Joe Greenstein, The Mighty
Joseph L. Greenstein, better known as "The Mighty Atom", was a
20th century strongman.
Greenstein was born in Suvalk, Poland in 1893. As a child he
suffered from respiratory ailments, and at age 14, a team of
doctors predicted he would die from tuberculosis. Around that
time, he became acquainted with a Russian circus strongman
called "Champion Volanko", who took Greenstein under his wing.
Greenstein traveled with Volanko and the Issakoff Brothers'
Circus for eighteen months, learning the strongman's training
regimen. After this, he returned to Poland and married his wife,
Leah, and began a career as a wrestler. Due in part to rising
anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, he then left for America.
Greenstein first went to Galveston, Texas, working as a
dockworker and wrestling as "Kid Greenstein". In 1914, a local
Texas man who was obsessed with Greenstein's wife shot him
between the eyebrows from a distance of 30 feet. Amazingly,
Greenstein left the hospital on the same day - the bullet did
not enter his skull, but was flattened by the impact. This
experience sparked Greenstein's interest in the mental powers
associated with strength, and he gradually developed an array of
Despite standing only 5'4" and weighing 140 pounds, Greenstein
became one of the 20th century's leading strongmen. Some of his
feats of strength included:
- Driving 20 penny nails through a 2 1/2 inch board with his bare
- Lying on a bed of nails while supporting a 14-man Dixieland band
on his chest
- Changing a tire on a car without any tools
- Breaking as many as three chains by chest expansion
- Bending an iron bar or horseshoe by holding one end with his
teeth while one end of the bar was held fixed in a vise
- Bending 1/2 inch steel bars with his hands
- Biting nails in half with his teeth (he could also perform this
feat with a 25-cent coin)
- Resisting the pull of a plane with his hair. This feat was
performed at the Buffalo Airport and was documented in the
Buffalo Evening Times on September 29, 1928.
- Greenstein continued performing his strongman feats well into
his eighties. He was featured several times in Ripley's Believe
It Or Not and in the 1976 Guinness Book of World Records.
Greenstein died on October 8, 1977. The story of his life has
been told by Ed Spielman in the book The Mighty Atom.
Joe "The Mighty Atom" Greenstein was one of the last
Old-Time a traveling strongmen who sold health and strength elixirs, like from
an old medicine show. In his earlier years he would demonstrate great
feats of strength like pulling a truck tied to his hair, bend bars and break
things with his teeth. In the summer of 1955 at Zern's Market in
Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, The Mighty Atom met Lawrence Farman, who later
became known as ... Slim "The Hammerman" Farman.
Click Here for information about:
Spiritual Journey of
Joseph L. Greenstein:
The Mighty Atom