What They Were Thinking: The Human Fuse

Brian Miser, the Human Fuse, launched from a self made crossbow across the TD Garden floor while on fire at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

Brian Miser, the Human Fuse, launched from a self made crossbow across the TD Garden floor while on fire at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Every Sunday, Boston Globe photographer Stan Grossfeld asks the subject of one of his photos to explain what’s happening in the shot.

Who’s up today: Brian Miser, 49, The Human Fuse:


Said Miser: “I don’t put a whole lot of thought into it, if I did I probably wouldn’t do it. It’s a routine to me. I let ‘em douse me and I get a little nervous. I’m from Indiana and I looked up and saw number 33, Larry Bird’s number in the rafters. That’s history. Indiana, French Lick. Basketball back then I think was a lot better than it is now. But you’re lying there and then boom you’re on fire and then you wait three seconds and then you’re hurtled across the arena, 40 feet high, 110 feet in distance. 7G’s at takeoff, 9 at the landings. I hit 65 mph. You can’t duplicate the feeling. You have to be ready for the landing so I’m squeezing every muscle I have to take the impact of the launch. If you’re loose, it’s like shooting a bag of potatoes but if you’re tight it’s like shooting a javelin. You want to be tight to take the force of the 7 G’s. I have to hold my breath the whole time I’m on fire because if I breathe in the flame will burn my lung. I have goggles but they are kind of burnt so it gets foggy.

“Sometimes I think about what I do and I start freaking myself out because there are so many things that can go wrong. I had an accident once with the cannon it broke at the launch and sent me sideways and I hit scaffolding and broke five bones, and broke my pelvis. I realize the danger of it. One time we ran out of CO2 and I was on fire, they couldn’t put me out. Some guy had to grab another extinguisher and run across the arena and put me out. That was fun and exciting. I’m an athlete and I’m crazy to do what I do. I fly like Superman with my arms out and then I do a flying swan dive, rotating my body and I end up landing flat on my back. The landing hurts almost as much as the takeoff. Imagine you’re sitting on a motorcycle at a traffic light and a car comes up and hits you and all of a sudden you’re flying 65 mph and then you got to land. I feel the heat, I have no hair on my chest, and it’s all burnt off. When I rotate around the flame hits me in the face. The audience goes nuts. Then I jump down and the audience expects me to be put out.

“But I get down and start walking around on fire; I’m thinking this is kind of cool. I stand here and get more of a reaction. I can hear the applause. I live for that and the adrenaline I get from the stunt. I have been a professional circus performer for 32 years. I don’t know what else I would do. I rehydrate every night with a beer. A Sam Adams Octoberfest tastes good after all that.”

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