In 1969, a team of engineers succeeded in a Herculean task: stemming the flow of Niagara Falls and silencing one of the most famous attractions on Earth. But as the water dried up for the first time in thousands of years, a horrific secret was revealed on the rocks below.
Today, Niagara Falls attracts millions of visitors to the region every year. The churning waters are a constant reminder of the power of Mother Nature. But over five decades ago, the well-known falls were drained while engineers investigated what was happening behind the scenes.
In that moment, man had truly tamed nature and showed off incredible feats of engineering. As the waterfall began to recede, visitors gathered to witness the rare spectacle. But something unexpected was revealed after the Falls were stopped.
Before we reveal the secret, let's talk about why they had decided to stop the falls in the first place. By 1965, citizens of Niagara Falls, New York, had grown concerned that the natural wonder was beginning to lose its charm. In particular, a growing deposit of talus was preventing water from descending in a sheer drop, which had affected the aesthetic appeal of the iconic American Falls.
On 31 January 1965, the local journalist Cliff Spieler wrote an article in the Niagara Falls Gazette newspaper. He argued that persistent erosion might eventually eradicate the American Falls altogether. And shortly after that, a movement began that campaigned to save the landmark and force the government to come up with a solution.
Hoping to tackle the issue, the American and Canadian authorities looked to the International Joint Commission (IJC), an organization that oversees shared waters. Finally, a temporary operation was made to remove the detritus from the waters above the falls.
Indeed, although in 1966, the water volume had already been reduced to 25% of its usual flow, more drastic intervention was needed. So, officials made a proposal and prepared to build a temporary structure: cofferdam. However, it was not a simple task.
In fact, throughout the construction, over 1,200 trucks carried multiple loads of earth and rock to the Falls and dumped them upstream of the cataract. On 12 June 1969, the workers successfully finished their job and built the completed cofferdam. For the first time in more than 12,000 years, the Niagara Falls ran dry.
Hold your breath! Here comes the most terrible part. Besides all the novelty and excitement, something gruesome was revealed beneath the Falls that year. On the riverbed, observers discovered two sets of remains of a man and a woman. What was the story behind them?
According to the research, the deceased male had jumped into the water on the day before the falls were thoroughly dried up. In fact, observers initially assumed that he was the member of the official operation. But when the young man jumped into the stream, the onlookers finally realized that something was very wrong.
As a result, the authorities immediately started a search for his body. During the next day, four police officers scanned the dry riverbed to find human remains. But after they located the deceased male, whose name has not been recorded, they made another grim discovery.
While combing the riverbed, the officers stumbled across the remains of a woman! She wore a red-and-white striped garment. Apparently, her body was significantly decomposed, indicating that she had been in the water for a long time. Why was she there? We are curious to know her identity.
Hoping to clear up the mystery, authorities arranged an autopsy. Unfortunately, the woman's identity was also not recorded. However, an important clue was revealed: she had been wearing a wedding band. What's more, on the inside of the ring, there was a heartbroken inscription: "Forget me not."
Sadly, these two were not the only people to have lost their lives at Niagara Falls. Although the operation did not find any more bodies hiding beneath the water, so many people have jumped into the Falls over the years. Experts have estimated that up to 40 deaths occur every year as a result.
Although many of the dead are people who had committed suicide, some of them died in accidents. Since 1829, a series of daredevils have tried to survive the terrifying plunge, but only a handful of them have actually succeeded.
Among these most famous adventurers, there was a 63-year-old teacher, Annie Edson Taylor. In 1901, she survived a plunge over the falls by being encased in a wooden barrel. Even so, she still exclaimed, "No one ought ever to do that again." Nevertheless, many people didn't take Taylor's advice seriously.
In 1984, Canadian stuntman Karel Soucek managed to survive in a barrel over the falls. Unfortunately, when he tried to show his famous stunt again at the Houston Astrodome in Texas, he died by accident. Moreover, in 1990, American Jesse Sharp attempted to challenge the Falls armed with just a canoe, but he was never seen again.
For those watching the draining of the American Falls, the discovery on the riverbed revealed the deadly power of the water. But for the authorities, they still had to finish their work. Hence, they took out the remains and continued with the operation. Would they find more secrets?
Thanks to the power of social media, the fearsome discoveries can be beneficial for tourism. But with an unknown number of missing people and presumed dead in this area since 1969, the falls may have even more gruesome secrets to be revealed.