The Barrel Brigade is the nickname given to those individuals who have attempted to go over Niagara Falls
in, you guessed it, barrels or metal containers. Crazy as this seems, many have chosen to brave the rush of thousands of gallons of water at a place called Horseshoe Falls - about a 170 foot drop. About 15 of these adventurers (read nuts) have attempted to go over Horseshoe falls in such a manner since 1901
. Here's some of their brief stories of success and failure.
Annie Edson Taylor
Had the distinction of not only being the first woman to go over the Falls but the first person. Annie was a widower when she arrived in Niagara Falls in 1901. She was sixty three years old (she claimed she was forty two) and saw the stunt as a way to, what else, make some money. She hired a manager and braved the Falls on 10/24/01 in a barrel she designed herself. She survived, but "the heroine of Horseshoe Falls", as she was nicknamed, didn't end up with the expected financial windfall. She wound up working as a street vendor in the town of Niagara and died broke.
The first man to attempt to go over the falls on July 11, 1920. He takes the plunge in a 600 pound oak barrel. The force of the water rips the barrel to shreds and Stephens is killed. His right arm is the only part of him that was recovered.
The third person to go over the Falls. Lussier takes his plunge on July 4, 1928. He shows his disdain for the barrel by going over the Falls inside a six foot rubber ball lined with oxygen filled rubber tubes. He survives and later supplements his income by selling pieces of the ball's rubber tubes.
George takes the plunge in a ten foot, one ton wooden barrel on July 4, 1930. Due to the strength of the Falls, his barrel is caught in a small space behind the falls for fourteen hours. Sadly, he had only enough air to survive for three of them. He died before the barrel was freed. On a happier note, his 105 year old pet turtle, Sonny Boy, who took the plunge with him, survived the trip.
Red Hill Jr.
Old Red was the son of a prominent Niagara Falls family. His father, Red Hill Sr. had earned a permanent place in local history as that of a consummate "riverman". During Red Sr's lifetime, he helped pulled 177 bodies from the river. In addition, Red Sr. had braved going over another area of the Falls that goes by the name of Whirlpool Rapids three times during his life. Not to be outdone, Red Jr decided to take the family "tradition" one step further. He attempted to brave Horseshoe Falls in a contraption he called "the thing". It was actually a raft constructed of thirteen inner tubes tied together with rope and enclosed in a fish net. Soon after Red Jr took the plunge on August 5, 1951, the raft's inner tubes began popping to the surface. Alas, there was no sign of Red. His badly bruised body was not recovered until the next day.
Jessie Sharp & Robert Overacker
Jessie Sharp was trying to advance his career as a stuntman. He chose to go over the Falls on June 5, 1990 in a white water kayak. Jessie tried to enhance the stunt by not wearing a life vest or a helmet. His body was never recovered.
Five years later and not one to be outdone, Robert Overacker tried to go over the Falls on a jet ski. He was the fifteenth person to try and purposely make it over the Falls. He died, his body was recovered by the Maid of the Mist, a ferryboat that takes visitors to the foot of the Falls for a closer look.
Stephen Trotter & Lori Martin
Last but not least, Trotter & Martin became the first man and woman tandem to go over the Falls together in one barrel on June 18, 1995. In 1985, Trotter had made the trip himself in a vessel that consisted of two pickle barrels enclosed in large inner tubes.