Local History Digital Exhibits
The lure of conquering the Horseshoe Falls has enticed a wide variety of risk-takers. Barrels, rubber tires, kayaks and even jet-skis have been used by adventurers in their quest for fame and fortune.
William Fitzgerald alias Nathan Boya became the first African-American to go over the Horseshoe Falls on July 15, 1961.He travelled in a large rubber ball which was fully six feet in diameter. He suffered a few minor cuts and bruises and duly paid his fine of $113.
Peter DeBernardi & Jeffrey Petkovich
Peter DeBernardi and Jeffrey Petkovich suffered only cuts and bruises after plunging over the Horseshoe Falls in a home-made barrel and becoming the first double stunters, September 28th 1989. "What a ride, what a ride" exclaimed DeBernardi as they exited the barrel, according to the Niagara Falls Review.
Red Hill Jr
William "Red" Hill Jr, son of the famous Riverman Red Hill, died attempting to go over the Horseshoe Falls in a flimsy contraption of inner tubes and netting. His body was recovered the next day, August 6, 1951.
Bobby Leach born in Cornwall, England was a circus stuntman. How he arrived in North America we do not know. His goals were to complete a "triple challenge" of the Falls and the Niagara River.
· a barrel trip through the Rapids to the Whirlpool
· a barrel trip over the Falls
· a parachute jump from the Upper Suspension Bridge into the River, just upstream from the Rapids
In the summer of 1910 he made his first attempt, but became stuck in a eddy in the Whirlpool and had to be rescued by the famous Niagara Riverman "Red Hill Senior". On July 25, 1911 he made the trip successfully, but not undamaged. He received two broken knee caps and a broken jaw. His became the first successful navigation of the Falls. He returned to Niagara Falls in the 20s for his final stunt, parachuting off the Upper Suspension Bridge. Rumour has it that he did not parachute from the Bridge but rather from a plane and that the wind forced him to land in a corn field in Canada. While visiting New Zealand, Bobby Leach slipped on an orange peel, fracturing his leg. Gangrene set in and Bobby Leach died on April 26, 1926.
Joseph Albert Lussier, alias Jean Lussier was French-Canadian. In 1928 he went over the Horseshoe Falls in a very large and heavy rubber ball built around a steel frame. He survived and became part of the lecture circuit speaking about his adventure.
John "David" Munday
In July 1985 John "David" Munday of Caistor Centre attempted to go over the Horseshoe Falls in a barrel, he was foiled by Niagara Parks Police. On October 5 1985 he succeeded and became the 10th person to go over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. He attempted the stunt again on September 27 1993 and became the first man to accomplish the feat twice.
Jeffrey "Clyde" Petkovich
Jeffrey "Clyde" Petkovich and Peter DeBernardi suffered only cuts and bruises after plunging over the Horseshoe Falls in a home-made barrel and becoming the first double stunters, September 28th 1989. "What a ride, what a ride" exclaimed DeBernardi as they exited the barrel, according to the Niagara Falls Review.
On June 5 1990 Jesse Sharp attempted to kayak over the Horseshoe Falls. He was unsuccessful. His kayak was recovered at the base of the Falls on the Canadian side in almost perfect condition. A paddle was recovered on the American side.
On June 11th 1977, Karel Soucek made a successful trip through the Whirlpool Rapids in a barrel. On July 2 1984 Karel Soucek of Hamilton, Ontario made a successful plunge over the Horseshoe Falls yet again in a barrel. Soucek suffered only minor injuries. He died less than a year later performing a stunt at the Houston Astrodome.
George L. Stathakis was 46 years old and from Buffalo. His intention was to make money by selling the movie rights to his trip over the Horseshoe Falls in a barrel. Also along for the ride was his pet turtle "Sonny Boy". "Sonny Boy" survived but George, alas, did not. The trip on July 5, 1930 was successful but the sheer force of the water kept the barrel submerged and the limited oxygen supply ran out.
Annie Edson Taylor
On Thursday October 24, 1901 Annie Taylor became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She was a widowed schoolteacher from Michigan, desperate for money. It was her 46th birthday (she said), but it is now believed that she was in her sixties. She made the journey relatively unscathed, just one small cut on her forehead. Unfortunately for Annie she was not a success on the speaking circuit and her dreams of making enough money to pay her debts did not materialize. She died a pauper in 1921.
Steven Trotter jammed himself into a pickle barrel Sunday September 18th 1985 and became the 9th person to go over the Horseshoe Falls and survive. The Niagara Falls Review said "Trotter emerged from his home-made rubber barrel moments after making the 55 metre (180 feet drop) at 8:03 a.m.. Mr. Trotter was uninjured except for a small scratch on his right arm..." On June 18th 1995 Trotter with Lori Martin became the first male-female duo to go over the Falls in a barrel. They suffered only minor scratches and bruises. Trotter said he did the stunt as a Father's day gift .