They are 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 chosen not to brave the American Falls—where less flowing water and more jutting rocks make the descent even more dangerous. Fifteen adventurers have braved the Horseshoe Falls since 1901. 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 4, 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 the history of the falls as its consummate “riverman.” In addition to pulling 177 bodies from the river, Hill thrice braved the intimidating Whirlpool Rapids 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 constructed raft made of thirteen inner tubes tied together with rope and enclosed in a 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 white water kayak without 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 falls, Overacker died. His body was recovered by the Maid of the Mist, the ferryboat that takes visitors to the foot of the falls for a closer lo
Steven Trotter and Lori Martin
On June 18, 1995, Trotter and Martin became the first man and woman to go over the falls together in one barrel. In 1985, Trotter had made the trip by himself, in a contraption made of two pickle barrels enclosed in large inner tubes. In 1989, Canadians Peter Debernardi and Geoffrey Petkovich had become the first team to go over the falls together, enclosed face to face in a single barrel. They survived with minor injuries, as did Trotter and Martin.