News

Deadly Niagara Falls Inflatable Ball Stunt Involved Massive Snake

The seven foot yellow boa constrictor named Misty is presumed dead.

by Mack Lamoureux
Jun 28 2017, 6:13pm

The ball that was recovered from Niagara Falls. Photo courtesy of the New York State Park Police.

There is a weird case brewing in the swirling rapids atop the Niagara Falls.

It is one that involves the most famous waterfall in North America, a seven foot yellow boa constrictor named Misty, a ten foot inflatable ball, a former circus employee named Kirk Jones, and death—it's a case that the man investigating it says is the strangest he's ever worked on.

"My understanding is that [Jones] was going to attempt to go over the falls in a ball with his seven foot boa constrictor," Park Police Detective Sergeant Brian Nisbet told VICE. "We're still looking at the case to determine how he actually went over the falls."

The team found Jones' body and the empty ball—they never did find the snake.

Kirk Jones in 2004. Photo via Chip Somodevilla, Detroit Free Press, and AP.
Kirk Jones in 2004. Photo via Chip Somodevilla, Detroit Free Press, and AP.

Here's what we know: early in the morning of April 19, a 53-year-old man named Kirk Jones was on the American side of the Niagara Falls. With Jones was a ten foot inflatable ball—the kind you would see in a Jackass stunt or a Flaming Lips concert—and his seven foot boa constrictor. Jones parked the van he was traveling in near the falls, started preparing, and launched a drone—several hours later the ball was spotted by a tourist, unoccupied, at the top of the falls.

"What we know is that Kirk Jones was in the area and he was planning on attempting this stunt," Park Police Detective Sergeant Brian Nisbet told VICE. "What we don't know is what happened prior to the ball being found spinning in the rapids, we don't even know if he got in the ball."

"We don't know if he slipped in the water, if the ball started to sink—we just don't know what happened."

Several months after the empty ball was found, Jones' body was found by a boat down the Niagara River near the mouth of the Lake Ontario. Misty hasn't been seen since. Nisbet told VICE that she is presumed dead because she wouldn't be able to survive the icy temperature of the river.

A photo of a yellow boa constrictor. Photo via Flickr user OakleyOriginals.

To make things weirder, this wasn't Jones' first time going over the falls.

In 2003, Jones—in what he later called a suicide attempt—became the first person to survive a trip over the falls wearing only the clothes on his back, suffering only minor rib injuries. In an interview with ABC news he described being depressed and throwing himself into the water, the subsequent calm journey in the Niagara river, going over the falls, and that hitting the water after falling 180 feet like hitting a table—Jones said when he emerged it was with a new appreciation for life.

"At that point, I realized 'wow, I'm not dead. I'm alive,'" he told ABC News at the time. "And all of the thoughts of dying at that point were gone. I wanted to live."

As for his most recent attempt, the team also found a website 'Kirk Jones Niagara Falls Daredevil' that featured a photo of Jones and Misty, attempted to sell T-shirts and had some text that read "Believe in the Impossible Kirk Jones + Misty Conquer Niagara Falls NY 2017." It has since been taken down.

As first reported by the Niagara Gazette, the Park Police were hoping the recovered footage from the drone—which was controlled by a device on Jones' wrist—would clear up some of the mystery. When they reviewed what it shot they saw it took off and flew for around two minutes and 45 seconds before crashing. According to Nisbet, this indicates that whatever happened to Jones happened at the onset of the stunt. However, it doesn't bring them closer to any sort of answers.

Some of the questions—particularly why in god's name would you attempt to go down Niagara Falls in a inflatable ball with a seven foot boa constrictor?—will, for Nisbet, never be answered.

"I'll never know his mental state or what his true intention was, because, as I keep saying, the answers went over the falls with Kirk Jones."

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