World Records

Harmonica Record

Obscure world record: longest time playing the harmonica while sitting in a chair balanced on top of three wine bottles. Set by Michel Perrigaud in 1959, who played for seven-and-a-half hours.

Albuquerque Journal - Jan 29, 1959

Posted By: Alex - Mon Apr 08, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: Music, World Records, 1950s

Tibor Sarossy’s Cannonball Run

In late August of 1968, 22-year-old Tibor Sarossy set a record by riding a motorcycle from New York to Los Angeles in 45 hours, 41 minutes. He had rigged up extra fuel tanks on the back of his bike so that he only had to stop for gas four times. Also, he wore a condom connected to a hosepipe to avoid stopping for bathroom breaks.

Attempting to set a speed record for driving across the United States is known as doing a Cannonball Run. The term traces back to 1914 when Erwin Baker was nicknamed "Cannonball" by the media after he drove his motorcycle coast-to-coast in 11 days and 11 hours. That may seem slow today, but it was before modern highways and widely available gas stations. So, for the time and driving conditions, it was incredibly fast.

The current motorcycle record for a Cannonball Run is 32 hours, 27 minutes set by Felix Hofmann in October 2023.

More info:

Los Angeles Times - Sep 8, 1968

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jan 03, 2024 - Comments (1)
Category: World Records, 1960s, Motorcycles

Competitive Hymn Singing

In 1972 a group of schoolboys set a world record for "non-stop hymn singing." They sang for 48 hours straight.

So what's the current record for hymn singing? I haven't been able to figure that out.

I found an article from Oct 2005 claiming a new record was set for singing for 22 hours, but since that wasn't even half the time of the 1972 record, that can't be right.

Pomona Progress Bulletin - Dec 30, 1972

Posted By: Alex - Thu Nov 16, 2023 - Comments (1)
Category: Music, World Records, 1970s

Gus Comstock, Champion Coffee Drinker

Gus Comstock of Minnesota set a record back in 1927 by drinking 85 cups of coffee in 7 hours and 15 minutes.

Bridgewater Courier-News - Jan 18, 1927

Others subsequently claimed to have beaten his record. Albert Baker of San Francisco claimed to have drunk 157 cups of coffee in 6 hours 20 minutes. However, Comstock complained that there was nothing official about his challenger's claims. They just said they had beaten his record. And Comstock ended up being the most well-remembered champion coffee drinker. Stumbeano's Coffee Roasters (located in Comstock's home town of Fergus Falls) now sells a "Gus Comstock Blend" of coffee.


I haven't been able to find any more recent coffee-drinking records. Probably because drinking that much coffee has to be potentially lethal.

Back in my twenties I used to regularly drink 3 or 4 cups a day. Nowadays I limit myself to one cup in the morning.

More info:

Washington Evening Star - Jan 14, 1927

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jan 03, 2023 - Comments (6)
Category: World Records, Coffee and other Legal Stimulants, 1920s

Mr. Plastic Fantastic

Walter Cavanagh's hobby is collecting active credit cards issued in his name. Which is to say that he's not interested in collecting the cards themselves, as a typical credit card collector might be (such as a member of the American Credit Card Collectors Society). Cavanagh's collection consists entirely of cards that he could use to buy something.

By the mid-1970s, when the media first got wind of him (and dubbed him 'Mr. Plastic Fantastic'), he had already acquired 788 cards, giving him available credit of $750,000.

By 2016, in the most recent update about him that I could find, his collection was up to 1,497 cards, giving him available credit of $1.7 million.

However, he never taps into this credit. He uses only one card, and he always pays off the balance in full each month.

Los Angeles Times - Feb 1, 1976

But how does he keep getting companies to send him new cards? Wouldn't companies see the huge amount of credit already available to him and deny his application? Apparently not. Cavanagh reports that he's hardly ever had an application denied.

According to the Next Gen Personal Finance blog, this shouldn't be surprising. Both his payment and credit history are long and positive. Also:

he has $1.7 million in available credit and since he is only using one card, his utilization rate (credit used divided by total credit) is probably less than 1% or way below the 30% that is the generally accepted figure that you want to be below.

So companies keep sending him new cards.

Posted By: Alex - Tue May 10, 2022 - Comments (8)
Category: Money, World Records, Collectors

Around the world on a unicycle

From All Hands: The Bureau of Naval Personnel Career Publication - July 1969:

First man to unicycle "around the world": Lieutenant John E. Mander of Antarctic Development Squadron Six. The squadron says LT Mander did it by riding his one-wheeler in a circle around the geographic South Pole at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott Pole Station.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Feb 27, 2022 - Comments (5)
Category: Bicycles and Other Human-powered Vehicles, World Records

Longest fall without a parachute

We've recently had a couple of posts about people surviving long falls. So this post (originally from Jan 2021) seemed relevant.

On January 26, 1972, stewardess Vesna Vulovic was working on a Yugoslav Airlines flight when a bomb blew up the plane. She fell 31,000 feet and miraculously survived. No one else on the flight did. She eventually made a near-full recovery and went back to work at the airline, though not as a stewardess. She died in 2016. To this day, she maintains the world record for having made the longest fall without a parachute.

Pittsburgh Press - Jan 29, 1972

Vesna Vulovic. Source: wikipedia

Vulovic is part of a small group of human marvels who have survived very long falls. Another member of this group is English tail gunner Nicholas Alkemade who, in 1944, survived a fall of 18,000 feet out of a Lancaster bomber.

The question of how people are able to survive very-high falls has attracted some scientific interest. The most famous study on this topic, that I'm aware of, was published by Hugh De Haven in 1942: "Mechanical analysis of survival in falls from heights of fifty to one hundred and fifty feet". I've pasted a summary of his study below, taken from Newsweek (Aug 24, 1942). But basically his conclusion was that, if you're falling a long distance, hope that something breaks and cushions your fall.

A woman jumps out of a sixth-story window and walks away uninjured. Another slips on a banana peel and is killed. Why? That was the question Hugh De Haven asked himself...

Obviously, De Haven couldn't subject human guinea pigs to experimental accidents in a laboratory. Instead, he analyzed the records of some remarkably lucky and well-documented falls—cases where men and women dropped from as high as 320 feet (the equivalent of 28 stories) and survived. A few of them:

--A 42-year-old woman jumped from a sixth floor. Hurtling 55 feet, she landed at 37 miles an hour on her left side and back in a well-packed plot of garden soil. She arose with the remark: "Six stories and not even hurt." Her body had made a 4-inch hollow in the earth.

--A 27-year-old girl dropped from a seventh story window and landed head first on a wooden roof. She crashed through, breaking three 6- by 2-inch beams, and dropped lightly to the ceiling below. None of her neighbors knew about the fall until she herself appeared at the attic door and asked assistance. And although one of her vertebrae was fractured, the girl was able to sit up in bed the same day.

--Another woman fell 74 feet, landing flat and face down on an iron bar, metal screens, a skylight, and a metal-lath ceiling. The impact made a 13-inch bend in the 1.5-inch bar, but she suffered only some cuts on her forehead and soreness about the ribs. She sat up and climbed through a nearby window.

--After a 72-foot drop, a 32-year-old woman landed in jackknife position on a fence of wire and wood. She picked herself up and marched to a first-aid station but was unhurt.

--A 27-year-old man fell 146 feet onto the rear deck of a coupe. Some of his bones were broken, but he remained conscious and was back at work within two months.

--A man dropped from a 320-foot cliff to the beach below, bouncing from a sloping ledge halfway down. Although his skull was fractured, he fully recovered. DeHaven noted that the man wore a large coat, which may have slowed his fall by a slight parachute action.

--A woman fell seventeen floors onto a metal ventilator box, landing in sitting position and crushing the metal downward 18 inches. Though both arms and one leg were broken, she sat up and demanded to be taken back to her room.

In this evidence, De Haven observed that (1) in each instance the blow was distributed over a large area of the body, and (2) the fall was not halted abruptly—in the ventilator case, for example, it was slowed through a distance of 18 inches and the impact was thus decreased. Even so, she had survived a force of more than 200 times gravity. By contrast, a person slipping on a sidewalk might crack his skull because hitting the unyielding concrete pavement generated a force of more than 300 times gravity.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Feb 05, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Human Marvels, World Records, 1970s

Gee Geronimo the Snail

I'm not aware of many famous snails. Gee Geronimo, as far as I know, may be the only one. Back in the 1970s, the Guinness Book of Records declared him to be the world's biggest snail. His owner was Christopher Hudson. Gee Geronimo died in 1976.

Christopher Hudson with Gee Geronimo
source: 1978 Guinness Book of Records

Connellsville Daily Courier - Nov 27, 1976

Hudson was apparently more in love with his snails than he was with his wife.

Honolulu Advertiser - Feb 4, 1977

Posted By: Alex - Wed Sep 15, 2021 - Comments (4)
Category: Animals, World Records, Marriage, 1970s

Captain Yancey and His Fabulous Autogyro

Source of clipping: Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) 03 Jul 1931, Fri Page 1

Good article here.

The Pitcairn PCA-2 autogyro was developed in 1931 and proved to be a reliable, unique aircraft. The rotor at its top was unpowered and it flew more like a fixed wing aircraft than a helicopter, based on the power from its radial engine on the nose. Once at speed, the rotor spun based on aerodynamic forces alone thus generating lift. It was an amazing sight and attracted crowds wherever it flew. By April of 1931, the autogyro had flown across the United States at the hands of John M. Miller, had landed on the White House lawn (by test pilot Jim Ray), and had soared to a new altitude record of 18,415 feet (this being Amelia Earhart’s record).

Seizing upon the press interest in the design, the Champion Spark Plug company purchased one and painted the sides with their logo and named it “Miss Champion”. It was the perfect flying billboard. After hiring Captain Lewis “Lew” Yancey, a former Naval Lieutenant and USCG officer who was a maritime captain, they directed that he fly the nation on an advertising tour. By the end of 1931, Captain Yancey had flown the autogyro 6,500 miles, transiting 21 states and touching down in 38 cities around the nation. Yet the Champion Spark Plugs company still wanted more attention — and thus they asked him to beat Amelia Earhart’s altitude record as well.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Sep 05, 2021 - Comments (1)
Category: Inventions, Publicity Stunts, World Records, Advertising, Air Travel and Airlines, 1930s

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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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