The fictional universes devised by creative minds, where the superhuman or supernatural coexist with us ordinary folk, are not entirely devoid of facts. Many of us are entranced by the mysterious appeal of the strange and unusual and, now more than ever, the superhuman is the subject of some of the most popular films, TV series and books. There’s just something inscrutably attractive about the bizarre, the uncanny and the larger than life.
So those of us who enjoy a good superhero yarn will be intrigued to know that beings seemingly torn from the pages of comic books do, indeed, walk among us. They are those we read about in medical archives or flock to see perform. These are ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. Far from the quirky and at times disturbing feats turned 'world records' - the longest beard or the most hot dogs ever eaten in one sitting, for instance -some individuals possess truly remarkable talents that defy the laws of science and surpass what we know to be the limits of our human capacity.
These people are marvels, capable of unprecedented feats or unusual skills that mark them out as distinctly different from the rest of the world. Happily, most of them are praised for their unusual abilities rather than ridiculed because of it. Perhaps the digital age and the more open minded, curious public that come with it have given these unique people the chance to stir public interest, marketing their extraordinary talents rather than being shunned or feared because of them.
Needless to say, the strange and unusual is a booming business these days and this fact is what prompts some people to attempt to con the world into believing the unbelievable. (How many Bigfoots can there be?) But the highly publicized individuals listed below are real and otherwise ordinary people, save for their extraordinary abilities that shock the world. And perhaps most intriguingly, their unique talents and feats have not been disproved by modern science.
10 Gino Martino: ‘The Human Anvil’
Gino Martino is an American professional wrestler and entertainer who wows audiences with his superhuman ability to smash through things with his skull. Gino has broken steel bars and baseball bats over his head. He's had blocks of concrete broken over his head with a sledgehammer and has even had bowling balls dropped from 15 feet high on top of his skull. He owes his extraordinary ability to what doctors have determined to be an extra-thick skull. Gino is dedicated to his career and continues to smash his head through large and heavy objects, owning up to his nickname ‘The Human Anvil’.
9 Tim Cridland: 'The Torture King'
Tim Cridland has built a career from putting himself through agonizing torture, proudly dubbing himself Zamora the Torture King. With a stage name like that the curious audiences know what they're in for, and Tim has proven his extraordinary tolerance for pain for decades. He has impaled himself with skewers practically everywhere in his body and swallowed flaming swords, he has lain on a bed of nails while being jumped on by audience members - and these are just a couple of his torturous feats. Tim’s been featured in the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe or Not. He owes his extreme tolerance for pain to what some doctors believe is a rare and dangerous condition where an individual is incapable of feeling pain.
8 Wim Hof: 'The Iceman'
Wim Hof’s extraordinary ability is his power to withstand below freezing temperatures. This Dutchman has ran marathons over snow barefoot, been buried in ice, and holds the world record for the longest time submerged in an ice bath: 1 hour and 52 mins. But if that’s not impressive enough, Wim has climbed the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts, earning him the name "The Iceman". When asked how he is capable of withstanding below-freezing temperatures, Wim relates that he achieves these remarkable feats through meditation by turning his ‘inner thermostat up’ as he wades through unbelievable cold. Researchers have confirmed that Wim is indeed capable of consciously controlling his autonomic nervous system and immune responses; score one for the power of meditation.
7 Masutatsu Oyama: Can kill a bull with one blow
Masutatsu Oyama (1923-1994) was a martial arts master and undefeated champion. But Oyama was not just a karate expert, he was known for combating 100 men and beating them all in a series of 2 minute long fights that lasted the course of three days. But that’s not all Mas is famous for; he’s considered a legend for fighting bulls with his bare hands. He has reportedly fought 52 bulls, three of which he killed in one blow.
6 Tibetan Monks who practice Tummo: Can produce intense body heat
A small group of Tibetan Monks made headlines, stirred public intrigue, and attracted visitors from all over the world to observe their sessions of deep meditation. What’s so attractive about meditating monks? When it comes to Buddhist practitioners of Tummo, a yoga practice centered on concentrating body heat, what’s worth seeing is how they are able to raise their body temperatures to incredibly high levels without ever moving a muscle. To demonstrate their extraordinary ability, large towels soaked in icy water would be placed over the monk’s shoulders and within an hour, the towels would be completely dry. The ability for humans to consciously raise body temperature to such high degrees is, to this day, scientifically inexplicable.
5 Master Zhou: ‘Jewel of China’
Master Zhou is a Thai Chi and Kung Fu master and a Qigong healer. The ‘qi’ in Qigong roughly translates to the word ‘heat’ and this is what Master Zhou is famous for: the ability to heat things with his bare hands. He has demonstrated his remarkable talent by drying up clay in his hands and even bringing water to a boil by simply holding it. He uses his heating ability to cure tumors, body pain, and a variety of other ailments, which hundreds of his believers swear by. Some of his famous patients have been the Dalai Lama and members of the LA Lakers basketball team. His superhuman power and subsequent fame has earned him the name the ‘Jewel of China’. Master Zhou has been tested by experts who can’t find a scientific cause for his power, which he attributes to his ability to harness his ‘chi’ through meditation and concentrate it in the palm of his hands.
4 Michel Lotito: ‘Monsieur Mangetout'
Appropriately known in his native France as ‘Monsieur Mangetout’, which means 'Mr. Eats It All', Michel Lotito (1950-2007), could eat anything. Lotito ate an estimated nine tons of metal between the years 1959 and 1997. He’s also reportedly eaten an entire airplane in the span of about 2 years, seven TV sets, 18 bicycles, 15 shopping carts, a coffin, and a portion of the Eiffel Tower. What’s behind this man’s shocking ability? It’s actually a rare condition known as Pica, a disorder that causes people to have an appetite for non-nutritious - often indigestible - substances. His condition, paired with an unusually thick stomach lining, allowed Lotito to consume large quantities of metal. His method? Cutting up his metal meals into small pieces and swallowing them with plenty of water and mineral oil. Apparently Lotito was also impervious to the harmful effects of lead poisoning and other toxic substances in his 'food', since in 2007 he passed away, but of natural causes.
3 Isao Machii: Super Samurai
Isao Machii wows audiences with his impressive sword wielding skills: Isao can cut through a pellet fired from a BB gun coming at him at 200 miles an hour. Isao’s feat was captured on video and when played back, the footage revealed to researchers how his skill with the sword is owed to his superior anticipatory processing. While a normal human would only begin registering the sound of the pellet being shot, Isao instantaneously anticipates where it will be at an extraordinary speed. He does visually sense the pellet but almost automatically knows where it will be, reacting to it at a speed that surpasses typical human ability.
2 Ben Underwood: Sees through sound
Ben Underwood, born in 1992, suffered from retinal cancer and had both of his eyes surgically removed at the age of 3. But Ben was no ordinary victim of blindness and didn't need a walking stick or a guide dog to help him maneuver through the world - because Ben learned to see through sound. At the age of 5, he harnessed the ability to practice echolocation, the remarkable skill used to detect surrounding objects by hearing the sounds projected from them. Bats and dolphins are two species that use this sense to 'see' the world. Ben trained himself to detect objects by making loud clicking noises and hearing their sound projected back to him. Thanks to his keen ability, Ben grew up able to skateboard, play football, protect himself from bullies; basically everything a normal youth can do. Unfortunately, his lifelong battle with retinal cancer eventually claimed his life and he passed away in 2009 at the age of 16.
1 Natasha Demkina: X-Ray Vision
Natasha Demkina is known in her native Russia as the “Girl with X-ray Eyes”. She claims to have the ability to see through people’s skin and into their insides. Natasha first discovered her unique ability to see people’s organs and tissues when she was ten years old and has since then has used her superhuman ability to perform medical diagnoses on devout believers. Naturally, one can’t claim to have x-ray vision without facing disputation and in order to test or disprove Natasha’s claims, several medical experts have put Natasha through extensive studies.
The Discovery Channel spearheaded one such study in 2004 and featured Natasha as the subject of a documentary “The Girl With X-ray Eyes”. In the study conducted by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), Natasha was asked to identify the medical conditions of 6 volunteers who had undergone surgery or had a physical anomaly. Natasha correctly diagnosed 4 of the volunteers in the four-hour long study, including the control subject, but based on her results, the CSI concluded that her ability lacked sufficient evidence to promote further study. Regardless, Natasha continues to use her superhuman ability to medically diagnose people and has a strong group of supporters to this day.