It’s nice to think that we all have a little daredevil in us. It’s part of what makes life exciting. What’s exciting or adventurous for some, the rest of us think is crazy, but a lot of fun to watch. When we think of daredevils, we think of our modern day stunt daredevils such as Evel Knievel and his son Robbie. However, there are some pretty amazing daredevils in our history. Some of the greatest feats in our history occurred over the Niagara Falls. You will see that while the stunts are different, the risky excitement (and maybe some stupidity) are the same.
Charles Blondin (February 28, 1824 – February 19, 1897)
Born Jean Francois Gravelet, “Charles Blondin” was a French tightrope walker. He began his acrobatic training at the young age of five years old. Better known as “The Great Blondin”, he was the first to walk across the Niagra Falls on a tight rope. Though his first journey across the Niagra Falls was on June 30, 1859, Blondin made several other trips across.
Apparently, just walking across the Falls using a tightrope the regular way was too boring.
So, this ballsy SOB tries different stunts, each one a little different and more dangerous. Blondin walked across the Niagra Falls blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow, on stilts, and carrying a man on his back. He even stopped partway through the journey once and cooked and ate an omelet. That’s just cocky!
Annie Edson Taylor (October 24, 1938 – April 29, 1921)
Annie Taylor was the first person to survive riding down the Niagara Falls in a barrel on October 24, 1901. If you do the math, she accomplished this daring feat on her 63rd birthday! Amazing! Miraculously, she wasn’t even really injured badly. She had a small gash on her head, but that was it.
Taylor thought that her feat would make her rich and famous.
Though she traveled to speak of her experience briefly she never gained any wealth from the experience. In fact, she died in poverty. All of that for nothing? She got robbed!
Evel Knievel (October 17, 1938 – November 30, 2007)
Evel Knievel (Robert Craig Knievel) was perhaps the most famous daredevil of all time. I’m sure you’ve at least heard of him and his incredibly daring motorcycle stunts. He’d actually tried for years to gain notoriety and fame and had failed miserably until his near fatal failed jump on December 31, 1967 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. There was said to be some sort of engine trouble and the result was a horrific crash that left him in a coma for 29 days. Doctors told him that he would quite possibly never walk again.
Not only was he able to walk again, and more importantly able to ride his motorcycle, but he had also gained immense popularity.
Knievel continued to “wow” audiences and perform bigger and more dangerous stunts to keep his fame going. On September 8, 1974, Knievel attempted his well-known Snake River Canyon jump. Of course the mouth of the Canyon is so incredibly wide that special equipment had to be made so that he would be shot over more so than jump. He had a make shift chute to help him while he was airborne. However, a gust of wind caught the chute, forcing him to miss as he went down into the canyon. Astonishingly, he survived. He may have failed the jump, but he attempted the unthinkable.
Robbie Knievel (Born May 7, 1962)
Robbie Knievel has accomplished much more than following in his father’s footsteps. In fact, he’s accomplished much more than even finishing what his father started. Robbie has set 20 world records and has succeeded at the unthinkable.
On May 20, 1999, Robbie jumped over the Grand Canyon!
With over 250 jumps on his motorcycle, he is quite arguably the best motorcycle stunt man ever. And don’t think Robbie is done – he still continues to tour to this day, wowing large crowds and pushing the envelope even further.
One thing that all of these daredevils have in common is their drive to do something never before done, talent, and a lot of guts. Meanwhile, the rest of us talk about how they’re out of their minds. Most of us don’t have the nerve, but we’re lucky to witness people that do.