If you ever have had the chance to visit Niagara Falls, you realized how majestic they are. The thought of going over those falls is almost unimaginable. Going over the falls and surviving would be a real shocker. Surprisingly, two of the first people to go over Niagara Falls and survive have both come from the state of Michigan.

Since 1850, it has been estimated that over 5,000 people have gone over Niagara Falls either intentionally or accidentally. Unfortunately, many were suicide attempts.

The First Person to Survive Going Over Niagara Falls in a Barrel

There are people who have intentionally chose to go over Niagara Falls as a stunt. The first recorded person to go over the falls was a Bay City, Michigan school teacher named Annie Edson Taylor. On October 24th, 1901, she went over the falls inside an oak barrel to celebrate her 63rd birthday (that's not something I want to do at 63...or ever!)

Annie Edson Taylor
Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Taylor's hope was that by going over the falls and surviving, it would lead to her making money on the lecture circuit. She survived her ride inside the barrel -- and over the falls --  with just a few minor injuries. She is quoted as saying:

Nobody ought ever to do that again.

Sadly, Taylor never was able to cash in on her fame, she spent the last years of her life at Niagara Falls autographing post cards. She died penniless. Her funeral was paid for by public donations.

Annie Edson Taylor
Photo: Niagara Falls Museums via YouTube

The First Person to Survive Going Over Niagara Falls without Protection

On October 20th, 2003, an unemployed salesman from Canton, Michigan, 40 year old Kirk Jones, became the first person to go over Niagara Falls without protection and survive. He was only wearing his clothes to protect him. His family said this was a planned daredevil stunt, however in a later interview, Jones said it was a suicide attempt. He survived his 180 foot ride over Horseshoe Falls but suffered broken ribs and a bruised spine. He was fined $2,260 dollars, banned from Niagara Park for a year, and ordered to pay $1,060 to make up for the admission fees that were lost while the park was closed for 45 minutes after the stunt. Canada banned him from visiting their country for life.

Jones' response to going over the falls was:

I ask that no one ever try such a terrible stunt again.

Jones and his brother had planned on writing a book that they were going to call "You're Kidding Me: A Knucklehead's Guide to Surviving Niagara Falls", however the book was never published.

Kirk Jones
Photo: WKBW TV - Buffalo, NY via YouTube

Sadly, 14 years later, in 2017, Jones tried to once again go over the falls. This time he tried to go over the falls in a 8 foot inflatable ball along with his pet snake "Misty". The ball was found empty at the bottom of the falls on April 19th of that year. His body was discovered on June 2nd in the Niagara River, about 12 miles downstream from the falls. The snake was never found.

Jones' family had no interest in his remains. Instead, the Oakwood Cemetery buried him and provided a headstone for his grave. Ironically, it is the same cemetery where Annie Edson Taylor was laid to rest, along with four other daredevils who lost their lives while trying to go over Niagara Falls.

Since 1951, stunting at Niagara Falls has been illegal. Both the U.S. and Canada have fines for attempting such a thing. The fines from the United States can be up to $25,000 and $10,000 in Canada.

Here are more pictures of Annie Edson Taylor...

Michigan Woman Was the First Person to Survive Niagara Falls in a Barrel

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