The pain proof man has existed in one form or another for centuries. From Fakirs walking on hot coals, to persons of extraordinary physiology like the great Mirin Dajo, to persons driving nails deep into their various facial orifices. However few individuals have captured the imagination of the modern pop culture audience than The Amazing Frank ‘Cannonball’ Richards.

In 1932 ‘Cannonball’ Richards exploded onto the vaudeville entertainment scene with his remarkable act and his bombastic belly.Frank’s claim to fame was his seemingly ironclad gut and his act consisted of little more that taking heavy blows to his belly.

However, these were no gentle taps. Richards subjected his belly to physical abuse that would put the average man into hospitalized traction for days – if not weeks.

Richards began his strange journey into belly abuse by allowing his friends to punch him in the gut. His perceived imperviousness to the trauma prompted him to take the act a step further until, eventually, he was enduring and absorbing body blows from heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey.

‘Cannonball’ Richards steadily increased the level of distress he subjected his belly too. He soon allowed spectators to jump on his stomach. Following that he allowed himself to be struck by a two-by-four and then, later, he was able to endure repeated sledgehammer blows. From all reports and records, there were no gimmicks at work during these performances.

Finally, in a feat that ‘Cannonball’ Richards would forever be remembered for, Richards took to being shot in the belly with a cannonball.

It is important to note, however, that ‘Cannonball’ Richards used a spring-loaded cannon to fire his cannonball. But equally, the velocity at which the ball traveled was still beyond the limits of sanity and would likely have killed or severely injured an average man.

The image of this feat, performed twice daily during his time of greatest popularity, remains a near iconic photograph demonstrating the extremes possible in physical pain tolerance.It is also regarded, incorrectly, and the epitome of stupidity and ultimate example of a fame without talent or ability. So much so that during its the seventh season an episode of The Simpsons animated television series the idiotic and chronically tallentless Homer Simpson is hired into a traveling freak show, to be shot by cannonballs in the stomach.

It is a shame that most modern audiences have not realized the dedication and daredevil spirit required to perform the stunts Cannonball Richards performed. So unique was his ability that no comparable act has existed since.

You can view ‘Cannonball’ Richards performing his unique act right here.


Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.


  • Reply July 15, 2007


    Awesome. this guy is a living testament to the marvels of human will.

  • Reply September 30, 2007


    and that photo was even featured on the Van Halen III cover XD

  • Reply November 29, 2007


    So, what happend to his stomach? Was it discovered that any if his internal organs were damaged at the time of his death? Did is stomach area react to the “beatings” with a thicker stomach wall? I’m curious!

  • Reply February 20, 2008


    The video of him getting hit on the stomach was inn Fairly Oddbaby on Niclodeon Tv.It was awsome!

  • Reply March 22, 2008


    wonder if he liked Pepto-Bismo alot?

  • [...] Frank “Cannonball” Richards seemingly built his act around self-punishment. Strongmen were a staple of the traveling circus, but Richards combined his strength with the thrill of risking injury as he stood still and was shot in the belly with a cannonball. He discovered his unusually strong stomach as a young man and invited his friends to punch him in the gut. Richards went on to allow people to jump on his stomach to show its strength. He even took a punch from Jack Dempsey! His cannonball routine was limited to two performances a day because, despite his showmanship, the stunt was painful. [...]

  • Reply May 15, 2012

    Guilherme Mata

    Eu tenho um amigo que ficou dentro do saco e tomou um soco na cara e algemado

  • Reply May 28, 2012


    You would have to be a daredevil for sure to do that stunt and hope that the guy on the other side of the cannon ball had great aim. Not only would he be putting his internals in danger, a few inches up he could get nailed in the solarplex, a few inches down he could get his boys crushed.

    I second the Comment “It is a shame that most modern audiences have not realized the dedication and daredevil spirit required to perform the stunts Cannonball Richards performed. ” So true!

  • [...] FRANK ‘CANNONBALL’ RICHARDS – Punching Bag Frank “Cannonball” Richards at the Internet Movie Database Frank Richards video on YouTube [...]

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