The Guinness Book of World Records has inspired some dubious feats over the years
The book is also the 60th anniversary edition, but things have changed since the first-ever Guinness records book arrived in 1955. Though early editions were full of miscellany and trivia, its records tended to be fairly basic: fastest, tallest, smallest, deepest. But, as TIME reported in a May 13, 1974, feature on an “oddball Olympics,” a group of 200 California students who gathered to beat previous world records and set new ones, the records have gotten weirder. This passage shows the great lengths people will go to achieve such an honor, something current record holders will be able to relate to:
During the week-long oddball Olympics, contestants in 75 events set eleven new world records. John Parker, 24, made himself a 1975 edition Guinness notable by downing 300 goldfish, 75 more than the previous oldie goldie. Rick Sumner, 14, polished off 20 doughnuts in 9 min. 59 sec., beating the old record of 20 in 15 min. John McKinney, 17, and Rick Sackett, 25, each crammed 52 cigars into their mouths and kept them alight for 30 sec. (v. the previous record of 28 lit for 30 sec.). Another titlist, Scott Case, managed to smoke 110 cigarettes simultaneously for 30 sec. without endangering his health. Kevin Farrell and Corey Fletcher each stood on one leg for 7½ hr., 60 min. longer than anyone ever has before.
Allan Littman, 17, consumed a pound of grapes, with seeds, in 52 sec. to crush the old mark of 65 sec. Allan Greenberg, 22, twirled a record album on his forefinger for 5 hr. Bruce Stewart and Robert Argust slapped each other’s faces for 31 hr. to top the old record by one hour. Frank Dolce blew 116 smoke rings on one drag to break the old high by 30.
And the weirdness has continued. Other fun records TIME highlighted over the years include:
• The longest song title, mentioned in the People section in 1969: “I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-o, Beat-o, Flat-on-My-Seat-o, Hirohito Blues” by composer Hogey Carmichael.
• The world’s largest diary, reviewed in 1995: 20 million words spanning 67 years and roughly 35,000 pages, penned by New York World reporter Edward Robb Ellis. The quality of the writing lives up to the quantity, based on his description of the late Senator Joseph McCarthy, the face of the Red Scare: “McCarthy has the slim hips of an athlete, a thick trunk and shoulders like a buffalo. Almost lacking a neck, his huge head seems perched on his shoulders. His mouth is long and thin, like a knife-gash in a melon.”
• Fastest beer drinker, featured in a 1983 profile. Before Robert Hawke was known as Australia’s longest-serving Labor prime minister, he guzzled 2.5 pints of beer in 12 seconds at Oxford, earning a spot in the record book.
Read about the 1974 record-breakers here, in TIME’s archives: Oddball Olympics