In life we don’t always succeed. Few mention those that shoot for the brass ring and come up empty. While mediocre underachievers are often lost in the shadows of time, there remains a special place for those that fail in truly impressive fashion. Achieving a world record takes dedication, persistence and a certain amount of craziness. Repetition to the point of perfection is often required. Yet, there’s always a chance for failure, be it manmade incompetence, an accident, or just the shifting of the wind – even the smallest variable can derail one of these attempts. When things go awry the results are often spectacularly bad. Here are ten of the most unfortunate failures who didn’t quite achieve the world record they were in search of.
10 The Most Smurfs
In 2008, 394 Croatians attempted to break this bizarre record which included dressing up in Smurf costumes and painting their bodies blue. Believing they shattered the record by more than 100 Smurfs, the group gathered and attempted to set the record along the banks of a scenic river. Unfortunately they failed to do the requisite research and discovered the following day that in 2007 a group of Warwick University students had already broken the record by assembling 451 dedicated souls to decorate themselves as Smurfs. They might not have set a record but we can never take the memories of dressing up en masse as 1980s cartoon characters away from them.
9 The Longest Sandwich
Failure comes in a variety of forms. Poor research and preparation are the primary culprits, but sometimes a little thing like an afternoon snack can make a difference between the breaking a record and not. That was the case for a group of Iranian cooks who attempted to break the record for the longest sandwich ever made. The goal was to break the 1,300 (plus) meter record set by a group of Italians. To do this they gathered 1,000 Iranian cooks and began work on the desired 1,500 meter long sandwich. Obviously, such an event would draw a crowd. Before they could finish this monstrosity, the assembled viewers, apparently drooling in mouth-watering anticipation, descended upon the sandwich and began to consume it. While this record wasn’t broken at least the Iranian’s can feel good about providing a free lunch for their people.
Russian Agasi Vartanyan gloriously sat inside a glass box in St. Petersburg for 50 days, drinking only fluids and refusing to eat in an attempt to break the world record for the longest hunger strike. His intentions were noble and he believed that he was well on his way into the Guinness records books, shattering whatever record previously existed. One problem, Agasi forgot to inform the Guinness World Record people of his little attempt. Since Guinness needs prior notification of any record-holding attempt, Agasi’s efforts were needlessly in vain. To rub salt in the wound, Guinness had previously listed the record for the longest hunger strike at 94 days (credited to a group of Irish prisoners in the 1920s.) Agasi wasn’t even close to breaking the established record – even had his attempt counted. We hope he enjoyed his time in his isolated glass bubble.
7 Longest Time Without Sleep
In 2007 Tony Wright determined he had broken the record for being awake the longest by going 266 hours without sleep. Wright was convinced he’d broken the record by a full two hours. When he awoke from his well-deserved nap he found the record was already broken (by 10 hours no less) by another attempt. Worse, Guinness had decided that this record was just too dangerous and it stopped recording it altogether. Hopefully Wright was productive during his 11 days of sleeplessness.
6 Most Bras Linked Together
One might question why this record even exists in the first place, but it does. So, in 2011 a group of Australians attempted to link 166,000 bras together to break the previous record. During their chaotic attempt at the Worcester race track, the bras inexplicably became too tightly packed during the process of unboxing them (there’s a joke in here someplace.) Because of poor execution, the attempt had to be called off as the bras became too entangled to be used. Maybe there were too many men involved in this attempt. Whatever the reason for their failure, the organizers had to abandon the effort. In the departments of “colossal wastes of time” and “ineffective organization” this event is high on the list.
5 Fire Walking
It’s probably a good idea to inform any potential volunteers who might show up for your record-breaking attempt what they are getting themselves into first. That wasn’t the case when three hundred-plus people showed up to attempt this fire-walking record in New Zealand. Some were quite surprised to discover they would be walking across hot coals, but whether through peer pressure or just a sense of daring, most gave it a shot. Despite constant supervision and on-site medical attention, twenty-eight people were burned and eleven seriously injured trying to walk over hot coals. The organizers had hoped to use this event to raise money as well as break a record. Sadly, the $1,000 they raised for charity was mostly used to treat the injuries of the participants.
4 Bar Hopping
The goal isn’t all that difficult. Visit as many bars as possible and consume one beer at each. Sounds simple enough, right? Oddly, the problem wasn’t a drunken binge, an accident, or any other of the probable events you could imagine. It was the organizer. Larry Olmsted had been previously blacklisted by the Guinness people. For what, you ask? Olmsted, a record holder already, wrote a book on his attempt at the longest distance traveled between playing two rounds of golf in the same day. He also wrote a book on the history of the Guinness book of records. Neither book was authorized by the Guinness people or well-received. Guinness organizers were furious about some of the dark history revealed in the gathering and attempting of records. Olmsted’s latest attempt wasn’t allowed as Guinness had filed legal action against him, which must have come something as a surprise to him at the time.
3 Fastest Free Fall
In 2008, Frenchman Michel Fournier hoped to break the world record for freefalling at supersonic speed. He hoped to float 34 kilometers into the sky in a hot air balloon and then leap out. Michel’s primary focus was to break the sound barrier by freefalling and then parachuting to the surface when his attempt was successful. He was to achieve such great height by floating skyward in a contraption supported by a hot-air balloon. Prior to his attempt the balloon which would carry Fournier into the sky took off as it was being inflated – without him. Fournier could do nothing but helplessly watch as a massive investment of money and time sailed off into the world without a human passenger.
2 Coconut Breaking
We can’t imagine the difficulty of breaking one coconut without the assistance of tools. Some people, however, are not so intimidated by the possibility. Thus we introduce Coconut Breaking Guy, who kung-fu smashed a few coconuts, and an awful lot of the metal support system he used to hold them. Sure, he didn’t actually break any of these iron-clad reservoirs, but he did get the glory of a lot of YouTube hits, and probably a broken hand, for his efforts. I could just describe all the things that went wrong here, but well, let’s just take a look at the video.
1 Domino Toppling
There must be a primal fear that perpetually resides in you when your team spends a month arranging four million dominoes. One wrong bump, one fallen domino and all your hard work is suddenly and spectacularly gone in an instant. A team of Dutchmen must have lived daily with this fear as they attempted to break this record. They were close to finished with the setup when an errant sparrow somehow got into the building. The ensuing chaos resulted in the bird knocking down 23,000 dominos. The disaster was recoverable, but not in time for the Guinness representatives to arrive on the appointed day. The attempt was abandoned and the bird was appropriately shot.