EXPIRED: 10/06/09 – Ben Williams, 56, first rode an elephant at 4 months and then spent most his life in a loincloth working a carefully choreographed circus act with his best friend, 7,880-pound Anna May, a Burmese elephant.
Williams’ mother was a member of the fourth generation of her family to perform with animals in circuses. Ben’s father, Rex Williams, was an elephant trainer also known for slipping camels and horses into the act.
During his act, Williams would dart around Anna May and other elephants.. He would lie motionless as Anna May came within inches of crushing him. He would grin as the elephant grabbed his leg in her mouth and spun him around.
In 1982, a bizarre incident nearly dissolved the partnership with Anna May and ended Williams’ career. The body of Mary Herman, 30, a friend of Williams’, was found dead of a “crushing-type injury,” authorities in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., said. Authorities charged Williams and another trainer with first-degree murder.
They later found the real culprit was Anna May, who had been startled by Herman’s visit to her trailer. Anna May swatted the woman with her trunk, killing her. Authorities dropped the charges, even though Williams admitted hiding the body.
He was afraid they were going to kill the elephant, but they kept working until they retired to an Arkansas farm in 2002. Anna May died 5 years ago. I am sure the two are performing in a better circus now.