More Nutters Who Have Gone Over The Falls
After watching the film about Niagara we wandered into the 'Hall of Fame' and saw just how many nutters there were, fascinating though
An Englishman named Bobby Leach successfully made a trip over the falls in a steel barrel and was the first man to ever do so. Leach had been a performer with the Barnum and Bailey Circus and was no stranger to stunting. Prior to his trip over the falls he owned a restaurant on Bridge Street and would boast to customers that anything Annie could do…he could do better. On the 25th of July 1911 he took the plunge over the falls and spent the next six months recuperating in hospital from various fractures and contusions he suffered during his ordeal. After surviving the plunge he went on to make a good living by touring vaudeville theatres and lecture halls, recounting his harrowing experience, and displaying his barrel. Leach returned to Niagara Falls, New York in 1920 and operated a pool hall. While in his sixties he attempted to swim the whirlpool rapids but failed after several attempts. During these aborted attempts, Bobbie Leach was rescued by Red Hill Sr., a riverman, who knew the Falls well. Red Hill Sr. would also become well known in the area for later rescues, and a son, Red Hill Jr (below). would also attempt a journey over the brink. Unlike Annie Taylor before him, Bobby Leach attained some success from his endeavour. For several years he toured Canada, the US and England, recounting his harrowing journey at vaudeville shows and lecture halls, exhibiting his barrel and posing for pictures. Luck would run out for Bobby Leach fifteen years later, when he slipped on an orange peel and broke his leg while on a lecture tour in New Zealand. Unfortunately the first man to ever brave the Mighty Niagara and live to tell the tale succumbed to complications from his injury.
In October 1829, Sam Patch, who called himself "the Yankee Leapster", jumped from a high tower into the gorge below the falls and survived; this began a long tradition of daredevils trying to go over the falls. On the 24th of October 1901, Annie Edson Taylor (own blog) was the first person to go over the falls, since Taylor's historic ride, fourteen other people have intentionally gone over the falls in or on a device, despite her advice that "No one should ever do it". Some have survived unharmed, but others have drowned or been severely injured. Survivors of such stunts face charges and stiff fines, as it is illegal, on both sides of the border, to attempt to go over the falls.
Other daredevils have made crossing the Falls their goal, starting with the successful passage by Jean François "Blondin" Gravelet in 1859, carrying his manager Harry Colcord. These tightrope walkers drew huge crowds to witness their exploits. Their wires ran across the gorge, near the current Rainbow Bridge, not over the waterfall itself. Among the many was Ontario's William Hunt, who billed himself as "The Great Farini" and competed with Blondin in performing outrageous stunts over the gorge. Englishman Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel, drowned in 1883 after unsuccessfully trying to swim the rapids down river from the falls.
George A. Stathakis lived in Buffalo, New York where he worked as a chef after emigrating from Greece. He was 46 years old and a bachelor when he made the decision to go over the falls in a barrel. He hoped that the revenue that such a trip would generate could be used towards the publication of his books on metaphysical experiences. With the help of some of his friends George set about building a massive barrel made of wood and steel. Ten feet long and over 5 ft. in diameter, George had been previously warned by Red Hill Sr. that the barrel was too big and heavy, weighing nearly a ton. On the 5th of July 1930 George Stathakis, along with his pet turtle Sonny took the plunge over the falls. His barrel would survive the ride, relatively unscathed, but would be caught behind the falls for over twenty hours. When finally the barrel was recovered George Stathakis was dead, apparently suffocated. His pet turtle Sonny, believed to be 150 years old, had miraculously survived the trip. Of all the barrels to go over the falls, George Stathakis’s barrel was the only one to become held up behind the falls. Perhaps the massive barrel that Mr. Stathakis thought would protect him from harm actually contributed to his death.
On the 2nd of July 1984, Canadian Karel Soucek from Hamilton, Ontario successfully plunged over the Horseshoe Falls in a barrel with only minor injuries. Soucek was fined $500 for performing the stunt without a license. In 1985, he was fatally injured while attempting to re-create the Niagara drop at the Houston Astrodome. His aim was to climb into a barrel hoisted to the rafters of the Astrodome and to drop 180 feet (55 m) into a water tank on the floor. After his barrel released prematurely, it hit the side of the tank and he died the next day from his injuries.
On the 18th of August 1985, Steve Trotter, an aspiring stunt man and part-time bartender from Rhode Island, became the youngest person ever (age 22) and the first American in 25 years to go over the falls in a barrel. He built his barrel from two Greek pickle barrels. It was reinforced with fiberglass and wood and was padded with inner tubes. He padded the inside with the material that the military uses to pack nuclear warheads. Inside the barrel, he had a two-way radio and a SCUBA tank for air. Ten years later, Trotter went over the falls again, becoming the second person to go over the falls twice and survive. It was also the second-ever "duo"; Lori Martin joined Trotter for the barrel ride over the falls. They survived the fall but their barrel became stuck at the bottom of the falls, requiring a rescue. This time, the barrel was made from two hot water heater tanks welded together, coated in Kevlar, and they had air tanks that would supply air for the two of them for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The barrel was reportedly paid for by an investment banker in Florida. It cost $19,000.
On the 28th of September 1989 Niagara's own Peter DeBernardi (42) and Jeffery James Petkovich (25) became the first "team" to successfully make it over the falls in a two person barrel. The stunt was conceived by Peter DeBenardi, who wanted to discourage the youth of the time from following in his path of addictive drug use. Peter was also trying to leave a legacy and discourage his son Kyle Lahey DeBernardi from using addictive drugs. Peter DeBernardi had initially expected to have a different passenger, however Peter's original partner backed out and Peter was forced to look for an alternative, and Jeffery Petkovich agreed to the stunt. Peter claims he spent an estimated $30,000 making his barrel including; harness's steel and fiberglass construction with steel bands and viewing ports. Peter's Barrel also included a radio for music and news reports, rudders to help steer the barrel through the falls, oxygen, and a well protected video camera to record the journey over the edge. They emerged shortly after going over with minor injuries and were charged with performing an illegal stunt under the Niagara Parks Act.
John “Dave” Munday was born in Caistor Centre, a small farming community in Southern Ontario in 1937. A diesel mechanic by trade Munday was also an accomplished skydiving instructor with over 1,400 jumps to his credit, as well as a helicopter pilot. John David Munday also had an obsession with Niagara Falls, and for many years had thought about going over the falls in a barrel. On the 28th of July 1985 at around one o’clock in the afternoon Munday launched a silver and red aluminum barrel from the Canadian shoreline about two miles from the brink of the falls. Unfortunately Mr. Munday was seen by a Niagara Parks Police officer, who quickly alerted Ontario Hydro. Within minutes the water level was dropped by over five feet marooning Munday’s barrel. That fall Munday returned to Niagara Falls to fulfill his quest. Early on the morning of the 5th of October 1985 a truck containing the barrel of Dave Munday, with Munday already inside, pulled up to the shore of the Niagara River near the American Falls. The barrel was quickly launched into the river within one hundred and fifty yards of the brink of the American Falls and within seconds it had disappeared beneath the bubbling foaming waters of the Upper Niagara. A small plexiglass window would allow Munday to videotape his ride over the falls. Munday survived his trip over the falls and was rescued 90 minutes later. Dave Munday was not content with his new found fame. On the 26th of September 1987 police discovered a six foot long barrel with the name “Dave Munday” inscribed on the side. Apparently Munday was going to attempt to challenge the Great Gorge Rapids and Whirlpool. His efforts however, were thwarted by the Niagara Parks Police. A second attempt at challenging the falls also came to an abrupt end when low morning water levels stranded his barrel in the rocks above the falls. Dave Munday was not a man to take defeat lightly and he would return to Niagara Falls several years later to challenge the falls once again. On the 27th of September 1993 John "David" Munday became the first known person to survive going over the falls twice.
Kirk Jones of Canton, Michigan became the first known person to survive a plunge over the Horseshoe Falls without a flotation device on the 20th of October 2003. While it is still not known whether Jones was determined to commit suicide, he survived the 16-story fall with only battered ribs, scrapes, and bruises. A second person survived an unprotected trip over the Horseshoe Falls on the 11th of March 2009 and when rescued from the river, was reported to be suffering from severe hypothermia and a large wound to his head. His identity has not been released. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the man intentionally enter the water.
ALL IN ALL GLAD THERE ARE PEOPLE MADDER THAN ME
NUTCASES, BRAVE BUT UTTERLY MAD