If you could have one superpower what would it be? We’ve all been asked this question at least once. I’ve asked it many, many times because sometimes small talk is hard and we revert back to the basics when we’re cornered by a friend-of-a-friend who’s already talked about the weather. I always flip flop between the ability to fly or being able to talk to animals. Eliza Thornberry and I already share a similar aesthetic, so that’s the last thing I’d need to close the gap. But enough about me. What superpower would you choose? Telepathy? Invincibility? Super strength? What about something a little less traditional like being impervious to electricity or balls of steel? No, seriously, that’s a thing but I’ll tell you about it later.
These real, living humans didn’t get a choice but they did get a superpower. There’s a woman who remembers every detail about her life and a man with elastic skin and yes, I know you’re still thinking about the guy with the strongest shlong. I promise I’ll tell you all about it soon. This bunch of weirdos would make the world’s most absurd team of superheroes – like, how is the man who eats metal going to help apprehend a bank robber? – but that doesn’t make their abilities any less super. I’d like you to try and turn your head around 180 degrees. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Not so easy, is it? These people are just a few of the many secretly special human beings that wander the streets every day. Who knows, maybe your barista is actually a human magnet? Look carefully next time she picks up a spoon.
15. Blink And You’ll Miss It…But He Won’t
Stephen Wiltshire can take one look at a city skyline and draw the entire thing accurately from memory. I don’t mean those mid-level cities, either. He’s no amateur. We’re talking the big guns like New York or Chicago. At one point, he took a short helicopter ride around Manhattan and recreated the island with graphite and paper with startling accuracy. He remembers every window, turret, and happy little tree exactly and draws them all to scale. It’s likely that the image stays in his mind forever, by the way. Wiltshire is a savant. His autism hinders parts of his brain while basically connecting his eyes to his hand by turning his recall and drawing abilities up to 100. While most of us would be distracted by being hundreds of feet in the air – and, oh my god, what if the helicopter blades just stopped spinning? – Wiltshire can tune that all out and just focus on the remembering every detail of the city below. I can barely remember to feed myself.
14. Shock Me Like An Electric Eel
It’s electric. Boogie-woogie, woogie! But Ma Xiangang can’t feel a thing. Xiangang has the unique ability to touch a live wire and come out unscathed. Why can he do this, and even more importantly why would he want to? Well, he found out about his ability accidentally, as people tend to in cases like this, when his TV went out one day and he thought he was qualified enough to jimmy around with the fuse box to see if he could fix the problem. Turns out, he absolutely wasn’t qualified because he ended up brushing up against a live wire – something a qualified person would not have done. When he realized that he felt nothing, he touched it again because, you know, why wouldn’t you touch something that was supposed to be able to kill you just to make sure it didn’t? Xiangang’s body chemistry makes him seven to eight times more resilient to electric shock than the average person. He says that electricity makes him feel energized, which, if you ask me, makes him sound more like a battery than a man.
13. Short Sleepers Lay Awake While We Dream
In 2009, scientists discovered a gene mutation that makes a person need less sleep than the average human. This sounds like a setup for the world’s worst X-men, but it’s actually pretty cool. The discovery opened the door to understanding human sleep patterns and disorders. The mutation has only been seen in two people, a mother and daughter who frequently function on close to six hours of sleep instead of the average of eight to nine. I can only assume they use their extra two hours of awake time bickering about why the daughter doesn’t just settle down with a nice man and have kids already. We truly know very little about sleep, other than the fact that we need it. Scientists hope this discovery will aid that understanding and maybe lead to inventing ways we can safely live with less sleep because we all deserve a little more time to argue with our mothers.
12. The Human Computer
You might be able to tell from the fact that I write listicles on the internet, but I’m no good at math. I add up small numbers on my phone’s calculator and still use the finger trick to multiply by nine. Shakuntala Devi never had that problem. She grew up in India with her father who, instead of becoming a priest, decided to literally run off to join the circus and took his daughter with him. If that isn’t the dopest thing you’ve ever heard then please tell me what is. I love garbage like that. Anyway, he found out about his daughter’s special math skills while practicing a card trick with her. That’s when they ran away from the circus to start their own traveling show showcasing Devi’s calculations. She traveled the world performing mental math equations faster than her audience could even write them down. Devi ended up writing a book about how she went about making her calculations called Figuring: The Joy of Numbers, but I propose a title change to You’ll Never Be Able To Do This, Losers.
11. The Man Who Remembers Everything
If you’re like me, a twenty-something-year-old woman who wore ponchos in middle school and sat alone at lunch, then you remember Cam Jansen. She was a spunky little girl with a photographic memory and a penchant for solving mysteries. Kim Peek is sort of like that, but he’s a grown man and mystery solving is mostly left to the professionals in real life. So, it’s mostly just the photographic memory thing, actually. By the time he died in 2009, Peek had memorized 12,000 books, for some reason. He was able to do this partly because of his photographic memory and partly because he could read two pages at once, each with a different eye. Good news for humanity, Peek actively refused to use his powers for evil. He was asked once to read a book about gambling to turn him into a real-life Rain Man, but he wouldn’t do it. He also didn’t accept any compensation for his appearances. He was just happy to meet new people and remember each and every one of them.
10. How Deep Does The Rabbit Hole Go?
Isao Machii is a Japanese man who can sense things before he sees them. What I mean by that is he’s some sort of magician who can slice airsoft pellets out of the air with a katana. Don’t believe me? There are videos on Youtube that demonstrate his superhuman abilities. The difference between what Machii does and what happens when a baseball player catches a ball is simple, and it isn’t. A baseball player is using his sense of sight to predict where the ball is going to go, but Machii can predict the location of things moving too fast to see. His brain is just wired this way. According to experts, he isn’t even sensing his target at all, he just knows where it’s going to end up. I wonder if he can do that with anything else, like if he could predict where I’ll end up in five years. My mom really wants to know.
9. Pitch Perfect
No, not the movie, but I do consider each and every actress and actor in that musical to be a damn superhero. What I’m really talking about is the ability to think about any musical note and sing it perfectly. It might not sound so super but think about it. Can you even think of the name of a note, let alone what it sounds like? Didn’t think so. The ability is crazy-rare. Researchers think only one in 10,000 people have the ability to make the rest of us look like tone-deaf sirens. Also, perfect pitch is significantly more common in people raised in East Asia, which probably has something to do with being exposed to tonal languages. So far, this is not something you can train yourself to do. So, if you’re thinking about singing along Pitch Perfect over and over again to train your ear, still do that but know it’s not going to give you any superpowers.
8. World’s Strongest Strongman
Have you ever fantasized about being bench pressed by a beefy man? No? Just me? Cool. Either way, Louis Cyr could do that ten times over (please don’t try and calculate how much I weigh). His most impressive feats include lifting 500 pounds with one finger and back lifting 4,337 pounds. Former International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness chairman Ben Weider points to those as evidence of Cyr being the strongest strongman of all times. Cyr was a policeman before he became a strongman and I can only assume that he started tossing criminals through the air like paper planes and realized his true calling. This man held back bolting horses, pushed a freight train car up a hill, and held a platform of 18 men on his back. Think about that next time you go to the gym.
7. Baby, It’s Cold Outside
But not for Wim Hof! The Dutch-born “Iceman” is impervious to cold. Not in the way Chicagoans claim to be when the first signs of spring show and they throw away their winter coats. What I mean is, he climbed Mount Everest in bicycle shorts and said it was easy. His abilities are so great that he once submerged himself in water cold enough to kill a normal person and his body temperature barely dropped. He claims his imperviousness comes from the powers of meditation, which sounds like absolute bull to me, but when researchers tested Hof they proved him right. Turns out, the man can control his autonomic nervous system and immune response just by thinking really hard about it. This ability has never been seen in another person ever, so please don’t go running out into the snow in your underwear this winter.
6. Eyes On The Prize
I’m legally blind, like, can’t drive without my glasses blind because I might mistake a stop sign for a person – two things I really shouldn’t hit with my car. Veronica Seider is the opposite. She has 20/2 vision, which means details that an average person has to be twenty feet from to see, she can make out from a mile away. Let that sink in. If you were standing a mile away from Seider picking your nose because you thought no one was around to see if you’d be wrong. As far as utilizing her unique skills, she did what anyone with supervision would do. She became a dentist. Okay, so Seider decided to live a low key life instead perching herself on the tops of tall buildings to keep an eye on the bustling streets below. I guess the world could always use more dentists.
5. The Man Who Eats Metal
Full disclaimer: I can’t think of a single use for this superpower other than the rare occasion that you need to get rid of a car very slowly and leave no evidence. Michel Lotito doesn’t care about practicality. Michel Lotito only cares about eating things that really shouldn’t be eaten. Over the course of his lifetime, he consumed 18 bicycles, 15 shopping carts, 17 televisions, 6 chandeliers, 2 beds, 1 pair of skis, 1 waterbed, 1 Cessna Aircraft, and 1 coffin. It’s also estimated that over his lifetime he ate about nine tons of metal, but hardboiled eggs made him sick. Doctors confirmed that he suffered from pica, a disorder that gives people an appetite for things they definitely shouldn’t eat, and thick stomach and intestinal linings, which aided him in eating hazardous chunks of metal without suffering injury. He was issued a commemorative plaque for his abilities by the Guinness Book of world records, which (surprise) he also ate.
4. Gary “Stretch” Turner
Gary “Stretch” Turner’s skin is so loose – How loose is it?! – he can pull a sheet of it from his stomach strong enough to hold three pints of beer. There. That’s a fact you know now and you can’t un-know it. Turner suffers from an extremely rare genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which weakens his skin and my stomach. He formerly performed with the group Circus of Horrors, of Britain’s Got Talent fame, but now has made a lateral move to the Royal Family of Strange People. He first noticed his abnormality when his uncle started pulling at his skin to show off to his friends. He also realized that his uncle was a bully. But his stretchy skin isn’t Turner’s only talent. Apparently, does a truly terrifying Batman impression. So, there’s that.
3. Iron Crotch Qigong
Guys, cross your legs and prepare for this one because this makes even a penis-less person like me shudder. Zhou Chengli is a 73-year-old man whose idea of a brisk workout includes pummeling himself in the crotch with hammers, bricks, and metal weights. He practices the ancient art of iron crotch qigong, which is apparently a discipline of Shaolin kung fu. Cool. It’s supposed to make men invincible on the battlefield. Daoist belief says that if a man’s genitals are strong, he is strong. I disagree, but who am I to argue with a centuries-old belief system. The technique is carefully guarded, like most guys’ junk, and is only passed down from teacher to student. After a basic training course, most men can lift about 50 pounds with their package. Another disclaimer: please don’t start punching yourself in the schlong thinking it will make you superman. It won’t. It will just make you sad.
2. Miles To Go Before He Sleeps
How many times have you started a cardio routine in an attempt to finally pull yourself together? How many times have you quit because running is hard and you don’t pay for a Netflix subscription every month just to let it sit there? Be honest. Dean Karnazes has never set a goal he didn’t reach. He’s run a marathon on every continent twice. He once ran 50 marathons in 50 states for 50 consecutive days, probably giving the finger to everyone he passed. He even ran nonstop for 350 miles over three very long nights. I got winded just typing that last sentence. Don’t feel too bad about yourself. Karnazes’ body is predispositioned for endurance. His muscles don’t get damaged like other runners and he just has more blood running through his veins than the average person. Researchers even concluded that if he could hypothetically keep himself hydrated and fed he could just keep running forever. Get off the couch, weenies.
1. The Man With The Revolving Head
Now, this entry should really…wait for it…turn heads! If you can forgive me for that, let me tell you about Martin Laurello, or the Human Owl or Bobby the Boy with the Revolving Head. If you can’t glean what Laurello’s superpower is from that then I can’t help you. Laurello was a German-American performer who ran with the big dogs like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Ringling Brothers, and Barnum & Bailey. He could turn his head around 180 degrees and wave goodbye to you as he walked away. He mastered this feat by practicing turning his head over the course of three years and dislocating a few vertebrae. No big deal. He was also born with a slightly bent spine, which might have helped. There’s not a lot known about the man except he preferred to wear a white shirt when performing, trained cats and dogs in his free time, and was once described as an America-hating Nazi – but let’s go back to the head-turning thing!
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