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Level 6 Rapids Niagara Gorge

Graham's Barrel

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.

Last week in the Daredevils of Niagara Falls series, we took a look at the impact of Carlisle Graham’s barrel. Two women made their way down the Niagara Gorge after the man himself, with one surviving and the other (and her little dog, too) not so much.

We’re going to follow Graham’s barrel around a little bit more, today, before moving on. After all, the whole ride-a-barrel-down-the-Gorge thing seemed to become a bit of a fad late in the nineteenth century Niagara Falls tourist industry. Why not “tap” it for more?

Few short entries to deal with here.

William Hazlett and George Potts raced down the Gorge together in the Graham barrel. Both survived the journey, but you have to wonder how hot and gross it was inside that barrel? I wonder if anyone got seasick?

Carlisle Graham, after one of his trips, put up a $10 reward for anyone who retrieved his barrel from the Whirlpools. Some poor, hopeless and ultimately brave man named James Scott agreed, and drowned during a practice jump to gauge the strength of the currents.

Apparently, they were pretty strong. You have to wonder how his ghost feels about that whole thing. If you see it in the Nightmares Fear Factory in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, please ask it for us? Please be tactful; we doubt it’s a pleasant memory for James.

William Kendall did not use a barrel, but swam the Whirpools with only a life preserver. He did survive, somewhat to our surprise.

Making a fashion statement, Lawrence Donovan jumped from the Upper Suspension Bridge wearing canvas shoes, a bowler hat and a suit. The dry-cleaning bill must have been horrendous.

A man named Alphonse “Professor” King used a few neat innovations to stunt his way onto the list. First, he walked on water with a pair of tin shoes that he called “Golden Fish,” which to us seems like a tragic case of misbranding. On the other hand, walking on water might be cool enough to let him get away with it.

King also invented a bicycle with pontoons and paddles that he used to ride across the Gorge one day. Anticlimactically, King survived with none of his gear malfunctioning or exploding, so he was apparently a pretty good inventor.

Charles A. Percy went down the Gorge in a boat, but not all the way. Actually, Percy’s boat got stuck in the Whirlpools.

He was trying to get to Lewiston, New York, and hadn’t managed it so he tried again a month later. This time, he made it out of the Gorge but was eventually thrown out of the boat somewhere near the Niagara Glen area. He was forced to sheepishly float the rest of the way on his life preserver, and was (while probably a little embarrassed) successful in making it to Lewiston.

As we tend to on the series, we’re going to wrap up with a death in the family.

Robert Flack used a boat to try to navigate the Whirlpools. He claimed to be using a secret buoyant which would stop him from sinking. His secret turned out to be wood shavings in the hull, but he was right—his boat never actually sank. Instead, the Whirlpools capsized him, and due to the large number of harnesses and straps he’d used to tie himself to the boat, he wasn’t able to get himself undone and out before he drowned.

So, two deaths today for the roar of the crowd. Two men dead on this entry, in their attempts to entertain the crowds of Niagara Falls.

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.


1.  Boat Survivors

2.  Man vs Nature

3.  Funambulists

4.  The Barrel Ride Pioneer

5.  Daredevil Anna Taylor

6.  Dixon, Hardy & Webb