Niagara Daredevils

Willian Red Hill (aka. Red Hill Jr.)

  • Willian Red Hill
  • Red Hill Jr.
  • Red Hill Jr.

Red Hill Jr. was no stranger to the Niagara Falls and the power it possessed. His father Red Hill Sr. was well known in the area. He had helped rescue several people from the Niagara River, but he had never actually attempted a trip over the falls.

One of his sons, Red Jr. was slightly more foolhardy than the elder Hill. In July of 1950 Red Jr. announced to the media that the following year he would go over the Horseshoe Falls in a ball, similar to the one used by Jean Lussier in 1928.

Lloyd, the younger of the two, was not going to be upstaged by his older brother and decided to attempt the journey in 1950 in a steel barrel. His attempt was thwarted when his barrel was caught in a weir used by the Canadian Power Plant. After his rescue, the barrel slipped into the river and disappeared, unoccupied over the falls.

The following Summer Red Jr. followed through with his announcement, except unlike his brother, he chose not a steel barrel, but instead a contraption that he referred to as the "thing".

Some claimed it to be a rubber ball, but in fact it was fourteen rubber truck tire inner tubes covered with heavy canvas and held together with a thick net. The ends were packed with even more inner tubes and Red Jr. was held in place with even more inner tubes.

He was also equipped with a hose and mask so he would be able to get air if needed. 38 year old William (Red) Jr. had every intention of surviving the rapids that fateful day in August 1951. He joked to reporters that if the wind is right, and I can get the breaks, then I'll come out OK.

At 2:30 p.m. on August 5th, 1951 Red Hill climbed into his homemade contraption and began his trip from Usher's Creek, about a mile above the falls. At 3:05 p.m. Hill’s "Thing" was spotted going over the brink and disappearing into the mist and thundering water below. Ten minutes latter, Hill"s "Thing" was recovered, tattered and torn apart. Four inner tubes had been torn loose and the netting was in tatters. Inside the only evidence of Red Hill Jr. were his shoes. The next day, August 6th, 1951, searchers pulled Hills battered body from the river.