The Greatest Show on Earth

human cannon

Human Cannon

Entertainment always played a major part – from the first outdoor family extravaganza – inaptly named “The Greatest Show on Earth” where he first tried to get a crocodile to wrestle a man underwater, the exploding human coffin, the car and bike stunts, the car jumping through the roof of a furniture lorry, and the flea circus. This was when the first human cannon actually blew itself to pieces into a lake on press day. To his father’s dismay, he didn’t go bust or to prison, although he did get fined (and a lot of publicity) for being cruel to the crocodile. (8ft long and the biggest in captivity in Europe at the time). The croc wouldn’t fight and when rescued from the tank, escaped across the showground. Joe could see his investment disappearing and, whilst everyone else ran away, he rugger tackled it, tying its jaws closed with his dressing gown cord.

Having created a publicity stir with the crocodile, the prototype Human Cannon and blowing a bolt through the stuntman’s foot having doubled the explosives trying to make the human coffin actually blow the person into the air, Joe started to actually earn money with Features International press agency from a percentage of the photographs taken of some of his crazy stunts and inventions. Such news items as the flying car – driven over a 100ft high cliff into a quarry, the first windscreen washers using a toilet cistern on the car roof with the chain by the driver’s window, a car jumping over a boat full of fisherman on a river, the car mounted in reverse on another chassis so it would drive down the highway at 70mph, seemingly in reverse.

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