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The Michigan Schooner

Man vs Nature- Daredevils in Niagara

It’s daredevil time here at the Nightmares Fear Factory blog from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. If there’s one towering, frightening, mist shrouded monument to the horrors of nature and one place where the bravest souls have tried, succeeded, and sometimes died attempting to wow crowds, it’s the Niagara Falls and the all-powerful Niagara River.

Think about that! The glory, the amazement, and the sometimes-tragedy of the area? It’s remarkable, legendary stuff and it makes the history of Niagara Falls totally tantalizing.

So, there’s that. Isn’t it an inescapable part of the human experience—and the reason that we have such a strong horror genre which lets us write and film and build haunted house experiences and so forth—that the near-death experience, or the fatal event, are fascinating to us?

It’s like watching another fellow human being balance themselves, with the aid of only a pole, on the divide between life and death. How much time they spend there and how far along they walk it without falling is mesmerizing, but be honest with yourselves: how many of you are drawn to the chance of their failure , deep down inside?

We’re going to be doing a series on these people, but we’re going to start with the very first “daredevil” incident to ever occur with respect to going over the Horseshoe Falls.

As the tourist industry began to bloom in the 1820s, and as the countryside began to recover from the ravages of the War of 1812, the three hotels which found themselves on the edge of the Niagara Falls decided that they needed a serious publicity stunt to get some heads and bodies and eyes down to the location they wanted to turn into a real money-maker.

They acquired a schooner (which is a type of small boat) and named it the Michigan. They advertised nationwide, as far as their reach could go, that they would be sending this schooner, loaded with animals, over the Horseshoe Falls on September 8th, 1827.

They did so, and apparently many of the animals  managed to escape the craft before it broke up and went over the Falls, but a corresponding number of those animals went over and did not survive.

This event set off a hundred and seventy years of people trying to swim across the Falls, fall over them in various bits of paraphernalia (barrels were quite popular!) or attempt other mortality-defying maneuvers. We’re going to start getting into a chronological order of the most notable participants through the history of Niagara Falls in our next entry, but take it for fact that daredevils have been the heart and the core of the Niagara Falls tourist industry since its inception.

That means the spectacle, the potential deaths, the danger, and the horror have been the heart of the Niagara Falls tourist industry from way back. Those of us here at Nightmares Fear Factory just wanted you to remember that. You should also remember to join us sometime to experience that thrill yourself in our dark halls.

Maybe you’ll get some idea of what it’s like to be that daredevil while you’re down there. You might even be able to understand what drove some of the people we’re going to talk about to do what they did and keep coming back for more.