived to make a living by telling the tale, until he slipped on an orange peel on tour in New Zealand. His injury became gangrenous and killed him.
On July 11, 1920, Charles G Stephens from England decided to use an anvil for ballast in his wooden barrel before going over the precipice. He also decided to tie himself to the anvil. When rescuers reached the stricken container, they found just his arm. The rest of his body was never recovered.
“Smiling Jean” Lussier chose an altogether safer vehicle – an oversized rubber ball – on July 4, 1928 and survived.
Greek waiter George L Statakis and his pet turtle survived the drop on July 5, 1930, but the airtight container got trapped behind the falls for 14 hours. George died, but the turtle lived.
Nathan Boya tried a ball-like container on June 30, 1961 and survived.
Karel Soucek was the first Canadian to survive the plunge on July 3, 1984. Sadly, he died later that year recreating the stunt in the Houston Astrodome when his barrel hit the side of the water tank.
Steven Trotter rode the falls in an inner-tube wrapped barrel and survived – only to be fined $5,503! He returned on June 18, 1995 with his friend Lori Martin – the first male-female jumpers.
Another Canadian – mechanic John “Super Dave” Munday – lived to tell the tale on October 5 1985 and returned for more on September 26 1993.
The first double descent, featuring Ontario’s Peter de Bernardi and Jeffery James Petkovich – occurred on September 28, 1989.
Robert Overcracker tried to ride a jetski over Horseshoe Falls on October 1, 1995 to raise awareness of homelessness. His parachute didn’t open and he fell to his death. Click here to read more about parachutes.
Michigan’s Kirk Jones was the first to survive the drop with no equipment other than clothes. On October 22, 2003 he entered the water around 100 yards upstream of the drop and was carried over. He sustained some minor bruises, a $2,300 fine and a lifetime ban from Canada. His friend, who should have been filming this amazing feat, was drunk (as was Kirk) and couldn’t work the camcorder so Kirk’s staggering achievement is lost to us forever.