Dropping over Niagara Falls might not be one of them
We have all heard it said “it’s as easy as apple pie”, or “as easy as rolling down a hill in a barrel”.
Maybe it’s not so easy to make an apple pie, and perhaps in some instances not quite a picnic rolling over in a barrel. For over one hundred years now, men and women, for reasons known only to themselves, have thought it a must to roll over in a barrel. Although the barrel we are speaking of has taken many different shapes and the hill it rolls over and down is not a hill at all but rather a water fall that stands over 614 feet in height and spans the borders of two countries. Two of the falls are in the USA and the other in its northern neighbor Canada.
We are speaking of course of the great Niagara Falls.
And we are referring to those individuals who for their own interests have decided to take the over 600 foot ride from top to bottom…and if possible live to tell about it.
On closer examination, the word dare-devil might mean to dare the devil himself to take your life. To dare to do what even the devil would not be crazy enough to try. To ride the waters of Niagara in a barrel or a raft or anything is something even the devil probably swore off as a young man!
Now down to the facts: On October 24, 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. …this was from the American side. She went over in a barrel that was devoid of pressure, (30 pounds psi) and actually made it. Although she did her best to promote herself, this death-defying adventure brought her little fame and less money. She died in poverty.
As for the Canadian side, that was done in 1829. In October, Sam Patch, known as the Yankee Leaper, survived jumping down the 175-foot Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara River, on the Canadian side of the border.
Over the years there have been hundreds of attempts and surprisingly most of the “leapers” have survived to tell the tale. In 1911, Bobby Leach went over on a specially designed barrel. He also lived but broke both knee caps and a rib or two. Years later he slipped on an orange peel while touring Australia and died from gangrene.
Not everyone who’s gone over the falls has been so lucky. On July 11th 1920, Englishman Charles G. Stephens equipped his wooden barrel with an anvil for ballast. Charles tied himself to the anvil for security. After the plunge, Chuck’s right arm was the only item left in the barrel. Oh Well!
In 2003, Kirk Jones went over with the clothes on his back, nothing more. Not only did he make it, but swam to shore and enjoyed a hardy handshake with some of the astonished viewers who watched with bated breath. Since what he did was illegal he had to go to court and was fined $2,300 for his efforts.
According to Wikipedia, about 25% of the daredevil attempts do not end well. There have been over 3,000 bodies located at the bottom of the falls, but many of those are suicides. Objects like barrels, inner tubes, small submarines and egg crates have all been used to make the attempt. There are more men that try it, but the fairer sex has its share of ‘leapers’ as well.
In all it is something that has been ongoing for over a century and still even with police protecting the Falls from both sides sees its share of adventurers every year. Now that income tax season is growing near… “look out below”.