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Annie Edson Taylor

Updated on February 2, 2017

History is littered with tales of lesser known psychics, and Annie Taylor is one of the more interesting examples. A flamboyant woman who was willing to turn her hand to diverse trades and enterprises in order to make a living. but was she a sincere psychic of simply a scam artist willing to act the part of profit?

Annie Edson Taylor
Annie Edson Taylor

Annie Edson Taylor (1838-1921) was a self-declared clairvoyant and spiritual healer. She was also a dedicated member of the Episcopal Church. But this was not her main claim to fame...

Over the Falls in a Barrel

Edson Taylor may be better known as the first person to ever go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and survive. She began a long tradition for daredevils going over the falls.

She derived some income from posing for photographs after this achievement. However her real goal of collecting money from the observers or earning lucrative speaking fees was never realized.

Edson Taylor was sixty-three years old when she tumbled over Horseshoe falls in a specially designed barrel on October 24, 1901. However contemporary accounts show that she claimed to be only 46.

Annie Edson Taylor with barrel and cat. Many stories surrounded this cat including that is was killed, and that it entered the barrel black but exited white in color.
Annie Edson Taylor with barrel and cat. Many stories surrounded this cat including that is was killed, and that it entered the barrel black but exited white in color.

Psychic Practice

Edson Taylor took up the practice of paranormal activities after her barrel stunt, when a living could no longer be made directly from her notoriety. She and does not seem to have been immensely successful in this endeavor either as she died in a state of poverty.

The November 6th Niagara Falls Gazette demonstrates that by 1919 (when she would have been 81 years old) she had begin advertising herself as a psychic, specializing in automatic writing. However little information seems to be available as to what kind of being or spirit she was channeling.

Real or Not?

Given Taylor's history as an attention seeking and opportunist, and her willingness to bend the truth, it seems likely that her psychic act was simply another performance. The spirit of the times was rather credulous when is came to spiritualism and the lines between the paranormal and mainstream religion were considerably blurred. it seems most likely that Taylor used this as part of yet another money-making scheme rather than that she was a true believer.

Annie from the Other Side

In 2011 the Niagara Falls Paranormal group went to the Oakwood Ceremony there Edson Taylor is buried in an attempt to summon Edson Taylor and they claimed to have made voice recordings of some kind of spirit on that night.

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      Hubert Williams 4 years ago

      Very interesting story. Annie seems to be a woman bent on earning a dollar at all costs. It might be that she was tired of trying when she decided on the Horshoe Falls trip. One tiny thing I might mention, Annie was born in 1838 instead of 1938. A minor typo that should probably be fixed. Otherwise, a great read.

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      Nouveau Skeptic 3 years ago

      Thank you for that correction!

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      Hubert Williams 3 years ago

      You are welcome.

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