History of the Niagara Daredevils

As early as 1800 travel journals were being published outlining all the magnificent features of this new frontier. Hotels were built to handle the influx of visitors to the area. The Pavillion Hotel, The Clifton Hotel and The Prospect Hotel all sprang up along the banks of the mighty Niagara River in the early to mid 1800’s. In 1848 the Suspension Bridge was opened at the Whirlpool Rapids connecting Canada with the U.S and allowing a free flow of visitors from either side of the border. In the year 1850 approximately 60,000 visitors came to Niagara to view the falls. It was only the beginning.

Not all visitors to the falls were there to take in the scenery. Many came to Niagara Falls with the intention of conquering the Mighty Cataract. Some did it for the glory, while others did it for monetary reasons. Some would live to tell the tale, while others would not.

Over the years the faces and names have changed, just as the face of Niagara Falls has changed, but it is the exploits of everyone, regardless of whether they triumphed over the falls or not, that give Niagara Falls its colorful history.

The Niagara Daredevils

Annie Edson Taylor

October 24, 1901 (Survived)

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Bobby Leach

July 25, 1911 (Survived)
Bobby Leach, an Englishman, successfully made the trip over the Falls in an all-steel barrel on July 25, 1911. He then spent six months in the hospital recuperating from his injuries.

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Charles Stephens
July 11, 1920 (Died)
Charles Stephens attempted the plunge in a heavy oak barrel, which failed to contain him once he plummeted over the Falls.

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Jean Lussier
July 4, 1928 (Survived)
A six-foot rubber ball made of 32 inner tubes and a double wall steel frame carried Lussier over the Falls, and allowed him to emerge completely unharmed from the plunge.

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George Stathakis
July 4, 1930 (Died)
George Stathakis survived the trip over the Falls in a 2000-pound contraption of wood and steel, only to perish after becoming trapped behind the curtain of water for 22 hours. There was only 3-hours of oxygen supply in the barrel.

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Red Hill, Jr.
August 5, 1951 (Died)
Red Hill Jr.’s flimsy contraption of 13 inner tubes held together with fishnet and canvas straps began to disintegrate even before he reached the brink. What was left by the time the contraption hit the bottom was not enough to shield Hill from the ravaging effects of the Falls.

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Nathan T. Boya
July 15, 1961 (Survived)
Nathan T. Boya copied Lussier’s “Rubber Ball” and successful journeyed over the Falls in it. The Nathan T. Boya “Plunge-o-sphere” is on display in the Daredevil Gallery.

Karl Soucek
July 3, 1984 (Survived)
Soucek was the first Canadian to go over the Horseshoe Falls. The plunge took 3.2 seconds in his bright red barrel, but he was trapped for 45 minutes in the dangerous waters below the Falls, before being rescued by Niagara Parks Police.

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Steven Trotter
August 18, 1985 (Survived)
22-year-old Trotter became the youngest man to survive the plunge in his homemade rubber barrel. When asked to describe the plunge he commented, “It was like dropping in an elevator except without a cable.”

David Munday
October 5, 1985 (Survived)
Munday attempted to plunge over he Falls in a 394 steel barrel. The barrel became stuck on the brink of the Falls He was fished out of the swirling waters by Niagara Parks Police who fined him $4000 for attempting to perform a stunt without approval.

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Peter Deberhardi/Jeffrey Petkovich
September 27, 1989 (Survived)
These two daredevils went over the Falls head to head in the same barrel, but were fined $500 for performing a stunt in the Niagara Parks without permission.

Jessie W. Sharp
June 5, 1990 (Died)
This daredevil attempted to ride over the brink of the Horseshoe Falls in a 12 foot 8 in long, 36 lb. polyethylene kayak. He refused to wear a helmet so that he remained recognizable to the people filming him. His body was never recovered.



David Munday
September 26, 1993 (Second Trip – Survived)

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Steven Trotter/Lori Martin
June 18, 1995 (Survived)
These two friends went over the Falls in a 12 foot barrel, weighing about 900 pounds and made from two pieces of hot water heater tanks welded together and coated with Kevlar. The barrel became lodged in a rock crevice before it went over the falls and the pair had to be rescued. Both were fined for stunting.

Robert Overacker
October 1, 1995 (Died)
This daredevil attempted going over the Falls on a single jet ski. At the brink he attempted to discharge a rocket-propelled parachute on his back, but it failed to open, and he perished in the thundering waters.