Updated: Jun 2, 2019
When I was a little girl my family took one of the longest vacations they would ever take. We visited places all over the upper East of the Northern United States, visiting museums and landmarks of meaning. The trip ended at Niagara Falls, one of the most magnificent sites I have ever seen.
I don’t remember every detail, but I do remember the visit to the Henry Ford Museum. The Museum was white, and clean, and I can still see the rows of antique cars that began with the beginning of automobile history. I was mesmerized by the vehicles, perfectly displayed in row after row of beautiful, clean cars that looked almost new.
We also visited the museum in Toronto. The Royal Ontario Museum was filled with wonderment, leaving me breathless from all of the amazing relics and artifacts that I saw, even at my young age of eight or nine. I can still remember the massive totem pole that ran up the middle of a stairwell, pristine and beautiful as we curved up to the top to view the whole piece as one.
Niagara Falls is a massive reminder of how very small we all are here on this Earth. The bottom looked like a cloud, but it was the fine mist that came from the water hitting the surface. The flow of water was an energy that I continually fail to adequately describe. Beauty is an inadequate word. Human description cannot contain the majesty with which these waters flow.
At my young age, the impression of that natural wonder left me awestruck.
On the street where we had a hotel room was a long line of tourist centered attractions. One of the tourist spots was a museum – a museum of wax figures of people who had attempted to go over the fall in barrels and other containers. Some had lived, some had died, but each had been driven to go over the falls – or were sent over for some nefarious reason – and had either lived through the experience or perished in the intense power of that rushing water.
I wanted to go.
I didn’t think I had wanted anything so much in my young life. I told my mother, fully believing that she would be as excited as I was to see all of these marvels, but alas she said – NO!
How could this be?
After the world tour (or upper north east of the North American continent tour) of every museum that could be found, suddenly, she had no interest!
I was mortified. How could this lovely woman who had given me everything, suddenly think she could deny me this one request – I, who had spent hours combing through museums all the days before, who felt the same kindred spirit love for all things historic and beautiful.
She did not budge, no matter how much I tried to convince her of my earnest desire.
Of course my mother did not take her little girl into a museum that was mostly about the death of people crazy enough to try to survive going over the falls. The story of Niagara is tragic, with an approximate 40 people per year going over with the intention of committing suicide – and they do succeed.
Then, there are the daredevils.
The first recorded attempt to go over the falls was done by Annie Edson Taylor, who thought that she could make money for surviving the fall. She did survive, but it never got her much in the way of money. That was in 1901, and Annie was a school teacher.
About a quarter of the people who intentionally go over the falls as a stunt die.
In 1930 George Stathakis and his turtle Sonny went over the falls and survived, but the barrel became trapped under the rushing fall of water, and George died. The turtle, said to be about 150 years old, came out of the barrel still alive.
I can’t imagine why my mom thought these would be inappropriate stories for her child….