The Barrel Brigade
Niagara Falls is known as a premiere Honeymoon destination, this geological wonder is not only one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state of New York, but is also has intrigued many and has prompted thrill seekers to "conquer" the falls in various contraptions from wooden barrels to rubber balls.
From 1901 to 1995, a span of 94 years, 15 people have intentionally challenged Niagara Falls. Five have lost their dare with the devil and did not survive the plunge over the Falls.
The river below Niagara Falls averages 170 feet deep, and those who go over the falls usually hit the bottom of the river before popping back to the surface.
The Barrel Brigade is a group of daredevils firmly entrenched in North American folklore. They are the men and women who have made headlines by an act most people would find inconceivable; choosing to take a ride over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls - sometimes with only inches of wood or metal as protection from the pounding rush of thousands of gallons of water. Interestingly, these adventurers, crazy as they may seem, have never chosen to brave the American Falls - where less flowing water and more jutting rocks make the descent even more dangerous. Read some of their stories below;
Annie Edson Taylor
Not only the first woman, but the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, Taylor was a poor widow when she arrived in Niagara Falls in 1901. the sixty-three year old (although she said she was forty-two) saw the stunt as a way to make money. After hiring a manager, she braved the falls on October 24, 1901, in a barrel she designed herself. She survived, but "the heroine of Horseshoe Falls" didn't end up with the financial windfall she expected. She worked as a Niagara street vendor for twenty years and died penniless.
The third person to go over the falls, Lussier took the plunge on July 4th, 1928, not in a barrel, but inside a six-foot rubber ball that was lined with oxygen-filled rubber tubes. He survived and afterwards made extra money by selling pieces of the ball's rubber tubes.
This adventurer made the plunge in a ten-foot, one ton wooden barrel on July 4, 1930. Sadly, however, Stathakis's barrel was caught behind the falls for fourteen hours. Having only enough air to survive for three hours, Stathakis died before he was rescued, but his 105-year-old pet turtle, Sonny Boy, did survive the trip.
Red Hill Jr
The oldest son of a prominent Niagara Falls area family, Red Jr., went over the falls on August 5, 1951. His father, Red Hill, Sr., had earned a permanent place in history of the falls as its consummate "riverman." Hill Sr. thrice braved the intimidating Whirlpool Rapid below the falls in his own barrel. Red Jr. decided to take the family tradition one step further by braving the Horseshoe Falls on what he called "the thing," a flimsily together with rope and enclosed in fish net. Soon after his plunge, the raft's inner tubes began popping to the surface of the river, but there was no sign of Hill. His bruised body was not recovered until the next day.
Sharp, who hoped to advance his career as a stuntman by going over the falls, chose to attempt the feat on June 5, 1990, in a water kayak with a helmet or a life vest. His body was never recovered. Five years later, Robert Overacker attempted to go over the falls on a jet ski. The fifteenth person since 1901 to purposely try to make it over the fall, Overacker died. His body was recovered by the Maid of the Mist,
the foot of the falls for a closer look.
To see all the attempts over the falls check out this video covering each plunge: