Daredevils of Niagara Falls- Chapter 3
We continue our look at the daredevils of Niagara Falls here at the Nightmares Fear Factory in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. We tip our hat to them, and in honor of their memory we invite you into the depths of the Fear Factory itself, where you might yourself feeling some of the same things that those men felt, high up and alone over the Niagara Falls.
It’s just that you’ll be creeping through the dark and cold halls of the Nightmares Fear Factory, instead.
Henry Bellini, who did his tightrope act across the Niagara River on August 25th 1873, combined his use of the tightrope trope with a great leap down into the madly churning Niagara River.
He would repeat the trick three times in one year, but mortality would gradually catch up with him as it tends to do with all of us. In 1886, Bellini jumped into the river but had to be rescued by his waiting rescue staff—he was recovered from the river unconscious, and with broken ribs, but alive.
Bellini’s ghost would not, despite that omen, wind up wandering Niagara Falls—where you might have been able to meet it somewhere down in the Nightmares Fear Factory—but would, as some say ,wind up wandering the waters below a bridge in London after he jumped to his death in 1888.
Another daredevil would also perfect the jumping into the Niagara River from a high point in the gorge. Captain J D Rhodes would construct a ninety-foot tall platform from which to make the jump on June 26th 1878.
Unfortunately, for Captain Rhodes who had bragged repeatedly that he was going to swim the Niagara Rapids, the Daily Gazette which was a local newspaper on the New York side noted that Captain Rhodes actually failed to follow through on a promise nor did they believe the swim was even possible. The captain made claims that he had invented a special armour to help him make the swim but no one has ever seen him wear or test the armour. He claimed he would complete the test with a man-equivalent weight on his armour to test it—at one point even saying that that weight would be a live dog which he was confident would survive the attempt. Needless to say that was not met with approval.
The Gazette article on Captain Rhodes is harsh, but anyone who has jumped from a ninety-foot platform probably deserves some leeway no matter what they landed in. On the other hand, threatening a dog with a swim through the rapids so you don’t have to do it yourself seems unbefitting of an honourable captain.
Our last daredevil for today, Stephen Peer, would make his first appearance in the public eye as an assistant to the first-mentioned Henry Bellini.
That job didn’t last long, however, as Peer would attempt to use his employer’s equipment without permission for a crossing of the Niagara Gorge all by himself. As an amusing side -note, Bellini found out during the unauthorized performance and tried to cut the rope while the young Peer was walking across it, but he was intercepted by the crowd and subsequently chased out of town.
After this walk Peer would perform a very successful river crossing- he stretched his 5/8 of an inch wire across the gorge between the then standing Michigan Central and Great Western Bridges. The stunt was witness by thousands of cheering onlookers.
Unfortunately, 3 days later Stephen Peer’s corpse was recovered from the banks of the Niagara River, from where it lay directly beneath his tightrope, stretched from side to side of the gorge.
Rumours about his demise ran rampant. Some claimed he had committed suicide, others were screaming it was murder and the most whispered rumour was that he had attempted a night crossing after an evening spent drinking with friends, and had paid the ultimate price for it.
So, the week’s daredevil stories wrap up, and we at the Nightmares Fear Factory salute the brave men and women who brought such horror and danger to the Niagara Falls in hopes of creating everlasting memories and engaging spectacles.
Just like we try to do.
Come visit us at the Nightmares Fear Factory, where the ghosts of the fallen daredevils may well be waiting to meet you too.