William A. Gold of Australia had the dubious distinction of being named the least successful writer ever in the 1975 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. To my knowledge, Guinness never awarded this record to anyone else.
Gold gained the title because, as of 1975, he had written at least eight novels and 100 short stories, but none of them had been published, despite his best efforts. His writing had only ever earned him 50 cents from an article published in the Canberra News.
I've only been able to find the titles of two of Gold's book. One of them was John Lewis Seeks a Mission, which he submitted to the Adelaide Advertiser $2000 Literary Competition in 1966. (Obviously, he didn't win.) The other was One Best Seller: A Satire on the Publishing Game. The Sydney Morning Herald described this as dealing with "the adventures of author Eric Bellamy, literary agent Lawrence Templeton, and the latter’s attempts to get Bellamy’s novel, Sibelius on Sunday, published." Gold eventually self-published this novel in 1984. (and it's available for purchase from some used book stores in Australia.)
The great claim to fame of Marva Drew of Waterloo, Iowa was that she typed the numbers one to one million on a manual typewriter. It took her about six years, starting in 1968 and ending in 1974 (although she took several years off in the middle). It totaled 2,473 pages.
She explained that she got the idea when she heard that her son’s high school teacher had told him that no one had ever counted to a million, and that anyone who tried would be crazy. So Marva decided she’d do it.
She noted that if someone started at the age of 18, they could conceivably type up to 50 million in their entire life.
Some other info from the Waterloo Courier:
“Corrections and erasures were done meticulously, and often whole handfuls of pages were discarded when she discovered she’d left out a number somewhere along the way...
There were physical problems, too. The endless carriage returns caused pains in her wrist, back, and shoulders, and there were swollen fingers, eyestrain, headaches, and insomnia."
Marva Drew poses with the stack of completed pages.
Preston ‘Rocky’ Stockman's comments after standing in a shower for 4½ days in an attempt to set the world record for longest shower (which he didn't even come close to setting): “My hands and feet were wrinkled. Then my ear became plugged, and I tried to unplug it. Everything I did was futile. It just got worse and worse… It got to the point where I was standing there in absolute agony.”
Rabbi Barry Silberg set a world record in 1975 for jumping rope for five hours. According to Guinness, the current record, set in 2009, is 33 hours 20 minutes. That's not even close. So why such a huge difference? Did shoes get better, or something?
One of comedian Jim Purol's recurring gags was to stuff record-setting amounts of things in his mouth, especially cigarettes and cigars. For instance, he set a Guinness world record for smoking seven packs of cigarettes simultaneously. Ironically, he was a non-smoker. From the LA Times (July 18, 1987):
His trick of broadening a yawn into a crater crammed with seven packs of gaspers also has given Purol, 35, a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. He scored a second mention by smoking 38 pipes at one puffing. He opened wider, gritted his tonsils, and earned a third entry in 1983 by smoking 40 finger-fat stogies at the same time.
Paradoxically, Purol is a nonsmoker. It gets better. His world cigar smoking record was a charity performance benefiting the American Lung Assn.
"I hate smoking," he explained. "I perform the stunts as a statement against smoking. Lookit this picture of me with cigarettes stuffed in my face. This is glamorous? It's disgusting."
Jim Purol (left) and Mike Papa each smoking 135 cigarettes in five minutes - October 1978
Weekly World News - Jan 1, 1985
Philadelphia Daily News - Apr 22, 1983
Back in 1976, he also set the world's duration drumming record by drumming for 320 hours.
Butch Baker of Four Oaks, North Carolina began making a paper chain in 1979. The chain is now 23-miles long, weighs 2300 pounds, and takes up much of his living room. And he’s still working on it. (He knows it's length because he's been measuring it as he makes it.)
The problem is, Butch is 78 and doesn't know what will happen to the chain when he dies.
Books Selected and endorsed for Pure Weirdness by Your WU Team
Who We Are
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.