Niagara’s amazing cataract has always been associated with a collection of daredevils and stuntmen who have sought to make a name for themselves by taming some of the fury of the Falls. But, it is a little unusual to come across an interesting stunt that actually took place in Lockport. The stuntman in question, Jack Williams, had just finished an “engagement” in Niagara Falls and had moved on to Lockport. Williams was dubbed the “Human Fly,” and had electrified great crowds in various cities by scaling the outside walls of the cities’ tallest buildings. In Lockport, the Fly had his eye set on scaling the exterior of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank on Main Street. The August 1917 Union Sun & Journal details the scene.
“Nothing had aroused the interest of thousands of people in Lockport as the announcement of the scheduled stunt of the Human Fly. Overhead the heavens seemed alive with electric flashes. Some rain fell but the elements do not terrorize the strip of a youth who says he will not stop his profession until fate plays a card against him. The Fly took a look up the side of the building and began a series of mental calculations on how he would go about it. The crowd swelled by thousands. Autos packed the streets for blocks around. It was the greatest gathering of people in one spot in the history of the city. A cloudy evening brought early darkness. From the Lockport Light and Power Co. a spotlight was thrown on the bank building. It illuminated the way for the Fly and gave the multitude a clear view of every move.”
“Williams gave the signal for the start a few minutes before 8 o'clock. He tried to climb on a corner and then dropped back. Then he went up the columns at the entrance like a monkey. At the top of the fourth floor he struck a wide smooth brick surface. For ten minutes he tried to master it. Literally sticking himself against the wall in some almost superhuman manner he would try to reach the ledge above. His hand fell short time and time again. Beads of perspiration began to drop from his brow. He finally crawled up the column between the windows, succeeded in bracing one hand on a one inch window ledge and with that as his only support he drew himself up with his finger tips. The crowd gave another cheer. The climb from the fifth floor to the sixth floor cornice was one of apparent danger. Williams got to the window and reached out and grasped the projecting stone with his hands. He released his feet and swung free above the street. He kicked his heels together and then began to swing like a pendulum. He threw his whole body from side to side until he was able to move one foot over the coping and in a second he was on the roof like a cat. Williams took to the giant flag pole on the roof and went up it in monkey fashion. A mighty roar of applause supplemented by the honking of a half a thousand auto horns attested to the appreciation of the people.”
Douglas Farley, Director
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094