|American side of the falls switched off for repairs|
|Captain Matthew Webb|
|Maid of the Mist|
As one comes so close to such a mighty force of nature and is reminded of the insignificance of man, one has to contemplate the mindset of those who would play games with it. What makes someone want to walk above the falls on a tightrope or to go over the edge in a barrel? The one word answer to that question seems to be "money".
|Annie Edson Taylor|
The first recorded case of someone going over the falls in a barrel occurred in 1901, when Annie Edson Taylor tried it. Annie certainly did it for the money. She was 63 at the time and had been wiped out financially. Once a school teacher, she became a dancing instructor, but ran out of students as she became older. Needing to provide for her old age, she decided to go over the falls in a barrel. She had a wood and iron barrel specially made for her. She put a mattress inside for protection. She had a cat called Iagara, whom she put alone into the barrel before giving the barrel a test run over the falls. Iagara survived, although there is no record of Iagara's opinion of these events. Certainly Iagara did not accompany its mistress, when she tried it herself a few days later. Annie stepped into the barrel holding her lucky heart-shaped pillow. Friends screwed down the lid, even though they were all terrified of being indicted for assisting her suicide. Then they pumped compressed air into the barrel with a bicycle pump and stuck a cork into the hole used for this. Then they dropped the barrel into the Niagara River just upstream of the falls. The barrel went over the Canadian falls, after which Annie was discovered to be alive with only minor injuries. Her plans to make a fortune on subsequent speaking tours were hampered by the fact that her manager ran off with the barrel. However, Iagara stuck around and is to be seen posing with Annie in souvenir photographs. Annie never made much money from all this and died 20 years later at the age of 83. Today the internet is awash with money making schemes, but this is certainly not one of them. Indeed, trying this in 2009 will attract a very heavy fine and perhaps jail time. Despite this, over a dozen people have tried it since Annie. Some died. Some survived. Yet Annie was the first.
This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on April 1, 2009.