Henri Rechatin was the world endurance record holder on high wire balancing. For 213 hours and 15 minutes, Rechatin balanced himself on an 1189 metre wire cable located 335 metres above the ground stretched across the Loire River Valley in France.
On January 14th 1967, Europe’s top tight rope artist came to Niagara Falls.
In order to bring back the past excitement to the citizens and media of Niagara, Rechatin made several proposals to conduct high wire acts across the Niagara River throughout the entire year. July of 1967 was the Centennial Birthday of Canada and special celebrations were being planned in cities across the country. Rechatin initially proposed to perform on a wire of less than 2.5 cm in diameter across the 550 metre width of the Whirlpool, only 61 m above the churning waters below.
Henri Rechatin was a very experienced high wire performer who often drew similarities to The Great Blondin. Rechatin vowed to do tricks that Blondin had performed as well as new tricks. On February 11th 1967, the Niagara Parks Commission refused to allow the proposal of Henri Rechatin to take place.
On May 26th 1975, Henri Rechatin returned to Niagara Falls. This time he proposed to be the first person to remove a straight jacket while hanging upside down form a helicopter, hovering over the Falls. When authorities threatened Rechatin with charges if he proceeded, he abandoned that idea.
On June 3rd 1975, Henri Rechatin was at the top of the Skylon Tower observation deck level, which is 160 m above the ground. Working from a small (24 m by 1 m) wooden platform on the outer edge of the deck, Rechatin began a chair balancing act. Using two oak chairs, Rechatin balanced the bottom chair on edge the wooden platform. Rechatin placed the second chair on top of the first. He balanced the rear legs of the second chair on the seat of the first chair. After the chairs were in place, Rechatin climbed sat onto the second chair and balanced himself without using his feet or arms for support. This act only lasted thirty seconds, but Rechatin performed this same feat three times.
The next day, Henri Rachatin, his wife Janyck and motorcycle driver Frank Lucas gathered at the Southern Terminal of the Spanish Aero Car. Without permission and without fanfare, the trio began crossing the Whirlpool on the cable that supported the Spanish Aero Car. Lucas had a modified motorcycle to drive on the cable. It had a metal frame constructed above it for Rachatin, and a metal frame below it for Janyck to hang upside down by one of her feet.
This idea for a crossing had been planned in advance. In the middle of the crossing, the wind began blowing and the rear wheel on the motorcycle began slipping. Frank Lucas had no prior experience riding a motorcycle across a wire. When the trio had come within 4.6 m of the Northern Terminal Rechatin took a balancing pole and began wire walking the rest of the way to the shore. Rechatin then attached a rope to the motorcycle and pulled it to the Aero Car. They remained in the Aero Car until the ride operator arrived for work to get to the other side. Police officers were waiting for the trio when they returned to the Southern terminal. Rechatin was arrested for performing a dangerous act but formal charges were not preceded.
In May of 1976, Henri Rechatin came back to Niagara Falls. Rechatin had arranged to perform a fifteen day wire walk endurance test on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Ontario beginning on the May 27th 1976.
Two – 14 m high steel towers were constructed between Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum and the Hollywood Wax Museum, which are 18 m away from each other. Using a cable with a diameter of 1.6 cm, Rechatin planned to perform four acts each day. Rachatins’ only refuge was a wooden square platform (1 m x 1m) close to the Ripley’s Museum. This is the spot where he would eat, use of washroom purposes and take twenty minute catnaps. Rachatin’s fifteen day ordeal ended 11 days after it started. During his last performance, Rechatin carried a tourist named Christina Montgomery across the wire on his back.
On June 8th 1976, Rechatin’s proposal to wire walk across the Niagara River above the Falls was refused by New York State Parks authorities. In1995 the 62 year old Rechatin proposed to recreate his 1975 wire walk across the Whirlpool on the cables of the Spanish Aero Car. This was refused by the Niagara Parks Commission.