Daredevil stunt man and movie actor Rodman “The Human Fly” Law had been shot out of a “monster sky rocket” and had jumped in a specialized “aeroplane parachute” from the Brooklyn Bridge and the 792-foot Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world at the time.
For his next feat, Law came to the Adirondacks.
About 500 people lined the Ausable River bank, shoreline and nearby railroad bridge on July 28, 1913 to watch “one of the most-foolhardy and daring feats yet attempted in Ausable Chasm” – going over the chasm’s 70-foot Rainbow Falls in a flat-bottomed boat. Ausable Chasm, a natural wonder, is a 150-foot deep canyon on the Ausable River. The Pathe Moving Picture Co. filmed the stunt.
“Law entered the craft above the falls at about 6 o’clock, and after the moving picture machines had been adjusted and the signal given, he paddled to the brink, plunged over and disappeared in the boiling foam below the cataract,” the Lake George Mirror reported.
The stunt was successful, but ended with a crash landing. “When he rose to the surface, it was seen that his boat had been splattered to small splinters and that he had been injured.” Initial reports that Law was seriously injured were unfounded.
“His only injury was a badly bruised left hip, although he was at first thought to be badly hurt, and was laughing when assisted up the river bank,” the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported.
Law was back at Ausable Chasm in late August for “another hair-raising exhibition,” this time with the Reliance Moving Picture Co. Law jumped from Table Rock on horseback, holding a woman in his arms, 30 feet into a pool of water.
Law appeared in more than a half-dozen feature and short films. His stunt career ended in 1914 when he was seriously injured when parachuting from an ascending hot air balloon at Trenton, N.J.
Three years later The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Law was crippled and broke: “The accident at Trenton seems to have been the turning point in Law’s career.”
Law enlisted in the Army Air Corps during the First World War, and, at age 34, died at an Army hospital in South Carolina from tuberculosis on Oct. 22, 1919.
Law was not the only daredevil that filmed stunts at Ausable Chasm.
The Schroon Lake Band provided the music as three segments of “Hurricane Hutch,” billed as “probably the most thrilling and exciting picture of its kind” were shown at the opening of the new Strand theater in Schroon Lake on November 18th and 19th, 1921.
The serial action drama, produced in 15 segments, was one of at least five silent films starring “Thrill-A-Minute Stunt King” Charles Hutchison that were filmed in Essex County, with scenes filmed at Ausable Chasm.
The plot of “Hurricane Hutch” involved a paper mill, a mortgage and an attempt to steal the formula for making paper from sea weed. Hutichison wrote the screen play.
“Nearly all the picture was taken in Essex County, mostly at Ausable Chasm and Port Henry, during the taking of which Charles Hutchison and (leading lady) Lucy Fox several times narrowly escaped with their lives,” the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported.
Actually, stunt doubles did most of the male leads’ feats of skill in this picture, as Hutchison was healing from an injury in a previous picture. Joe Cuny stood in many times, being paid $5 a stunt, far less than the $1,000 per week — the equivalent of $15,345 in 2020 dollars — salary Hutchinson received in “Go Get ’Em Hutch,” filmed at Ausable Chasm and Saranac Lake in 1922.
Other Hutchison films shot at Ausable Chasm and the surrounding area were “The Great Gamble,” a 5-hour-and-10-minute thriller in 12 segments released in August 1919, “The Whirlwind,” released in January 1920, and “Double Adventure,” released in January 1921.
In a “risky stunt” for “The Whirlwind,” Hutchison crossed Ausable Chasm riding a motorcycle across a two-foot wide plank. “The machine could go across at only 15 miles an hour and it was with difficulty the actor kept from going off the edge of the plank,” the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported.
For “The Great Gamble,” Hutchinson re-shot a swimming scene at Ausable Chasm that originally was filmed at Great Falls, Wash.
“Despite the warning of the natives that the undertaking was fraught with peril, Hutchinson plunged into the Ausable rapids and permitted himself to be swept over the falls,” the Ticonderoga Sentinel reported. “At the base of the falls he found himself in a powerful whirlpool, the presence of which was not indicated by the surface of the water. He was whirled round and round and was unable to extricate himself. Finally, a rope was thrown to him and he grasped it and succeeded in getting out of the rapids.”
Hutchison starred in 56 films over a 40-year career spanning from 1914 to 1949. That was the year the Pittsburgh native died at age 69 in Hollywood.
Photos: Rodman Law in At the Risk of His Life (1912); The Rainbow Falls at Ausable Chasm; and Hutchison making a dive for The Great Gamble (1919).