A cat was the first Queen Of The Mist and other facts unbeknownst to many

Posted on 16 August 2019

This unbelievable true story had audiences remarked after its UK premiere at Jack Studio Theatre, and following its successful run comes a transfer to London’s Charing Cross Theatre. This captivating musical tells the real-life tale of Annie Edson Taylor; the first woman to survive a trip over the infamous Niagara Falls. Her story is incredible and has wowed audiences and critics alike, the off-Broadway production in 2011 having won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical as well as being nominated for six Drama Desk Awards. Annie’s legend lives on and her feat with the Falls have now come to light, however, here are some things about the Queen Of The Mist that you may not have known…

1. Her cat was the first to survive a trip over Niagara Falls
Before taking the plummet herself, Annie Edson Taylor tested the seemingly terrifying task on her cat, who survived the trip mostly unscathed. Therefore, Annie’s cat could be considered the first "Queen Of The Mist." After the cat took the plummet over the falls and survived, Annie took a photograph with her cat, who seemed completely calm.

2. Annie designed the barrel that protected her whilst travelling over the Falls
It was the turn of the 20th century and the idea of a woman making such a phenomenal and daring venture was unheard of; really drawing question to the widely believed notion that women are the weaker sex. Making Annie even more of a feminist icon is the fact that she built the barrel that was her only form of protection as she made the plummet down the Niagara Falls. The barrel measured five feet tall and just over three feet in diameter. It had cushions inside, designed to protect her from potential injuries as well as a leather harness that strapped her in. The barrel also featured a 200-pound anvil at the bottom that weighed it down.

3. Her barrel was stolen by her own manager!
After the stunt had taken place whilst Annie was recovering from the expected state of shock, her manager ran off with the barrel. If Annie hadn’t survived then her manager could have in fact been charged for manslaughter, and yet after stealing the barrel was nowhere to be found. Of course, Annie, who had planned on using the barrel as a prop at speaking engagements, was devastated. Despite hiring a private investigator, her lost property wasn’t found.

4. She was 63 at the time of the plummet – not 40!
When publicising her literal leap of faith over the worldwide landmark, Annie lied about her age. She claimed to be in her 40s whilst building up publicity for her risky stunt, but she was in fact in her 60s. Annie made the leap on her 63rd birthday - 24 October 1901.

5. Laws were put in place to prevent more plummets
Following Annie’s crazy stunt, laws were made in order to stop other’s following in her footsteps… or barrel rolls. Both sides of the Niagara Falls in New York and Canada put laws in place in order to prevent any more attempts at the plummet being made. However, this hasn’t stopped those brave enough to try to give it a go, although, if they survive, they will face heavy charges and a fine.

6. Annie paved the way for copycats
Despite the laws put in place to prevent more stunts like Annie’s, this didn’t stop people from attempting the plummet for themselves. Between the years of 1901, when Annie made her leap, and 1995, 15 others made their own attempts to survive the falls in various contraptions. Just 10 of them managed to survive the deadly stunt. The second person to survive the plummet didn’t occur until 1911 when Bobby Leach completed the expedition in a steel barrel.

7. The stunt didn’t reap in financial rewards
Annie was the first person to ever survive a trip over the Niagara Falls, but the fame didn’t lead to fortune. After her dangerous journey, she was privy to a small amount of fame, even without having her barrel, seeing her make speeches and pose for photos. However, this was short-lived after the hype died down, she found herself in financial troubles once again.

8. From school-teacher to "stunter"
Before becoming Queen Of The Mist, Annie met her husband whilst working as a teacher. After he sadly died whilst fighting in the Civil War, she travelled around the country and took on various teaching jobs as she moved from place to place. With little money to her name, Annie settled in Michigan. It wasn’t until reading about others attempting to take a trip over the falls that she thought she’d try it herself in the hopes that it would earn enough fame and fortune to achieve financial security.

9. Her final resting place is near the Falls
Even though Annie was practically penniless when she passed away, her friends raised money in order to pay true homage to the Queen Of The Mist and had her buried in the cemetery close by to the famous landmark. So, if you’re ever visiting the Niagara Falls then you can visit her grave and pay your respects to the first person to conquer the dangerous stunt over the Falls.

10. Her infamous conquest only lasted about 20 minutes
It was Annie’s biggest life achievement and yet it lasted approximately 20 minutes; for some of which she was unconscious. She climbed into her barrel and was towed by a boat to the middle of the river. After she was cut loose, those who had come to witness her stunt, watched the barrel bob through the water and disappear into the mist before reappearing and coming to a halt on top of a rock.

Don’t miss your chance to catch this remarkable musical at Charing Cross Theatre for just a strictly limited 7-week run! Book your Queen Of The Mist tickets today and save up to £20 on performances from 20 – 31 August. Grab them whilst you can!

🎫 Book your Queen Of The Mist tickets here.

By Jade Ali

A love for theatre stemmed from my love of literature and music, but the West End on my doorstep opened up a whole new appreciation and passion for all things stage-y