Jumps And Plunges Over Niagara Falls
Jumps and Plunges Over Niagara Falls
Jumps and plunges
On October 24, 1901, 63-year-old Michigan 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 ought ever do that again.” Prior to Taylor’s attempt, on October 19 a domestic cat named Iagara was sent over the Horseshoe Falls in her barrel to test its strength. Contrary to rumours at the time, the cat survived the plunge unharmed and later posed with Taylor in photographs. Since Taylor’s historic ride, 14 people have intentionally gone over the falls in or on a device, despite her advice. Some have survived unharmed, but others have drowned or been severely injured. Survivors of such stunts face charges and stiff fines, as it is illegal, on both sides of the border, to attempt to go over the falls.
In 1918, there was a near disaster when a barge, known locally as the Niagara Scow, working upriver broke its tow, and almost plunged over the falls. Fortunately, the two workers on board saved themselves by grounding the vessel on rocks just short of the falls.
In the “Miracle at Niagara”, Roger Woodward, a seven-year-old American boy, was swept over the Horseshoe Falls protected only by a life vest on July 9, 1960, as two tourists pulled his 17-year-old sister Deanne from the river only 20 feet (6 m) from the lip of the Horseshoe Falls at Goat Island. Minutes later, Woodward was plucked from the roiling plunge pool beneath the Horseshoe Falls after grabbing a life ring thrown to him by the crew of the Maid of the Mist boat.
On July 2, 1984, Canadian Karel Soucek from Hamilton, Ontario successfully plunged over the Horseshoe Falls in a barrel with only minor injuries. Soucek was fined $500 for performing the stunt without a license. In 1985, he was fatally injured while attempting to re-create the Niagara drop at the Houston Astrodome. His aim was to climb into a barrel hoisted to the rafters of the Astrodome and to drop 180 feet (55 m) into a water tank on the floor. After his barrel released prematurely, it hit the side of the tank and he died the next day from his injuries.
In August 1985, Steve Trotter, an aspiring stunt man from Rhode Island, became the youngest person ever (age 22) and the first American in 25 years to go over the falls in a barrel. Ten years later, Trotter went over the falls again, becoming the second person to go over the falls twice and survive. It was also the second-ever “duo”; Lori Martin joined Trotter for the barrel ride over the falls. They survived the fall but their barrel became stuck at the bottom of the falls, requiring a rescue.
On September 28, 1989, Niagara’s own Peter DeBernardi (age 42) and Jeffery James Petkovich (age 25) became the first “team” to successfully make it over the falls in a two-person barrel. The stunt was conceived by Peter DeBenardi, who wanted to discourage youth from following in his path of addictive drug use. Peter was also trying to leave a legacy and discourage his son Kyle Lahey DeBernardi (age 2) from using addictive drugs. Peter DeBernardi had initially planned to have a different passenger. However, Peter’s original partner backed out, and Peter was forced to look for an alternative. Jeffery Petkovich agreed to attempt the stunt with him. Peter claims he spent an estimated $30,000 making his barrel, made of steel and fiberglass, which had harnesses, reinforcing steel bands, and viewing ports. Peter’s barrel also had a radio for music and news reports, rudders to help steer the barrel through the falls, oxygen, and a well-protected video camera to record the journey over the edge. They emerged shortly after going over with minor injuries and were charged with performing an illegal stunt under the Niagara Parks Act.
On September 27, 1993 John “David” Munday, of Caistor Centre, Ontario, became the first known person to survive going over the falls twice.
Kirk Jones of Canton, Michigan became the first known person to survive a plunge over the Horseshoe Falls without a flotation device on October 20, 2003. While it is still not known whether Jones was determined to commit suicide, he survived the 16-story fall with only battered ribs, scrapes, and bruises.
A second person survived an unprotected trip over the Horseshoe Falls on March 11, 2009 and when rescued from the river, was reported to be suffering from severe hypothermia and a large wound to his head. His identity has not been released. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the man intentionally enter the water.
On May 21, 2012, an unidentified man in his early 40s became the third person to survive an unprotected trip over the Horseshoe Falls. Eyewitness reports indicate that he “deliberately jumped” into the Niagara River after climbing over a railing.
Other daredevils have made crossing the gorge their goal, starting with the successful passage by Jean François “Blondin” Gravelet, who crossed Niagara Gorge in 1859. Between 1859 and 1896 there was a wire-walking craze, and there were frequent feats over the river below the falls. One inexperienced walker was able to slide down his safety rope. Only one man fell to his death, at night and under mysterious circumstances, at the anchoring place for his wire.
These tightrope walkers drew huge crowds to witness their exploits. Their wires ran across the gorge, near the current Rainbow Bridge, not over the waterfall itself. Among the many was Ontario’s William Hunt, who billed himself as “The Great Farini” and competed with Blondin in performing outrageous stunts over the gorge.On three separate occasions Blondin carried his manager, Harry Colcord, on his back – on the final time being watched by the Prince of Wales.
Maria Spelterini walking a tightrope across Niagara Gorge, from the United States to Canada, with her feet in peach baskets, 1876.
In 1876 23-year-old Italian Maria Spelterini was the only woman ever to cross the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope, making four separate crossings over a period of 18 days. On July 12 she crossed wearing peach baskets strapped to her feet, on July 19 blind-folded, on July 22 with her ankles and wrists manacled and finally on July 26. Never performing again at Niagara, her personal life remains a mystery and the date and place of her death are unknown. Tightrope crossings of the falls ended—by law—in 1896, when James Hardy crossed.
On June 15, 2012, high wire artist Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk across the falls in 116 years, after receiving special permission from both governments. The full length of his tightrope was 1,800 feet (550 m). Wallenda crossed near the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, unlike previous walkers who had crossed farther downstream. According to Wallenda, it was the longest unsupported tightrope walk in history. He carried his passport on the trip and was required to present it upon arrival on the Canadian side of the falls.
Movies and television
Already a huge tourist attraction and favorite spot for honeymooners, Niagara Falls visits rose sharply in 1953 after the release of Niagara, a movie starring Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten. Later in the 20th century, the falls was a featured location in 1980s movie Superman II, and was itself the subject of a popular IMAX movie, Niagara: Miracles, Myths and Magic. Much of the episode Return of the Technodrome in the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series take place near the Niagara Falls and its hydroelectric plant.Illusionist David Copperfield performed a trick in which he appeared to travel over the Horseshoe Falls in 1990. The falls, or more particularly, the tourist-supported complex near the Falls, was the setting of the short-lived Canadian television show Wonderfalls in early 2004. More recently, location footage of the falls was shot in October 2006 to portray “World’s End” of the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
Composer Ferde Grofe was commissioned by the Niagara Falls Power Generation project in 1960 to compose the Niagara Falls Suite in honor of the completion of the first stage of hydroelectric work at the falls. Each movement is dedicated to the falls, or to the history of the greater Buffalo region.