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Her name was Rossa Matilda Richter, but she was known as Zazel, the human cannonball.


Zazel was a trapeze performer and walked a tightrope, but became famous for performing a new stunt on April 2, 1877, at the Royal Aquarium in London. The 14-year-old performer climbed into the business end of a huge cannon, which was then lit, and she was suddenly launched across the arena and into a net. The cannon act brought Zazel worldwide fame.  


“We listen to the loud report which follows its application to the powder and lo! our vision is startled by the sight of the living Miss – we mean missile – flying through space, and alighting safe and sound in the huge net spread to receive her. It is Zazel. There she stands, bowing her acknowledgments of the thunders of applause which greet her.

Before the smoke has cleared from the vast mouth of the cannon whence she had come she has made her away along the net, and is found again bowing and smiling upon the stage, and the spectators, almost bewildered as well as delighted, are turning to each other with astonishment plainly written upon their faces, and upon their lips the query, ‘Is it possible?’”


But life wasn't a bowl of cherries for Zazel. She was cheated out of proper compensation by her handlers, and suffered injuries quite a few times, including a horrific injury that ended her career in 1891.



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