Besides the natural beauty and excellent entertainment, Niagara Falls is known the world over for one thing: daredevils. For many people, Niagara Falls just begs to be tumbled over, and history gives us countless accounts of the wise and winsome souls who took the challenge. Modern authorities prefer thrill seekers find their wet and wild Niagara fun elsewhere, but it is still fun and entertaining to read about those who chose a more dangerous activity for their Niagara vacations.
1. Annie Edison Taylor
Responsible for kicking off the cultural conception of surviving a drop in a wooden barrel, Annie Edison Taylor was the first person ever to go over the Falls. In 1901, the 63-year-old daredevil chose a pickle barrel as her vessel, and was padded only by compressed air from a bike pump and her “lucky” pillow. Taylor plummeted down Horseshoe Falls and bobbed for no less than 17 minutes until she was scooped up past the American border. Despite living through her amazing feat with barely a scratch, Taylor found little monetary gain from her fame and cautioned others against copying her.
2. Bobby Leach
Nearly a decade after Taylor’s death-defying stunt, Englishman Bobby Leach chose to replicate her and then some. Leach wanted to survive not one, but three fantastic feats: traversing the whirlpool rapids in a barrel, parachuting off the suspension bridge, and plummeting from the Falls in a barrel.
Leach chose not a wooden pickle barrel but a specially designed eight-foot steel drum, in which he broke both his kneecaps and fractured his jaw during the ordeal. Not to be defeated by Niagara, later in his life he attempted to swim through the whirlpool rapids, only to require rescue from a river man, Red Hill.
3. Red Hill Jr.
After Leach, a string of unsuccessful daredevils died in the Niagara River and Falls attempting more stunts. Red Hill, Jr., son of Leach’s rescuer Red Hill, helped his father recover bodies from the river, and thus fully understood the power and danger inherent in the rushing water. Still, in an attempt to gain fortune and fame, in 1951, Hill constructed a vessel he named “The Thing” out of various inner tubes to keep him afloat after the plunge. Unfortunately, the Thing and Hill’s body were recovered the next day. This death prompted the creation of laws against daredevilry in any of the Niagara parks.
4. John (Dave) Munday
Despite the legislation, plenty of individuals continued to rush to the Falls to prove their mettle. Proud of his accomplishments as a skydiving instructor and pilot, Dave Munday believed himself capable of surviving the plunge despite the regulations. He managed to survive the stunt in a red aluminum barrel in 1985. He was fined $1,500 for his actions. Still, one tumble simply wasn’t enough for Munday, and in 1993 he completed a second fall in a renovated diving bell. Munday was knocked unconscious during the plunge, but a tourist vessel, the Maid of the Mist, was able to rescue him.