Many have tried to beat the falls. The results have been mixed …
Throughout history, daredevils have attempted to conquer the deadly torrent that is Niagara Falls. Some have gone over the falls in barrels, others have walked on tightropes stretched across the Niagara Gorge. At least one daredevil used a giant rubber ball to go over the falls. Another chose a jet ski and parachute and still another, a kayak. Some lived. Plenty more died.
In 1901 Annie Taylor and her kitten were the first to go over the falls by barrel. Both were bruised but survived. Bobby Leach followed Annie in 1911. Leach survived but with two broken kneecaps and a fractured jaw. In 1920 Charles G. Stephens wasn’t so lucky; only his tattooed arm survived the plunge. Almost 100 years after Annie Taylor, Lori Martin became only the second woman to survive a barrel attempt when she went over the falls with her stuntman friend, Steve Trotter.
Nine daredevils have tried tightrope walks over the Niagara Gorge. Amazingly, all survived except one. Charles Blondin was the first. He became The Great Blondin after successfully completing his walk in 1859. William Leonard Hunt, aka The Great Farini, was raised in Port Hope, Ontario. He followed his rival Blondin in 1860, then crossed several more times, adding a new trick each time to try and outdo his rival. In 1873, Henry Bellini followed the Great Farini, crossing successfully three times.
Stephen Peer came next, but his problem was he didn’t know when to quit. In 1887, after completing a double crossing, he died attempting a third after a night of heavy drinking. Samuel Dixon did his walk in 1890. Others include Niagara’s only woman tightrope walker, Maria Spelterini. She was just 23 when she completed three walks in 1876. On her first she wore peach baskets on her feet. She was blindfolded on her second and on her third she crossed the gorge with cuffs on her wrists and ankles.
Nik Wallenda is the latest to walk the gorge. He comes from a long line of tightrope walkers known as The Flying Wallendas. Although tragedy has struck his famous family many times, on June 15, 2012 he was successful. He became the first tightrope walker ever to walk directly over the Horseshoe Falls.