Getting Up Close with the Great Falls

The movie started with the native legend of the Maid of the Mist, and featured a dramatization of the first sighting of Niagara Falls by European explorers in the 17th century. It also covered all sorts of stories of daredevils and high-wire performance artists that started to make Niagara Falls a tourism attraction from the early 19th century onwards. Even the story of Roger Woodward, the seven year old American boy who was swept over the Horseshoe Falls in a life jacket (the only survivor who went over the Falls without a protective vessel) was told in moving images.

William Red Hunt, another famous Niagara Falls daredevil


Just outside the Imax Theatre’s screening room is the Daredevil Gallery that features a number of the interesting and diverse vessels that were used by various daredevils to go over the Falls. One of the most famous was a 63-year old school Teacher named Annie Edson Tayler whose story was also told in the Imax movie. Joined by with her cat, she was the first person to go over the Falls for a publicity stunt, in a wooden barrel, cushioned by a big mattress. Unfortunately, her much hoped-for public speaking career never materialized and she died as a pauper.

George Stathakis’ Death Barrel


Other daredevils went over the falls in metal barrels of all shapes and sizes, with varying results. Some arrived on the other side of the big cascade virtually unharmed, while others suffocated or died of internal injuries. It was indeed rather eerie to see some of the actual vessels that were used in unsuccessful attempts to go over the Falls. One of the most gruesome exhibits is the “George Stathakis Death Barrel” that was used in an unsuccessful attempt in 1930 when its passenger suffocated after being trapped in turbulent water behind the Falls for 22 hours. Today such daredevil stunts are actually outlawed and anyone ever attempting to go over the Niagara Falls would surely face hefty fines.

Annie Taylor started it all – the first person to go over Niagara Falls alive


To continue with the Niagara Falls historic theme my next visit was to the “Skylon The Falls 3D/4D Movie”, a movie theatre located at the base of the Skylon Tower that recounts the Niagara Falls story from a more fantasy-based angle. Special effects include gusts of air, sprays of water and moving seats that are intended to create a multi-sensory experience of the film.

Approaching the Canadian Horseshoe Falls


It was time to continue my exploration of Niagara Falls, but I had to get closer. So I walked down Murray Street and turned right onto the Niagara Parkway, walking right next to the mighty Niagara River. The weather at this time was grey and chilly, and wet snow was falling. I was glad to take refuge in the Table Rock Centre, the shopping and restaurant complex right next to the edge of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls which was currently under renovation. Most of the souvenir shops and fast food outlets were open and I had a quick pizza and a charming conversation with five British ladies that were in Niagara Falls for a quick pre-Christmas getaway, their first time in Canada. They seemed to have a pretty jolly old time in Canada and took the clammy weather in strides – they were probably used to it.

Standing right on the edge of the precipice

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