Share this article

print logo

AUTHOR'S SECOND BOOK ILLUMINATES THE FALLS' DARK PAST

Millions of visitors to the falls have gazed at the smooth, powerful flow of water over the brink and its spray-obscured crash-landing in the boiling plunge pool below.

But every person sees something different.

Some savor the natural beauty of the majestic waterfall, while others envision the power generated by the rushing water.

Others look at the falling Niagara River and see the dark, cold undercurrent that has lured hundreds to their deaths, either accidentally, deliberately, or in some unfathomable combination of the two.

Niagara Falls native T.W. "Ted" Kriner will read from his second book on the dark undercurrent, "In the Mad Water: Two Centuries of Adventure and Lunacy at Niagara Falls," during a free reception starting at 1 p.m. Saturday in the upstairs loft at the Book Corner, 1801 Main St. He will also sign copies of the paperback, which is on sale at the bookstore.

"Most of the stories in this book have been forgotten, and I think they are stories worth remembering," said Kriner, who works for the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and lives in Williamsville.

The stories Kriner has collected for this book range from the incredible to the inspirational, from the tragic to the appalling. "I tend to focus on stories that are shocking, have historical significance, that are funny, that are ironic," he said. "I really like stories about people who are stupidly adventurous, or dub themselves as daredevils and end up dead."

Kriner's interest in recording the many stories of the falls started with a half-remembered tale of tragedy from 1970, when a boy named David Fenitz lost his life at the American Falls. Fenitz and two other boys were using a large wooden shipping pallet as a raft in the upper river when it was caught by a strong current and steered away from the shore. The other boys swam to safety.

Fenitz's final moments were captured on film by a tourist, and photos taken from the negatives were rushed into print by a local newspaper. The incident made an impact on Kriner, among others, but as he found out, his memory failed to preserve many of the details.

While discussing the incident with some colleagues over lunch, "I had remembered him (Fenitz) going over on an ice floe. Then I decided to go to the public library to find the photographs so I could show them. When I saw the photographs I said, 'Well, I didn't remember this correctly at all, he's not on an ice floe, he's on a raft.' It was another kid, Mark Zebrowsky, a few years earlier, who went over on an ice floe. And while I was looking for those stories, I stumbled across some other ones."

And once he had refreshed his memory about those incidents, Kriner was hooked on studying the newspaper microfilm that detailed Niagara's stories, both half-remembered or long-forgotten.

That was the beginning for Kriner. His first published work was a 3,000-word "horror think piece" about death at Niagara that compared this area to the Bermuda Triangle.

After that, he assembled his first book, "Journeys to the Brink of Doom," which told the stories of Fenitz, Zebrowsky, and dozens of others who died in accidents or suicides at the falls, as well as a few daredevils and some rescuers.

The book, like his current one, was produced by the local J & J publishing company.

"Journeys to the Brink of Doom," he said, "made money -- in fact, is still making money."

After the first book was written, Kriner still had material -- enough, in fact, for a second book. Six months of research and writing went into "In the Mad Water," which he said includes some stories that were not fully researched or for other reasons not right for the first book.

"The amazing thing is that after the first book, he went on to produce a second one," said Pete Morrow, who owns and operates the Book Corner. "Most people give up after the first one."

Morrow said his store carries about 100 books written on local topics or by local writers.

"The (public's) acceptance is wonderful, and they are looking for more," he said. "I've never seen the interest higher" in local history, said Morrow, who has sold books for decades.

"We have had tremendous response" to Kriner's books, Morrow said. "People like them because they are made up of short little pieces, and they are fun also."

The dark side of Niagara's history has always been recognized. Kriner quotes at length from the "American Courier" of 1851, which melodramatically described the falls: "Reader, do you know of a Great Cataract whose dark waters sweep by your own door -- whose wave crests gleam with the foam of death -- whose solemn thunders are made up of the wailings of the bereaved and lost? ... The Great Cataract is black with death, and the Whirlpool is thick with the wrecks of more value than the wealth of all God's Universe."

Kriner said the tragic record "is a legitimate part of Niagara's history -- not only legitimate, but it is fascinating. I didn't know half of these stories, and I have to tell you frankly that some of these stories, I think, are great.

"I'm so glad I found them, just for my own personal knowledge, because now my family comes to visit -- I have a sister and two nephews in New Orleans, and a brother and his family in Arkansas, and I get to be the tour guide, and they love it. I don't think they love it because I'm their relative, their family member -- I think they are fascinated by the stories."

He said his books are popular among the thousands of people who have left this area to find work, and have been purchased by libraries in several states.

Kriner is also committed to telling the stories of the heroes of Niagara -- those who risked, and in some cases, lost their lives saving others from the cataracts and rapids.

"You know what got to me?" Kriner asked. "These people who risked their lives to save other people were forgotten."

His first book tells the story of Niagara Falls Deputy Fire Chief Edward C. Osward, then 54, who plunged into the river above the falls on Sept. 4, 1959 to save a suicidal woman.

"He jumped in and rescued this young women who was attempting suicide, in waters that you'd have to be insane to jump into, and he did it without questioning, and afterward he was extremely modest about it," Kriner said.

"I think these people should be remembered, I think there should be some kind of monument . . . there have been so many of them down there, and nobody knows who these people are," he said.

Kriner's books are also available at MediaPlay, Barnes & Noble and Waldenbooks.

He will sign books at the Waldenbooks stores at noon Sept. 18 in the Summit Park Mall in Wheatfield; at noon Sept. 25 in the Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga; at 3 p.m. Sept. 25 in the Boulevard Mall in Amherst; at noon Oct. 2 in the Eastern Hills Mall, Clarence; at 3 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Lockport Mall; and at noon Oct. 9 in the McKinley Mall, Hamburg.

There are no comments - be the first to comment