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How Going Over Niagara Works

George Stathakis, 1930

George Stathakis was a chef who lived in New York. He came to Niagara Falls in 1930 with the idea of gaining fame so he could earn enough money to publish his books on metaphysical experiences.

Stathakis often rowed in the Niagara River, going closer and closer to the Falls with each trip. He reportedly spoke of the Falls in mystic terms. Having studied the trips of both Charles Stephens and Jean Lussier, George decided to go with a heavier barrel (even though Stephens' heavy barrel had lead to his death). George and his friends built the barrel, ending up with a reported 2,000-pound (907-kg) vehicle of enormous strength.

On the day of his ride, Stathakis brought along his pet turtle, Sonny Boy, who was over 100 years old, as a good luck charm (and to tell the story in the event George didn't make it). Unfortunately, the barrel became stuck behind the curtain of water and could not be removed for somewhere around 18 hours. While it is assumed he survived the plunge, he only had enough air for somewhere from three to eight hours, and he ultimately died in his attempt. Sonny Boy survived but never had much to say about it.