Holley Morgan is a graduate student at SNHU and currently works as a college essay tutor.
Before I get too deep into this article, I wanted to let you know it's going to cover the subject of suicide. If you are struggling, you may want to consider before you read this. It is important to take time and space for your well-being, as well as seek the help you need from a qualified source. I am not a mental health professional by any stretch of the imagination, although I am open to listen if anyone needs it. You are welcome to send me a message here on HubPages or here. I have volunteered at 7 Cups of Tea, which is an amazing resource if you just need a listener. And if you need immediate help, please have a look here.
I have worked hard to link media that contains no disturbing images or videos and speak about this topic with utmost sensitivity, but if you find anything here that could be problematic, please let me know.
The Dark Side of the Falls
When one thinks about the American side of Niagara Falls and the surrounding area, they might think about attractions like Maid of the Mist and Cave of the Winds. They might remember eating at the Hard Rock or playing slots at Seneca Niagara Resort. Going further into Buffalo, they might think about the Bills (sorry, fans, about how their season ended this year), chicken wings at the Anchor Bar, or breakfast and coffee at Paula's Donuts. During my time in Buffalo, parts of this city have enchanted me -- others, not so much.
In December 2021, a news story about the woman who drove her car into Niagara Falls made the rounds after a coast guard diver bravely recovered her body from her car, which got stuck at the brink of the Falls. I remember checking Twitter as this was all unfolding. Reporters had posted videos before realizing that it was indeed a recovery and not a rescue.
Thinking back on my own visits to the Falls after I first arrived in Western New York, I remember thinking how majestic they were in person. However, if I were to visit now, I am not so sure that "majestic" is the word I would use. According to Niagara Falls USA, over 3,000 tons of water flow over the Falls every second. For that reason, the Falls also have a dark side; many people have been drawn to them as a suicide spot. The woman who made it into the news is certainly not the first, nor will she be the last. Many of these suicides are never covered by the news, although some have been caught just before the act by unsuspecting tourists videoing or taking pictures of the Falls. The woman recently may not have ended up in the news at all if not for her car getting stuck and the recovery mission.
In his book, The River of Lost Souls, Michael Clarkson lists a few reasons why the Falls acts as a draw to people wishing to end their lives. Among the reasons, he mentions that many of the people who chose this spot have visited it in the past and enjoyed it. What most intrigued me was Clarkson's point that, "The falls can hypnotize; some cases may be accident as much as suicide." Of course, this does not apply to all or even to most, and driving a car into Niagara Falls seems more intention than accident.
In Journeys to the Brink of Doom, T.W. Kriner mentions that the Senecas believed spirits inhabited the Falls. "One legend," Kriner writes, "maintains that the falls are the home of a powerful and unmistakably evil spirit who demands at least four human sacrifices each year." This point is not to minimize those who have lost their lives, intentionally or otherwise, at the Falls, but when considered, it does add to my seeing the Falls in a more macabre light.
Why the Falls?
There are many spots all over the world where a person could die by suicide. So why do the Falls, particularly, terrify me? In his book, Clarkson writes the story of a woman who felt the mysterious pull of the water. The short version of the story is that, in 1946, Ellen King was walking along the shoreline of the Falls, became dizzy, and went into the water. A man managed to save her before she reached the brink of the Falls. It was a close and painful call for them both, as they emerged bruised from the water with the help of others. Later, King said, "The roar of the water became overpowering. It seemed to be drawing and inviting me in. And then everything went blank. I remembered nothing until I woke up in the hospital hours later and the nurses told me what had happened."
King is not the only one. Clarkson details others who have felt this same pull who had no previous intentions or thoughts of suicide. As for me, I have been to Niagara Falls several times. I have never felt this pull. After the third visit or so, I felt a little tired of the area and felt no attraction to it any longer. While I don't doubt that people experience the pull covered in Clarkson's book, I suppose I am immune to it. Still, after reading these books and news stories, I know I will never think of the Falls as I once did. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!
Should You Visit?
This post is not to ruin the Falls for anyone, nor do I consider them ruined for me. I don't feel any particular desire to visit or hold much attachment to the area. I am extremely glad I never had my wedding there, as I considered once. However, it is still a cool place that everyone deserves to see at least once (I hear the Canadian side is cooler, but I haven't been). My suggestion would be to go with a loved one and take your awareness with you. Having an awareness of this phenomenon helps one make safer and smarter decisions that enhance the enjoyment of the Falls and lower the chances of danger.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Heidi Hendricks