Alexander Zass

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Alexander Zass
Born 1888
Died 26 September 1962
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) The Amazing Samson
Iron Samson
Billed height 167 cm (5 ft 6 in)[1]
Billed weight 80 kg (176 lb)[1]

Alexander Zass, (1888-26 September 1962)[2] was a Russian[3] strongman, a professional wrestler, and an animal trainer.[4] He was better known by his stage names, The Amazing Samson,[5][6] Iron Samson,[6] or simply Samson,[7] Zass has been credited as the "first Russian champion in weightlifting in the pre-Revolutionary era".[8]

Zass was born in 1888.[2] in Vilnius,[8] then part of the Russian Empire.[2] While still a young man, Zass' strength training included "bending green branches".[6]

During World War I, Zass served in the Russian army, fighting against the Austrians.[6] However, Zass was taken as a prisoner of war four times, but managed to escape each time.[4] As a prisoner, he pushed and pulled his cell bars as part of strength training,[9] which was cited as an example of the effectiveness of isometrics.[10] At least one of his escapes involved him 'breaking chains and bending bars'.[4] He went on to promote the use of isometric exercises.[5]

Following the war, Zass joined a circus to perform feats of strength, touring internationally.[8][9] It has been claimed that Zass was a spy and secret agent working for Russian military intelligence, using his circus travelling as cover.[2] In 1926, his autobiography, The Amazing Samson: as Told by Himself, was published.[11] His first wife, Blanche, died in 1928 while still a teenager.[2] He was still performing as a strongman in the 1930s.[10]

Zass has been credited with various feats of strength:

  • Carrying his injured horse in wartime[8]
  • Carrying on his shoulders two lions as part of his circus act[8]
  • Carrying on his shoulders simultaneously a grand piano, a pianist and a dancer.[12]
  • Catching a woman fired from a cannon[13]
  • Suspending a piano from his teeth[2]
  • Bending with his bare hands an iron bar 5 inches long and 0.625 inches square into a U-shape[14]
  • Being able to "pound a 5-inch spike through a 2 inch thick plank using only the palm of his bare hand"[14]

From the 1950s until his death, Zass lived in Hockley, Essex, staying in a bungalow along with other former circus acts.[2][13] Zass died in 1962; after a dawn funeral, he was buried in the parish church of St Peter & St Paul in Hockley, England.[2] He was honoured with a statue in a museum in Orenburg, Russia.[2]


  1. ^ a b Sputnik. University of California. 1982. p. 174. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gordon, Dee (15 February 2014). The Secret History of Southend-on-Sea. The History Press. ISBN 9780750955454. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Peppard, Victor; Riordan, James (1993). Playing politics: Soviet sport diplomacy to 1992. JAI Press. p. 19. ISBN 9781559385251. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Shapshnikoff, Yuri; Drapkin, A. (20 August 2012). The Mystery of the Iron Samson: The Life and Training of Strongman Alexander Zass. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781478393276. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Zass, Alexander (21 October 2011). The Amazing Samson. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781466457843. 
  6. ^ a b c d Kent, Graeme (3 October 2012). The Strongest Men on Earth: When the Muscle Men Ruled Show Business. Biteback Publishing. ISBN 9781849544894. 
  7. ^ Kilgarriff, Michael (1998). Grace, Beauty & Banjos. Oberon. ISBN 9781840021165. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Beumers, Birgit (1 January 2005). Pop Culture Russia!: Media, Arts, and Lifestyle. ABC-CLIO. p. 281. ISBN 9781851094592. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Marshall, Brenda (1978). The Body Book. Chartwell Books. ISBN 0890091668. 
  10. ^ a b Weaver, Gabrielle (1975). The Complete Head to Toe Exercise Book: Get Fitter, Feel Better. Cavendish. ISBN 9780856850912. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Zass, Alexander; Pullum, William Albert (1926). The Amazing Samson: as Told by Himself. With a Foreword by W. A. Pullum. [With Plates.]. London. 
  12. ^ Riordan, James (30 June 1980). Sport in Soviet Society: Development of Sport and Physical Education in Russia and the USSR. CUP Archive. p. 17. ISBN 9780521280235. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Gordon, Dee (26 December 2010). Little Book of Essex. The History Press. ISBN 9780752462639. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  14. ^ a b Willoughby, David P. (1970). The Super-Athletes. A. S. Barnes, Incorporated. ISBN 9780498066511. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 

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