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Daring Death to Step In

Frenchman Jean-Francois Gravelet was professionally known as Emile Blondin. Can you imagine what his claim to fame was? He was the first daredevil to have the courage to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. He performed this feat 160 feet above the Niagara gorge just down the river from the falls with about 5,000 spectators. Blondin wore pink tights and a yellow tunic, crossing a cable around two inches in diameter and measuring 1,100 feet long using only a balancing pole to keep from plunging into the rapids below.

This was the very first in a series of famous Niagara tightrope walks that were performed by “The Great Blondin” from 1859 to 1860. His performances always included different kinds of theatrics like walking blindfolded, in a sack, with his manager on his back, sitting down halfway across to cook an omelet and pushing a wheelbarrow while dressed as an ape. He performed at the Crystal Palace in London doing somersaults on stilts on a rope that stretched 170 feet above the ground. This most fascinating performer died in 1897.

  • Question of

    Have you ever heard about him?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    Would you walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope?

    • Yes


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  1. My father used to tell us about him.

    He told us this story.

    Apparently, just before Blondin walked across the tightrope, with the wheelbarrow, he asked the audience if there was anyone there who believed that he could do it.

    Some young guy piped up and said, “Sure, I believe that you can do that.”

    “Well, come with me then, in the barrow,” replied Blondin.

    Of course, the guy refused to do that, proving that his belief in Blondin was not really that strong, after all, or maybe his self-preservation need even surpassed his belief.


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