Animals can do stuff we can only dream of: Sharks can smell food from a quarter of a mile away; dung beetles can pull more than 1,000 times their body weight; and don’t get us started on what our dog can do to its balls. But wait—some people have managed to harness these animal powers! People like…
Real Name: Jesus “Chuy” Fajardo Aceves
36, Loreto, Mexico
Special ability: Growing hair on his face. Every single inch of it.
How he does it: Chuy has a condition called hypertrichosis, more commonly known by the awesome name “werewolf syndrome.” Caused by a genetic mutation that makes hair grow in areas it usually avoids (the eyelids, the forehead, the cleft of Howie Mandel’s chin), this condition has made Chuy the highlight of several circus sideshows. The condition is normally rare—only one in 10 billion people have it—but as it’s sometimes hereditary, currently 24 members of his family also require an all-over shampoo at bath time.
In his own words: “The best part is the attention I receive. Women like hairy men: I get a lot of proposals.”
Real name: Daniel Kish
45, Los Angeles, California
Special ability: Navigating entirely by echolocation
How he does it: Daniel Kish is an accomplished hiker and cyclist, which is pretty damn unusual for a guy who’s been blind since the age of 13 months. In place of vision, he’s pioneered the practice of human echolocation—like the sonar bats use to navigate in pitch black caves (and, presumably, not poop on the Batmobile).
By clicking with his tongue, he can recognize the objects around him from the sound waves that bounce back—a trick he teaches to others through his charity, World Access for the Blind. A blind man heroically changing the world with sonar—it’s just like all the bits in the Daredevil movie that didn’t suck!
In his own words: “I’ve met with opposition to teaching this. Current professions don’t realize how powerful it is.”
Real name: Michel Lotito
(deceased) Grenoble, France
Special ability: Eating garbage
How he does it: The words strong stomach don’t do Michel Lotito justice. Known in his native France as Monsieur Mangetout (“Mr. Eat Everything”), he could eat all manner of normally inedible objects. Throughout his long, strange career (sadly, he died in 2006), he consumed several tons of metal, including bikes, TVs, and, most famously, a Cessna 150 light aircraft, which took him nearly two years to eat. No one is totally sure how he was able to digest this crap, but like all superheroes he had a weakness (two, in fact): Weirdly, for a man able to eat a shopping
cart with no ill effects, he always claimed that bananas and hard-boiled eggs made him sick.
In his own words: “I’ve eaten a coffin! It was empty—no one was inside.”
The Flying Squirrel
Real name: Jeb Corliss
34, Malibu, California
Special ability: Gliding
How he does it: Jeb is one of the world’s top wing-suit fliers—that’s skydiving in a jumpsuit with wings under the arms that allow gliding (it’s so much harder than skydiving, you’re only allowed to do it after making 500 standard jumps first). Wing-suit fliers currently need a parachute to land, but Jeb’s working on a way to arrive on Earth without one. Sounds crazy, right? Don’t be surprised. He’s BASE-jumped off the Eiffel Tower and the Space Needle and was arrested in 2006 for trying to hop off the Empire State Building. This is one squirrel that remembers where he left his nuts.
In his own words: “After I broke my back in a jump, I learned that if you can go to the bathroom without help, life is good.”
Real name: Alain Robert
48, Digoin, France
Special ability: Scaling vertical surfaces
How he does it: Sheer balls. Spiders walk on walls thanks to thousands of microscopic hairs that bond with the surface at a molecular level. Alain, showing spiders who’s boss, used only his hands and some climbing shoes to scale more than 70 of the world’s highest buildings, including the 1,667-foot Taipei 101 in Taiwan in 2004 (then the world’s tallest building). The most amazing thing: After two falls in 1982, he constantly suffers from vertigo and has been described by doctors as “60 percent disabled.” In your hairy, eight-eyed faces, spiders!
In his own words: “I once climbed with my hands behind my back to make a point, but I lost balance and fell head-first from eight meters. I spent two months in the hospital.”
Real name: Linden Wolbert
30, Los Angeles, California
Swimming skills that would put a penguin to shame. (They’re good at swimming, right? They have to be good at something.)
How she does it: Linden has an amazing pair of lungs. And we do mean lungs: She can dive 91 feet on a single breath, wearing nothing but a bikini…and a 35-pound silicone mermaid tail (created with Hollywood SFX artist Allan Holt). This tail, combined with her superhuman ability to hold her breath for nearly five minutes, lets her swim at 17 mph (she says she can almost keep up with dolphins). Is there anything in the ocean sexier than a blonde mermaid? Nope. (Seriously. Fish are fucking gross.)
In her own words: “I swam with Caribbean reef sharks. They were seven feet long, but they were terrified of me.”
Real name: Tom Leppard
75, Broadford, Scotland
Special ability: Just kind of…being a leopard
How he does it: Dedication. Unlike the other Manimals here, Tom Leppard has no power beyond his bloody-minded determination to be the world’s oddest recluse. Once the world’s most tattooed man—those spots ain’t natural, kids—the ex-soldier spent decades living in isolation on a small Scottish island, traveling to the local store for supplies once a week by kayak. Sadly, all weird things must come to an end. At 73 he retired to a more normal house in the village of Broadford. So apparently a leopard can change its spots (not the ones tattooed on him, though—those are there for life).
In his own words: “I was in the armed forces for 28 years. I enjoyed the solitary activities…”
Real name: Daniel Browning Smith
31, Meridian, Mississippi
Special ability: Being able to tie himself in knots
How he does it: America’s officially recognized most flexible human being, Daniel is to being bendy what Paris Hilton is to being famous for screwing dudes in night vision. Thanks to his ability to dislocate both arms and legs and swivel his torso 180 degrees, he can climb through a tennis racket, pack himself away in a tiny, tiny chest, and even crawl through a toilet seat, bent in half like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. He can probably do lots more stuff, but frankly the five-minute YouTube video we watched was enough to make us run screaming from the room (and give us a morbid terror of toilets).
In his own words: “I’ve always had the ability to dislocate and relocate my joints. It causes me no discomfort at all.”