John Moore, Getty Images
John Moore, Getty Images

An estimated 5,000 people have perished going over Niagara Falls. Local officials estimate 20-40 people commit suicide at the falls every year. Even the expert dare devil attempts have a 25 percent mortality rate.

Here's why:

  • Professional baseball player Ed Delahanty was killed over the falls in 1903 after falling from a nearby train bridge after he was kicked off a train for disorderly conduct.
  • In 1930 a man went over the falls in a barrel and survived the fall, but his barrel got stuck behind a curtain of water and he died of suffocation trapped for 18 hours. His turtle (or tortoise) went along with him and survived. It was estimated to be 150 years old.
  • In 1951 a man went over the falls in a barrel he made himself and dubbed "The Thing." It broke on impact and killed him.
  • In 1990 Jessie Sharp went over the falls in a kayak. He didn't wear a life vest because he was afraid of being trapped. His body was never found.
  • In 1995 Robert Overacker went over the falls in a Jet Ski with a rocket-propelled parachute. The parachute didn't open and he plunged to his death.
  • In 2011 an exchange student from Japan crawled over the railing to sit on a rock by the river. While climbing back up she slipped and fell in and died.
  • In 1827 a hotel owner bought a schooner and loaded it with a buffalo, two bears, two raccoons, a dog, two fox, geese and an eagle. He sent it over the falls and the two bears escaped and swam to safety before going over. The other animals died.

It is illegal to go over the falls (in both New York and Canada) but that hasn't stopped over a dozen people from trying it going all the way back to Jacksonian era.

  • Sam Patch, the "Yankee Leapster" jumped off the falls from a high tower in 1829 and survived!
  • A 63-year-old school teacher named Annie Edson Taylor went over the falls in a barrel in 1901. She was OK, but bleeding, and famously said, "No one ought ever do that again."
  • A cat was sent over the falls in the same barrel just prior to Taylor to test the barrel's strength.
  • Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel, drowned in 1883 below the falls.
  • In 1960 a 7-year-old boy fell off the falls in only a life vest and was saved by the crew of "Maid of the Mist" tour boat at the bottom. People still can't believe he survived. In subsequent interviews he says he doesn't remember much.
  • In 1984 Karel Soucek survived a jump over the falls in a barrel, but then died trying to recreate the stunt in the Houston Astrodome (dropping from the rafters into a tank of water).
  • In 1995 Steve Trotter became the first person to lead a two-man jump over the falls. The barrel got stuck at the bottom and needed to be rescued.
  • Peter DeBernardi spent $30,000 on his "barrel" made of steel and fiberglass in 1989.
  • In 1993 John "David" Munday survived a second jump over the falls.
  • Kirk Jones became the only known person to survive a jump over the falls without a barrel or flotation device in 2003. Since then two more people survived going over the falls without aid but these identities have not been released since they were likely suicide attempts.

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