Many daredevils have made crossing the Falls their goal. It began with with the successful crossing by Jean Fran¨∞ois Blondin” Gravelet in 1859 Tightrope walkers have drawn large crowds to their exploits. Matthew Webb, from England who the first man to swim the English Channel, drowned in 1883 after attempting to swim across the whirlpools and rapids beneath the Falls. He was not successful.
The first person to go over the falls was, Sam Patch, who called himself The Yankee Leaper, jumped over the Horseshoe Falls in October 1829 and became the first person known to survive the plunge. This was the beginning of a number of daredevils trying to go over the Falls and survive. The first person to go over the falls in a barrel was 63-year-old Annie Taylor in 1901, she survived the fall unharmed.
Since Ms. Taylor’s 1901 ride, 14 other people have attempted to go over the Falls in or on a device. Some have survived and come out just fine, but others have been severely injured or died in the attempt. Those that survive the attempt face charges and stiff fines, as it is illegal, on both sides of the border, to attempt to go over the Falls. David Copperfield, a renowned magician recently added his name to the list of these daredevils, successfully going over, or appearing to go over the Falls in 1990.
On October 20th 2003, Kirk Jones became the first person to go over the Horseshoe Falls without a any type of flotation device The question remains whether Jones was determined to commit suicide or not, he lived through the 16-story fall with only battered ribs, scrapes, and bruises.
In July of 1960 Roger Woodward, a nine-year-old American boy, was swept over the Falls wearing only a life preserver He was picked up from the plunge pool beneath the Horseshoe Falls by tourists riding the Maid of the Mist boat. No one thought this child would survive the plunge and when he did, it became know worldwide as the Miracle at Niagara.