Niagara Falls is not just famous for its spectacular waterfalls; it has also attracted several daredevils who performed death-defying tightrope walks over the Niagara Gorge. This adrenaline-inducing tradition started in the 19th century with these remarkable individuals performing to crowds that gathered to witness their nerve-wracking feats.
1. Jean François Gravelet-Blondin (1859): Known as Charles Blondin, he was the first person ever to perform the stunt, traversing the Niagara Gorge on a 2-inch rope stretched 160 feet above the falls. The French acrobat crossed the rope multiple times in several innovative ways - once with a wheelbarrow, blindfolded, and even carrying his manager on his back.
2. Maria Spelterini (1876): The first and only woman to walk a tightrope over the falls. This Italian acrobat walked across with peach baskets strapped to her feet, blindfolded, and once even in shackles.
3. William Leonard Hunt (1860): Known as the Great Farini, this Canadian performer competed with Blondin by walking the falls on a rope, often adding in performances of strength and agility, such as lowering a bucket down to the river and pulling it back up filled with water.
4. Clifford Calverley (1886): Known as the Australian Blondin, Calverley successfully made four crossings over the Niagara Gorge, showcasing feats such as crossing the falls while blindfolded.
5. James Hardy (1896): At the age of 21, Hardy was the youngest person to make the trek across Niagara Falls on a high wire.
6. Stephen Peer (1887): A local Niagara Falls resident, he reportedly performed the walk three times, with the third proving fatal.
7. Henri Rechatin (1975): A French high wire artist, Rechatin crossed the Niagara River below the falls. His wife, Janyck, also joined him on this wire crossing in a terrifying stunt.
8. Jay Cochrane (2002): Also known as The Prince of the Air, he performed a skywalk over the city of Niagara Falls.
9. Nik Wallenda (2012): The most recent to dare the high-wire act across Niagara Falls. He holds multiple Guinness World Records for his high-wire performances.
Every performer showed immense bravery and put their lives at risk in pursuit of their art. It is crucial to note that these daring stunts are not permitted today due to the associated risks unless given permission by the U.S. and Canadian governments. Nevertheless, these tightrope walkers and daredevils of Niagara Falls remain a significant part of its history, contributing to its global popularity and mystery.