Queen of the Mist

Queen of the Mist

The Forgotten Heroine of Niagara

It is said that Niagara Falls has a mystic allure that gives some people the uncontrollable urge to jump in and blend into the swirling waters. Officials say that they recover an average of 20 people per year who chose Niagara Falls as the place to end their lives. But there are those who choose to go over the Niagara Falls in the name of adventure, not suicide. The first person to ride over the falls and live to tell the tale was not a famous daredevil or performer, but a widowed teacher named Annie Edson Taylor. Taylor was struggling financially when she came up with the perfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She used an oaken barrel with a crudely cushioned interior, which she tested by sending it over the falls with a cat stuffed inside. The traumatized feline survived the plunge, so on Oct. 24, 1901 — her 63rd birthday — Taylor climbed inside the barrel and was set adrift from a rowboat upstream. Less than twenty minutes later, she was recovered from the bottom of the falls, bleeding from the head but otherwise uninjured. She later recalled “If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat … I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the fall.”

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