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Demon Dare Devil

Charles Stephens, the Demon Barber of Bedminster

In 1920, a young boy hid in the bar of his father’s pub, the Carpenter’s Arms on Newfoundland Street, Bristol, eavesdropping on the regulars.

They were having a whip-round to buy a barrel that was to end up carrying a daredevil over Niagara Falls.

That boy was Kelly Windsor Burgin’s grandfather.

Some 90 years on, Kelly has been finding out more about who the barrel was for and whether it made it to the bottom of Niagara Falls in one piece.

Carpenter's Arms pub in Bristol

Regulars at the Carpenter’s Arms bought the barber’s barrel

There was one man in Bristol at that time who might take on such a feat: Charles Stephens, also known as the Demon Barber of Bedminster.

Infamous for his stunts locally, the Demon Barber had a shop on West Street.

He took every opportunity to perform daring stunts like rescuing damsels in distress and parachuting from hot air balloons.

Bristolians still remember his antics: “We used to tell the children that if they were naughty we would send them to Stephens the barbers,” recalls Amy Pruit of St Annes.

Stephens’ greatest dream was to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel in a bid to guarantee fame and fortune – and he spent 11 years of his life planning it.

You can follow the Demon Barber’s journey to the falls on BBC Radio Bristol on Easter Monday at 6.30pm and on the BBC iPlayer for seven days after broadcast.

This article was originally poster on BBC

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One Response
  1. It’s fascinating hearing tales from the old days. The heroic feats that people accomplished are certainly something worth remembering. We can also find humor in how eccentric some of these brave traveler’s were.

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