A world record represents an achievement of superiority. Questing for one deserves praise. Forgotten ones should be remembered.
My first discovery came while thumbing through the magazine “Glue*Magic”, May 1962. There was a picture and story of Vernon Helmtswat, the world’s most-glued man. Vernon was shown gluing himself to the bottom of a jet plane moments before take off.
My interest was born when I met Thomas Swielzel, the forgotten champion of forgotten world records. Thomas was a loner, and for good reason. People were uncomfortable around a man who dry-cleaned his fruits and vegetables instead of washing them. Not me.
We met in a coffee shop. He was dressed in a grey suit complimented by a grey complexion. He began the conversation. “I know that I may sound like a dreamer, but I have a theory. The theory is, is that our planet earth has another small planet circling it at a distance of about 250,000 miles.”
“Are you talking about the moon?” I asked.
“WHAT? he cried. “Do you mean somebody has discovered it before me?! There goes another Nobel Prize!”
Thomas stormed out and it was 6 months before I saw him again.
I was at a flea market when I spotted a crowd of people listening to someone. Curious, I approached. It was Thomas.
“And may I remind you,” he said, “Edward Corbon holds the record for forgetting what he looks like. Mr. Corbin has been shown many pictures of himself but everytime he looks in the mirror, he says the same thing, ‘Hello, Mr. President.'”
Inspired, my search for those elusive records began anew. I searched bookstores and laundromats. It was tough going. Finally I found something in an old newspaper.
“Yesterday, Howard Muller captured a world record by becoming the first man ever to make future predictions and have 98% of them come true. Mr. Muller claims that he can predict the future if he is within 5 feet of a goat. ‘It has something to do with the aura surrounding our two species,’ he was quoted saying. ‘When they combine it enables me to see into the future!'” A photo showed Mr. Muller and a goat in Las Vegas playing cards.
My search continued but it was difficult. Relief came when I spotted an ad in a magazine. Thomas would be sponsoring a talk on “Forgotten World Records”.
I attended. Only I attended. He had an audience of just one. Me. He didn’t seem to notice though, carrying on as if all 250 sears were occupied. And he was fascinating!
“Lawrence Canaby holds the world record for disappearing socks in the Bermuda Triangle,” he said. “A fisherman by trade, Mr. Canaby has traveled the area thousands of times with his socks vanishing on each trip.”
“LuAnne Kramer hold the record as the world’s most misidentified woman. For years, thousands of people have mistaken her some somebody else with the biggest error coming when a supermarket shopper grabbed Mrs. Kramer thinking she was a loaf of bread.”
At the end of the conference Thomas gave me the key to his house. “I know that you are fascinated by this subject,” he said. “Go to my house and search. I have hundreds of boxes all containing these forgotten records! And while you’re there, paint the living room. I like the color blue. It needs a fresh coat.”
I was in heaven. Or at least, I thought that I was.
To be continued…