Fascinating True Stories From the Flip Side of History

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Podcasting Since January 2008

1936: A Human Target

When Mrs. Doreen Peterson Hamby arrived in Los Angeles aboard a freight train in February 1936, she was immediately thrown in jail for several days because she had evaded paying a railroad fare the previous December.  

Upon her release, she obtained a job with a carnival in nearby Inglewood.  Her job was quite simple: All she had to do was stand in front of a large board and remain perfectly still.  Well, it wasn’t quite that simple.  You see, she had to stand there while a knife-thrower flung thirty-six sharp knives all around her torso.

Doreen took it all in stride as knife after knife came toward her.  Then, suddenly, the seventh knife hit a rail that surrounded the board, ricocheted off, and landed in her leg.

Ever the professional, Doreen went on with the show.  Even though she was in great pain, she simply gritted her teeth and completed the act.

Then, when the curtain went down, she collapsed to the ground. Doreen was taken to the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, which is now the site of the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where the wound was closed up with three stitches. She was released and returned to her home at 1323 South Hill Street, which was about five blocks from the hospital. 

But, as they say, the show must go on.  The very next night, with her wound bandaged up, she once again stood motionless as the knife thrower tossed more sharp cutlery at her.

Knife-thrower-Signor-Arcaris-and-Sister-Miss-Rose-Arcaris
Knife thrower Signor Arcaris and Sister Miss-Rose Arcaris. Circa 1900. Museum of Photographic Arts image.
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