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On July 5, 1887 the Queen Victoria Park Commission took over jurisdiction of the land along the Niagara River gorge and the decision was made to address the many tragedies that had occurred at the Falls due to stunts and daredevil acts. The Commissioners decided to prohibit rope and wire walkers from anchoring their ropes and wires on the gorge wall. As recently as 1976, the Commission studied the question of tightrope walks across the Niagara Gorge, meeting with representatives of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to jointly review this issue. Their recommendations noted that the original purpose for establishing the Niagara Parks was to remove the growing carnival atmosphere adjacent to the Falls. After consideration of items such as allocation of resources, environmental impact and public safety, both Commissions denied permission for these events. In November 1996, The Niagara Parks Commission denied a request for a proposed skywalk by Jay Cochrane. Commission Chairman Gary Burroughs announced, “The net effect of this type of event is to encourage less qualified individuals to perform stunts or feats that put not only themselves at risk, but also those who may be involved in their rescue.� The Niagara Parks Commission prohibits stunting on all of its properties under the authority granted under Regulations of the Niagara Parks Act. Stunting now carries a maximum fine of $10,000. Following is a chronology from the mid-1800s to 1951, of attempts to go over the Falls in a barrel or some other device, to go through the Class 6 rapids of the Great Gorge, or to walk across on a tightrope. Some of these stunters were successful, others died in their attempt.

photo) into a special harness in a barrel. A small boat towed the barrel out into the main stream of the Niagara River and the barrel was cast loose. The rapids first slammed it one way, then the other, then came the drop and a bone-wrenching jar so violent that Mrs. Taylor was sure she hit rocks. Seventeen minutes after the plunge, the barrel had been tossed close enough to the Canadian shore to be hooked and dragged onto the rocks. Mrs. Taylor was dazed but triumphant and being the first person to conquer the mighty Falls of Niagara, she found the fame she sought so desperately. But fortune was a bit more elusive. Twenty years after her brush with death at Niagara, she died destitute.

BOBBY LEACH (Survived) Bobby Leach, an Englishman, successfully made a trip in an all-steel barrel on July 25, 1911, and then spent 23 weeks in hospital recuperating from numerous fractures and other injuries. Fifteen years later on a lecture tour in New Zealand, he slipped on an orange peel, broke his leg and died of complications from the injury.

ANNIE TAYLOR (Survived) Mrs. Annie Taylor, a 63-year-old schoolteacher, decided that a trip over Niagara Falls was her way to fame and fortune. On October 24, 1901, assistants strapped her (along with her cat, as seen in this

CHARLES STEPHENS (Died) The next barrel stunter to try the Falls was also an Englishman, Charles Stephens. When his heavy oak barrel hit water after the drop over the Falls on July 11, 1920, Stephens went out the bottom. He was killed and only one arm was recovered. >>

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Niagara - Winter/Spring 2016  

Niagara - Winter/Spring 2016