Genetic mutations are a staple of superhero origin stories, giving otherwise ordinary citizens amazing superhuman abilities. However, most don’t realize how many people walking the streets of the real world possess these same sorts of mutant powers. They may not be as flashy as weather manipulation or laser vision, but the abilities of the following individuals are still worthy of a comic book story line.
10 Super Baby
The physical abilities of the average infant consist mainly of limb flailing and gurgling while looking vaguely confused. Not so for a young Michigan boy born with a rare genetic condition. Or possibly with the soul of Hercules. Tough call.
Liam Hoekstra of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was born with what doctors call a myostatin deficiency, which basically means he is genetically predisposed to generate muscle rather than fat. It also means that by five months old, he could perform physical feats usually reserved for expert gymnasts. By eight months, he was doing pull-ups, presumably leading many to wonder if some sort of prank show was being filmed at the local gym.
Very few cases of this mutation have been documented, and researchers are attempting to break down the exact cause of the condition. Until then, young Liam will simply have to deal with maintaining a godlike physique with little to no effort. Tough break.
9 The Real Batman
What most of us would consider to be a life-shattering bout of misfortune is but a minor inconvenience to one man. Having no vision, he has developed the ability to “see” his surroundings using echolocation. Bruce Wayne, meet your replacement.
Daniel Kish lost his vision to cancer at only 13 months old. Having lived virtually his entire life blind, he has adapted to his fate shockingly well. He is able to click his tongue and visualize his surroundings using the faint echoes that bounce off various objects. He has no trouble whatsoever getting around. In fact, one of his favorite hobbies is hiking.
While it may not be a genetic mutation exactly, it’s still an incredibly impressive feat of adaptation. And it’s one that Kish teaches to other blind individuals through his organization, World Access for the Blind. So far he has taught 500 people (mostly children) to echolocate.
8 Goat Man
Growing up, we were all cautioned by our mothers never to swallow anything that wasn’t food. Chewing gum’s mythical ability to remain in our stomachs forever was particularly terrifying. But it’s a safe bet that our moms had never heard of French entertainer Michel Lotito.
Known as Monsieur Mangetout (“Mr. Eats Everything”), Lotito made a career out of subjecting his digestive tract to the sort of punishment that would send a mere mortal to the morgue. Several television sets, bicycles, a coffin, and even an entire light aircraft are just a few of the bizarre objects that passed through the famished Frenchman’s stomach. Ironically, despite chowing down on 1 kilogram (2 lb) of metal and glass a day, ordinary foods like eggs and bananas made him ill.
After maintaining his unusual diet for 48 years and earning the Guinness World Record for “Strangest Diet,” Lotito passed away in 2007. The secret of his incredible intestines remains a mystery.
7 The Molten Monks
For most of us, a higher-than-usual body temperature is usually accompanied by soup, Netflix, and a day off of work. But Tibetan Buddhist monks have turned this nuisance into an amazing example of mind over matter.
Entering a meditative trance through the use of the “g Tum-mo” yoga technique, the monks are able to control their body temperatures. It may not sound terribly impressive, but it is a potentially lifesaving skill. When placed in cold rooms and draped with soaking wet cloths, the monks were able not only to prevent deadly hypothermia but to actually dry the cloths with nothing but their own body heat.
Scientists believe the effect is the result of the controlled dilation of blood vessels, allowing more blood and therefore more heat to reach the surface of the skin. Once again, this isn’t technically a genetic mutation, but it’s still an amazing superhuman skill.
6 They Who Feel No Pain
The quest to avoid pain has led man to develop countless drugs and practices over the millennia, but some among us will never benefit from any of them. Because they will never have to.
Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA) is a genetic condition which prevents the sufferer from feeling pain or extreme temperatures. It sounds like an amazing gift from Mother Nature, but it turns out that pain is kind of a good thing. People with the disorder often injure or mutilate themselves without realizing it because they never felt the injury. One child sufferer fell from a set of playground equipment and only learned that he had shattered his pelvis after a cautionary X-ray revealed the damage.
Still, immunity to pain has its obvious advantages. These individuals are able to shrug off injuries and illnesses that would incapacitate an ordinary person. Scientists even hope to isolate and study the gene responsible for CIPA in order to lessen the suffering of those with chronic pain.
5 Mind Master
There once lived a man whose capacity for knowledge was so far beyond that of the ordinary person that he was, by definition, superhuman. No, it wasn’t Albert Einstein. It was a mentally challenged man from Utah.
Kim Peek was born with extreme brain defects that rendered him incapable of performing the simplest of tasks. He needed assistance to even brush his teeth. He also had difficulty with social interaction, only understanding the simplest human speech.
However, he also had the ability to read two pages of a book at once, reading one page with each of his eyes, and he never forgot a single thing he read. Ever. He remembered every word of countless Shakespearean plays and would correct the actors’ mistakes mid-show if he saw them performed.
Having read roughly 12,000 books before his death in 2009, Peek was basically an organic Wikipedia. His mental abilities were so amazing that they inspired the 1988 film Rain Man.
4 Elastic Man
Everyone knows at least one double-jointed person, someone who can bend themselves in ways that inspire all those around to politely ask them to stop. That unsettling contortionism is deeply disturbing to many people. Which is exactly what Spanish actor Javier Botet is counting on.
Born with a genetic condition known as Marfan syndrome, Botet is unusually tall at 200 centimeters (6’7″) with disproportionately long limbs. He also possesses superhuman flexibility, allowing him to twist his body into some truly terrifying shapes.
It is fitting then that he is quickly becoming a horror film staple. Best known for playing the horrifying titular monster in Mama, Botet has a knack for turning his genetic condition into an amazing acting advantage. A short clip of his movement test for the film can be seen in the video above, which is arguably scarier than the movie itself. Check it out—it’ll wake you up quicker than any cup of coffee.
3 The Serbian Shocker
Sweat. It’s smelly, uncomfortable, and generally unpleasant. But luckily for one Serbian man, it’s never been a problem. He was born without sweat glands, not only giving him the obvious aesthetic advantages but also an ability that one might not expect.
Biba Struja not only has no sweat glands, he also has no hair. It’s all been singed off. You see, his unique condition grants him immunity to electric shock. Without moist skin, electricity cannot be absorbed into his body and simply races across its surface. So naturally, he spends his days deliberately dosing himself with normally lethal levels of electricity.
This isn’t just a hobby. He owns an electrotherapy business, treating people with muscle pain by applying electric shocks with his bare hands. This has led to severe charring of his fingernails, yet he has sustained no serious injuries. He is also able to cook sausages with electricity that has passed through his skin, making him popular at neighborhood barbecues.
2 The Incredible Insomniac
Many superheroes operate exclusively at night, beating criminals to a bloody pulp after a long day at the office. This raises an interesting question, though. When do they sleep? Well, should one Vietnamese man ever choose the path of the vigilante, that won’t be an issue.
Hai Ngoc, an elderly Vietnamese farmer, has not slept for 43 years. After an illness in 1973, he found that no matter what he tried, he simply could not sleep. This would be fatal for the average human being, yet Ngoc suffers absolutely no ill effects. His mind and body remain perfectly sound. He performs the daily chores on his farm with no difficulty. In fact, he uses the extra time to get more work done.
It is unknown exactly what happened to Ngoc’s genetic code to allow him to survive these decades of sleeplessness. He refuses to leave his small village to allow researchers to study him.
1 The Party Machine
Finally, we have an ability so bizarre, so ludicrous, so completely insane that it could only belong to a man who has done everything in his power to become a living caricature of the rock-and-roll lifestyle: Ozzy Osbourne.
It sounds like the setup to a joke, but scientists genuinely cannot figure out why Ozzy Osbourne is still alive. Scores of his rock colleagues have passed away, yet despite the unimaginable (and usually fatal) amounts of alcohol and narcotics he’s consumed, Ozzy lives on.
Researchers at Cofactor Genomics analyzed his entire genome and, aside from some interesting mutations in genes responsible for alcohol processing, came up largely empty-handed. They simply don’t know why a man who should probably have burned out years ago not only still lives but lives well.
Aside from a slight tremor, he’s in excellent health. Personally, we think it’s all due to his diet of bat heads. No real reason, it just sounds like a good superhero origin story.
Alex is just a guy who enjoys writing. And zombies. And occasionally tacos.