Remember the first time you witnessed “Guinness World Records”? Recall the majesty of seeing a man standing nearly 9 feet tall? Or a woman not quite 3 feet high? Or the person who can juggle fire and eat Doritos with his feet while ordering drive-through cheese sticks and making his own milkshake in record time? (OK, we made up that last one.)
But have you ever wondered if anyone in Iowa has these types of talents?
Robert Wadlow holds the Guinness World Record for being the tallest man ever — 8 feet, 11.1 inches.
Ayanna Williams has the record for growing the longest female fingernails on a pair of hands ever — 18 feet, 10.9 inches.
The shortest woman living (mobile) is Jyoti Amge — 24.7 inches.
A person named Super Farmacia Rebeca performed the most mammograms in a 24-hour period — 352.
None of the aforementioned are from Iowa, but keep reading to be even more amazed by the incredible accomplishments by Hawkeye staters. Enjoy.
THE WIDEST TONGUE ON EARTH BELONGS TO EAST HIGH ALUM
Where: Grew up living on Des Moines’ east side; now lives in New York state
The “Human Body” section within “The Guinness Book of World Records” is the most popular section, according to Byron Schlenker, and that’s something the East High alum, who now lives in Syracuse, New York, knows something about.
Schlenker never considered his tongue to be extraordinary, but when his daughter brought home a Guinness World Records book and he saw what the record was previously for the world’s widest tongue, he thought, “Hmmm.” The next thing he knew, his daughter was wrestling a measuring tape into his mouth and, lo and behold!… It appeared Schlenker’s tongue could be the widest one known to man. He wrote to Guinness, but their response was disappointing. They outlined a verification process that would cost $5,000 or maybe more.
“Look, I’m just a guy who thought it’d be funny to embarrass his family,” Schlenker remembers thinking. “I’m not spending that.”
But a year later, Guinness reached out with a simplified process, and the rest is history. Schlenker holds the record for having the World’s Widest Tongue at 8.3 centimeters or 3.37 inches.
Ever since the book was published with Schlenker in it, he has been routinely contacted by an assortment of media and random strangers from around the globe.
He limits who he interacts with.
“The thing about Guinness is that they are a class act,” he says. “No matter how weird it can be, they make it seem like it’s the neatest thing in the world. They don’t make you feel bad or weird or exploit you in any way you aren’t comfortable with.”
Large tongues must run in the family genes because Schlenker’s daughter Emily has recorded the widest female tongue on record, measuring 2.89 inches wide.
“One thing we often tell people when they ask to see our tongues is, ‘Are you sure?’ ” says Schlenker. “Because you can’t unsee it!”
|FUN FACT: The human tongue consists of eight different muscles.|
RECORD: Largest collection of X-Men memorabilia
WHERE: West Des Moines
When: June 28, 2012
The madness began back in 1989 when Eric Jaskolka’s Sunday school teacher — who coincidentally owned a comic book shop — introduced the lad to comics. The youngster eventually expanded his collection to include any type of X-Men memorabilia, and then, while living as an adult in West Des Moines, Jaskolka set Guinness’ world record for having “The largest collection of X-Men memorabilia” on record.
Jaskolka has since moved to Iowa City, and moving his large inventory was laborious, but that hasn’t stopped him from expanding it. The gigantic collection numbered 15,400 items in 2012 when he officially earned his mark.
“I have well over 20,000 now,” he says.
In case you are wondering, Jaskolka’s favorite X-Men character is Wolverine.
LONGEST BEARD ON RECORD BELONGED TO IOWA MAN
Where: Kensett, Iowa
As a young man, Hans Langseth let his beard grow out in an attempt to win a contest. After the competition was over, the Norwegian-born man continued letting his whiskers get longer until eventually he had what would later be recognized as the longest beard in recorded history, measuring 17 feet and 6 inches long.
Langseth must’ve been proud of his beard. When he died in 1927 — he was buried in Elk Creek Church Cemetery in Kensett — he wanted his beard to be cut off and saved for posterity. A dutiful son did as his father wanted, and Langseth’s facial hair eventually found its way into the Smithsonian and “The Guinness Book of World Records.”
|FUN FACT: Human beard hair grows to only 4 or 5 feet before it dies, but Langseth matted this dead hair into something similar to a
modern-day dreadlock, which led to a much longer and stronger beard.
MINI PIG PERFORMED 13 TRICKS IN 60 SECONDS
When: Jan. 16, 2018
Pet tricks aren’t just for dogs and cats, according to Dawn Bleeker, who, along with her 75-pound miniature pig named Joy, set the record for “The most tricks performed by a pig in one minute” by performing 13 such performances.
“Pigs are extremely smart,” she says. “Joy (the pig) has been doing tricks since 8 months old.”
The pig’s repertoire includes sit, shake, spin, play piano, ring bell, roll out the carpet and more.
The dynamic human/pig duo lives in Newton where Dawn runs a movie theater. This is also the primary venue for Joy to perform at, and the pig has become a bit of a local celeb.
|FUN FACT: “Pigs are smarter than any other domestic animal,” according to PBS. “Their ability to solve problems…is well-documented, and they are considered by animal experts to be more trainable than dogs or cats.”|
3 FAMILY MEMBERS SET 3 GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS ON SAME DAY
Christa (Hanson) Hunter; Mark Hanson; Christa Hanson
When: June 2, 2019
Three different members of the Hanson family set world records on the same day. Christa Hanson made the World’s Largest Paper Snowflake — 9.5 feet. Her husband, Mark, made 1,320 juggling catches in three minutes. He had previously set two other Guinness World Records for speed juggling. The Hanson’s daughter, Christa (Hanson) Hunter, officially broke a 17-year-old Guinness World Record by jump roping on a 9-foot, 5.5-inch unicycle. The previous record was 9-foot, 2-inch.
“Hers was, by far, the hardest and the most dangerous,” boasts Mark proudly. “That one might never be broken.”
STUCK IN 60 SECONDS
Where: Sioux City
When: Nov. 15, 2014
Taylor Maurer chose to accept the sticky-note face challenge and nailed it. By attaching 60 notes to her face, an average of one per second, according to Guinness, Maurer made her dream of owning a Guinness World Record a reality. To count toward the record, each sticky note must be attached one at a time to the face’s skin, and once the allotted 60 seconds is over, each note must continue sticking to the participant’s face for at least an additional 10 seconds.
WATCH IT HERE: www.instagram.com/p/BpklPDan0jl/?hl=en
THREW A 2-POUND ROLLING PIN MORE THAN 175 FEET
Lori La Deane Adams
Where: Iowa State Fair
When: Aug. 21, 1979
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Lori La Deane Adams tossed a 2-pound rolling pin 175 feet, 5 inches at Iowa State Fair, which is the “Farthest distance to throw a rolling pin” in recorded history, according to Guinness.
PELLA THINKS IT CAN DANCE… IN WOODEN SHOES
Pella Historical Society
When: May 8, 2010
The largest clog dance in recorded history happened when 2,605 participants cut a rug at an event organized by the Pella Historical Society for part of the group’s Tulip Time festival.
JUGGLE FIVE BALLS WHILE SWALLOWING A SWORD
Where: Iowa City
When: tied July 7, 2013 (tied with Chayne Hultgren)
The most balls juggled while performing a sword swallow is five. The feat was first recorded by Chayne Hultgren at Wonderground in London, in 2012, as he kept the balls aloft for 6.5 seconds. The record was equaled by Luther Bangert in 2013 when he also juggled five balls while performing a sword swallow. He kept the balls aloft for 11.72 seconds. Bangert was born and reared in Donnellson, Iowa, but he is now street performing in New York City.
Professor John Atanasoff paired with student Clifford Berry to create the first electronic digital computer in world history — the Atanasoff–Berry Computer (ABC).
Where: Iowa State University
FIRST FIVE-ON-FIVE GAME OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL
University of Chicago vs. University of Iowa
Where: Iowa City
When: Jan. 18, 1896
The first game of college basketball (five on five) was between University of Iowa and University of Chicago at Iowa City Armory. Before this game, contests were generally played with between seven and nine players. The final score? Chicago 15, Iowa 12.
THE MOST STRAWS CRACK WHIPPED FROM THE MOUTH IN ONE MINUTE: 55
April Choi, Bethany Byrnes
Where: Cedar Rapids
When: Dec. 2, 2017
RAN THE FASTEST MILE WHILE DRIBBLING A BASKETBALL
Where: Drake University’s Blue Oval
When: Oct. 27, 2019
Reed McManigal lives in central Iowa and works as an account executive at Holmes Murphy & Associates. He also ran the fastest mile on record while dribbling a basketball.
“I assure you that I am the least talented Guinness World Record holder you’ll ever meet,” he says. “The short version of the story is, I found a record I thought was beatable and then did it. There are 250,000-plus other people in Des Moines that can beat this record.”
McManigal’s time of 6 minutes, 39.43 seconds was recently bested by Azmat Khan, 33, a Pakistani man in Dubai who managed the feat in 6 minutes, 1 second on June 27, 2020.
“I hadn’t seen the new record attempt, but I am not surprised,” says McManigal. “I suppose I’m most surprised that it isn’t faster.”
Setting Guinness World Records, according to McManigal, is often more about compliance than skill or ability.
“If you check out YouTube (of the record setting), there are a handful of people who run this and dribble significantly faster than both me and the soon-to-be new record holder, but they don’t go through the Guinness compliance process.”
Guinness has strict policies policing what constitutes a Guinness World Records title. Each record must fulfill a long list of criteria including that the record must be objectively measurable and verifiable. In addition, no “unsuitable activities” or ones that could “cause potential harm or danger to spectators” or “endanger or harm animals” are allowed and excessive eating records are limited to short time frames with small quantities of food, such as “fastest time to eat three cream crackers.” Guinness doesn’t track records involving illegal activities, alcohol or drug consumption or with people attempting records at what is deemed as an unsuitable age. Food wastage is also frowned on.
Which brings us to…
PIES IN THE SKIES
Where: Drake University
When: April, 2011
Saturday night pie fight broke out at 2 a.m. in a parking lot at Drake University. Pies whizzed through the skies as hundreds of students battled together to take the title for the largest custard pie fight. The stunt was orchestrated to showcase school spirit while kicking off the Drake Relays. Not-so-clean fun ensued. A reported 1,718 desserts were utilized in this succulent disaster.
“This is unreal,” said Greg Larson after the record breaking pie fight in a post pie-melee interview posted to YouTube. Larson served as Drake’s student body vice president at the time and helped organize the event. “We spent about six months planning this and working with people and figuring what we wanted to do and how we were going to do it, and it all came together perfectly.”
The record was documented and became Guinness official, but this category has since been discontinued due to concerns about wasting food.
When: March 16, 2002
According to local news reports, Greg Ryman set a Guinness World Record for the most boards broken by one hand in an hour — 2,896. (He ran out of boards after 38 minutes, 38 seconds.) The previous record was 1,500. This achievement is not listed on Guinness’ online database, which probably means the record is no longer recognized by Guinness due to safety concerns. ♦