Niagara Falls Daredevils

13 junio 2007

From jumpers to barrel riders, Niagara Falls has attracted daredevils for almost 200 years. Officials say that they recover an average of 20 people per year who chose Niagara Falls to commit suicide, but there are those who choose to go over the Falls in the name of adventure. Since 1901, about 20 people have gone over the Falls in search of fame and glory. Many lived to tell the tale, while others perished in the attempt. This is their story.

1. Annie Taylor (1901)

On 24 October 1901, 63-year-old school teacher Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel as a publicity stunt; she survived, bleeding, but virtually unharmed. Soon after exiting the barrel, she said, "No one should ever try that again". However, 14 other people have intentionally gone over the Falls since then, despite her advice. Annie Edson Taylor was famous for a short time but the fortune she sought eluded her. Following her record feat, Taylor managed a meagre living by posing for photographs. Unfortunately, the fortune she hoped to make from a later lecture tour was never realized, as her manager was a con-man who took everything she owned.

2. Bobby Leach (1911)

On July 25, 1911, Bobby Leach became the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, accomplishing the feat. Despite his smile in the photographs, he spent six months in the hospital recovering from injuries he sustained during the fall. Incredibly, Leach later died on a publicity tour in New Zealand from injuries sustained after slipping on an orange peel in the street.

3. George Stathakis (1930)

On July 5th 1930, greek writer George Strathakis rode his barrel over the Horseshoe Falls. The barrel survived undamaged but Strathakis made one very serious miscalculation: he had taken with him an air supply for only eight hours but the barrel became stuck behind the Falls and was held for twenty-two hours before being released. When the barrel was recovered and the lip opened, Strathakis had died of suffocation. Strathakis had taken his fondest friend - pet turtle "Sonny" with him in the barrel. The turtle which was believed to be 150 years old, survived the journey.

4. William "Red" Hill (1931)

One year later, William Red Hill Sr. would ride in Strathakis' barrel through the rapids and the whirlpool. Red Hill Sr. was the foremost expert in the knowledge of the rivers treacherous tides, undertows, whirlpool and eddies. He had grown up near the gorge and it was his playground. During his lifetime, Red Hill Sr. recovered the bodies of one hundred and seventy-seven persons who had died from accidents or suicides.

5. John David Munday (1985, 1993)

Inside his red-and-white steel barrel, Dave Munday tried the Niagara leap several times from 1985 to 1993 and became the most persistent of all the daredevils. He also was the first person to survive the stunt twice. During that time, Niagara Parks Police fined him several times for stunting.

6. Jessie Sharp (1990)

Over these lines, the last picture of Jessie Sharp, who chose to attempt the feat on June 5, 1990, in a white water kayak without a helmet or a life vest. He confidently had dinner reservations downstream, as his plan had been to continue riding the Niagara rapids after he successfully went over the Falls. His body was never recovered.

7. Robert Overacker (1995)

On October 1st 1995, Robert Overacker, a 39-year-old man from California, went over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls on a single jet ski. Entering the Niagara River near the Canadian Niagara Power Plant, he started skiing toward the Falls. At the brink, he attempted to discharge a rocket propelled parachute that was on his back. It failed to discharge. His brother and a friend witnessed the stunt. His body was recovered by a tourists ship.

Pictures courtesy from Niagara Falls Public Library

More info and sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Perhaps you wanna Digg this story