Daredevils of Niagara Falls – Part II

Daredevils of Niagara Falls – Part II

Last year we wrote an article on some of the most famous daredevils of Niagara Falls, but got nowhere near covering all of the adrenaline junkies that have organized some amazing feats at the world renowned Falls. In last years article we mentioned Sam Patch, who drew a crowd of 10,000 spectators to watch him jump off a 125′ high platform into the Niagara River below; Annie Taylor, the first person to plunge over the Falls in a barrel at the age of 63; The Great Blondin, Maria Spelterini and Nik Wallenda, three daredevils who walked tightropes over the Niagara Gorge; and Will Gladd, the first person to ever iceclimb Niagara Falls in the winter of 2015.

Stunning Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada

Although these were all tremendous feats, it’s only fair to pay tribute to some of the other brave souls that have done equally incredible things at Niagara Falls.

The Great Farini

William Hunt, known better by his stage name of The Great Farini, was a tightrope walker who was considered to be Blondins greatest rival. Although he never reached the same levels of fame as did Blondin, The Great Farini did some crazy stunts while walking a tightrope across the Niagara Gorge.

Farini completed his first tightrope walk across the falls on  August 5th 1960. Instead of simply walking on the tightrope, however, he included some additional tricks to his stunt. When he got to the mid-point of the rope, he tied his balancing pole to the rope, using it to lower himself 61 meters below to the deck of the Maid of the Mist where he drank a glass of wine before making his way back up to the tightrope. Upon getting back up to the tightrope, Farini walked back to safety wearing baskets on his feet and with a blindfold covering his eyes.

tightrope walking across the falls

Some other death defying stunts that Farini completed while crossing the Niagara Gorge include balancing on his head in the middle of the rope, hanging upside down from the tightrope by his toes, carrying people on his back and washing handkerchiefs in a washtub that he carried out to the middle of the tightrope.

Clinker Built Boat Down the River

On September 15th 1888, a nineteen year old by the name of Walter Campbell decided to attempt going through the Whirlpool Rapids of the Niagara River in a small clinker built boat with his dog. Using an oar to guide the boat into the middle of the river, Campbell quickly approached the ferocious rapids. As the boat made it’s way into the rapids, Campbell’s dog was thrown into the water drowning almost right away.

Campbell quickly realized he was out of control as the boat began to fill with water, eventually breaking into pieces from the force of the rapids. As he was launched into the water, Campbell tried to swim against the current to avoid being swallowed by the Whirlpool Rapids but to no avail. Luckily he was able to swim to the Canadian shoreline where he was rescued, most likely due to the life preserver he was wearing.

Swimming through the Whirlpool Rapids

An experienced sailor and exceptional swimmer by the name of Captain Matthew Webb, who had many recognized swimming achievements such as swimming through the English channel, had the idea of swimming through the Niagara Whirlpool Rapids. If he was successful, he was not only guaranteed fame, but also promised a $2000 reward.

Blurred motion of Class six rapids in river by White Water Walk near whirlpool rapids at Niagara Falls

On July 24th 1883, Webb began his attempt by jumping out of a boat on the Niagara River, swimming towards the might Whirlpool Rapids. Unfortunately the extreme force of the rapids was too much for Webb to handle as he was sucked under water, only resurfacing 4 days later downstream near Queenston.

Barrel Ride Through the Rapids

Carlisle Graham, a well known barrel maker was the first to do a barrel type stunt in the Niagara region. On July 11th 1886, Graham made a specially designed air tight barrel which he would use to ride through the Whirlpool Rapids. The trip took about 30 minutes after which Graham said he became very nauseous but was determined to do it again.

On August 19th 1886, Graham made his second barrel trip through the rapids, only this time with his head remaining outside of the barrel during the trip, which caused him to become hearing impaired. After this, he completed two more successful trips and one nearly fatal one, while also saying that he would ride a barrel over the falls. Now we know where Annie Taylor got the idea from.

Flying Under the Niagara Falls Bridge

Lincoln Beachy was an American pilot who did something no one had done before him. On June 28th 1911, Beachy flew a plane over Niagara Falls, circling the area several times before diving down through the mist and into the gorge. Flying at about 6 meters above the river at a speed of 80 km/h, Beachy continued his path over the Niagara River flying under the arch of the Niagara Falls Bridge, being the first person to ever fly a plane under this bridge.

niagara falls rainbow bridge view

Surviving a Plunge Over the Falls

This story is not of a daredevil attempt, but more of an accident which turned out to be a miracle, making it worth mentioning along side all of these daredevils of Niagara Falls. On July 9th 1960, a 7 year old boy named Roger Woodward and his 17 year old sister Deanne were on a boat ride on the upper Niagara River with James Honeycutt, a close family friend. When they were about 1.5 km’s away from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, Honeycutt decided to turn to boat around only to find that the motor had ceased to function.

As Honeycutt began to row toward shore, he instructed the children to put on their life vests. The power of the river was too strong causing the boat to capsize. Deanne somehow managed to hold on to the boat and was drifted toward Goat Island where she was pulled ashore by some tourists. Roger and Honeycutt remained in the ferocious rapids until they ended up getting pulled over the brink of the falls.

Magnificently, Rogers life vest brought him to the surface where he was rescued by the Maid of the Mist only reported to have minor scrapes and bruises. Unfortunately Honeycutt was not so lucky, drowning at the bottom of the falls.