human-cannonball-1From the Don’t Try This At Home files: Her name was Rossa Matilda Richter, a 14 year-old circus performer known as Zazel, the place was the Royal Aquarium in London, England, and the date was April 10, 1877, now known as


Somehow Zazel got talked into testing out William Leonard Hunt’s new invention, a rubber spring-loaded launching device built to look like a giant cannon.

The very first Human Cannonball was a huge hit and Zazel went on to tour the world with the PT Barnum Circus.

Hunt, himself a world famous circus performer known as The Great Farini, was the first man to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls, but didn’t have the nerve to be the guinea pig in his own Human Cannon.

Leonard Hunt was also the first White man to walk across the Kalahari Desert, although it’s not clear if the desert crossing was an act or him just getting lost and being lucky to survive. At any rate, the Human Cannonball act proved to be a crowd favorite, even though 30 people have been killed over the years after they miscalculated the trajectory and flew either too far or not far enough to land in the net.

Like watching The Flying Wallendas on the tightrope, half the allure is secretly hoping for a spectacularly fatal fall. Zazel was the first person shot from a cannon, a feat more than worthy of the Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time Hall Of Fame.

• Suggested Activities: Oohs, ahs, thunderous applause.

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