Carlisle Graham

In the early 1900’s the mystique of tightrope walking began to wane and on July 11, 1886 the first barrel stunt was performed by an Englishmen named Carlisle Graham. Graham performed his stunt in a 51/2 foot barrel which he constructed, using oak and iron hoops. His impressive feat took place below the actual Falls, through the lower rapids to Lewiston New York. The ride took over thirty minutes in which bystanders watched Graham’s barrel roll violently in the turbulent rapids of the Niagara. A triumphant Graham emerged claiming that he would make a second trip down the rapids, however, this time he would leave his head exposed from the barrel.

His second attempt on August 8, 1886 would leave him partially deaf in both ears, as the rapids continuously hit the side of his head with such force that they damaged his ear drums. Graham would make several more successful trips through the lower rapids, and even took to swimming through the rapids in swimming competitions in his later feats. He holds the title of being the first man to go through the Whirlpool rapids and survive. Graham died many years later, and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York with other famous daredevils of his time.