And, with what we know about what happened to the unfortunate souls like Soucek, and others who didn’t survive the plunge, there are others still that completely vanished without a trace. Even in more recent years, when search and safety measures have improved, there are still circumstances in which these people disappear.
Take for instance 1990, when a stuntman from the U.S took on the falls in nothing but a red kayak – which coincidentally, was the only thing that they found after his run. The man was never heard from again.
In 1901, 63-year old Annie Taylor was the first person so survive the barrel ride over the falls. Riding in an airtight wooden barrel with air compressed to 30 psi, she toppled over the edge and emerged with just a few bruises and bumps. Taylor expected her stunt to bring her fame and fortune – and, while it may have brought her some fame, she never saw the fortune she expected.
Annie passed away in poverty, but not before warning others that, “no one ought ever to do that again.” But did they listen? Of course not.
The second person to attempt the barrel stunt at Niagara Falls was Bobby Leach, 10 years after Annie Taylor’s run. Unfortunately, he wound up busting out both of his kneecaps during the trip over. He did survive, however, only to slip on an orange peel and die of gangrene a few years later.
The attempts continued sporadically over the decades, right into the 1980’s, when Karel Soucek survived the stunt. However, he tried to recreate it a few years later during a thrill show at the Houston Astrodome, when the barrel missed the water tank and killed him upon impact.
The disappearances and lost lives in and around the Niagara Falls only continue to show us what Mother Nature is capable of. And yet even still, with all of the warning signs there, humans continued in their attempts to manipulate its natural power and beauty for the advancement of society (and financial gain).
But nothing was shaping out to be as easy as those in charge initially expected. The more they wanted this “makeover,” the more resistance they were met with.
As authorities progressed with the plans for the American Falls, more questions started being raised as to how effective this entire method was even going to be. Some were worried about the differences in how much water would actually be coming over the falls.
After all, the plans were to make it look “more voluminous,” but at the same time, the gallons per second would be greatly reduced. Since this was the first time in history anything like this was being done (to this extent, anyways,) it was very much a learning curb for everyone involved.