FEW CIRCUS events require the daring and poise of the stunt which has come to be known as “The Human Cannonball.” This act employs lots of phony noise and smoke, and then jets a human being into space from the mouth of a cannon.
Despite the hoopla, the successful completion of this act depends on exact coordination between the person who is being shot, the huge spring that catapults him, and the assistants in charge of the mechanism. The “cannonball” must maintain his poise while traveling through the air and he travels faster than a speeding automobile. He is supposed to land in a net some distance away, but if the propulsion is weak or there is some other flaw, he can fall short of that distance with disastrous results. Over 30 human “bullets” have died during the 20th century.
During April of 1943, in New York’s Polo Grounds, Victoria Zacchini was shot from the barrel of the 22-foot silver cannon at a speed of well over 100 miles an hour. The 110 pound human projectile climbed to a height of over 100 feet and then fell safely into a net 200 feet away – a record shot!