Food is one of the simplest and most divine of the human pleasures. Here we examine its antithesis: hunger. All the people listed below have had to, by circumstance or dedication, go through extended periods of inedia. Most seem to have taken inspiration from a higher power. Some would say that the hand of God helps the starving whilst other, more cynically minded people, might say that starvation can lead to degradation of the critical fallacies accompanied by visual and auditory hallucinations. Whatever the fact of the matter their stories present us with undeniable feats of stamina and endurance.
1. Ralph Flores & Helen Klaben (1963)
Time Survived: 29 Days
Flying a light aircraft during a snowstorm is rarely a good idea, a fact to which these two can attest. In February of 1963 Flores became lost in storm whilst flying from Alaska to California. With their bearings lost he attempted to find the Alaskan Highway, during this search he crashed his plane into trees located in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
Stranded with only a five inch hunting knife they survived on snow for 29 days after their meagre food rations ran out. Flores eventually left their makeshift camp and stamped out SOS on a nearby frozen beaver pond.
Flores, a recent convert to Mormonism, assured Klaben that they would be rescued if she would read the New Testament, upon completing the final page of Revelations Flores’s stamping’s were noticed by a Yukon Flying Services plane. Their determination had paid off, taken to a local hospital they both, eventually, made a full recovery.
Helen Klaben’s autobiographical account Hey, I’m Alive was eventually turned into a moderately successfully movie.
2. Prahlad Jani (2003)
Time Survived: 30 Days (Confirmed) 70 Years (Claimed)
Prahlad Jani is a septuagenarian who dwells in a rainforest cave near the temple of Ambajiin, Gujarat. Since the age of 11 he has been a devotee of the Hindu Mother Goddess
Durga, the object of his devotion accounts for his red sari, jewellery and flower bedecked shoulder length hair; they are the traditional trappings of a high caste Hindu wife. He claims that he has not eaten or drunk for seventy years as the Goddess provides him with daily drop of divine ambrosia delivered through a hole in the roof of his mouth. His claims have been investigated on two separate occasions once in 2003 and again in 2010. In the 2003 tests he lasted 10 days, during the 2010 tests he not only survived without food and water for 30 days but went without passing any form of waste.
Dr Micheal Van Rooyen of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has criticised the research alleging that Prahald Jani was insufficiently monitored during the tests and that any human deprived of water would die after 20days. We are willing to wager a significant sum that Dr Rooyen doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.
3. James G. Scott (1991)
Time Survived: 43 Days
James Scott was a 22 year old Medical Student who came from Australia to Nepal to enjoy hiking in the Himalayas. In December of 1991, whilst attempting to cross a 4km mountain pass he was engulfed by a blizzard and became lost.
During the next 43 days he survived on melted snowballs and one caterpillar. Just before he was rescued Vultures had begun to circle him during the day. Even in the face of these hardships he always remained cheerful; “My attitude throughout the ordeal was generally one of hope and optimism” (from his book Lost in the Himalayas)
He is also a black belt in Karate.
4. David Blaine (2003)
Time Survived: 44 Days
David Blain, that Houdini of the noughties, had a penchant for stunts that required almost superhuman levels of mental and physical endurance. Beginning with his Buried Alive stunt in 1999 Blain subsequently endured being frozen in ice, and standing on a giant pole before attempting to survive without food for 44 days whilst suspended in a Plexiglas box above the Thames.
In compassion to the American public’s reaction of amazement and wonder, the British were a lot more disparaging. Blaine was pelted with eggs, lemons, sausages, golf balls and even beer cans. One man was arrested after attempting to spike Blaine’s water supply with monkey Urine. Our favourite taunt, however, was when some scamp attached a cheese burger to the bottom of a remote control helicopter and proceeded to buzz the box bound magician.
Blaine has a new show planned for 2012.
5. Oglach Brendan Hughes
Time Survived: 29 Days
Participation in the complex and violent politics of northern island is hardly the route to an easy life. Brendan Hughes was born to a Republican family in Belfast. During the early seventies was involved in attacks on British Soldiers. After escaping, in the manner or Cleopatra -rolled up in a carpet-, to Dublin for a few years he returned to Belfast with a changed name and a new job as a toy salesman, he subsequently arrested for the possession of arms.
Whilst imprisoned he participated in many of the Republican prisoner protest actions of the late 70’s. It was in 1980, along with six other prisoners, that he began his hunger strike. It lasted 53 days and was only ended with a direct response from the British government, he was released in 1986.
He died, at age 59, in 2008, there is no doubt that is death at a relatively young age was abetted by his long period of self imposed starvation.
6. Anastasia of Sirmium (304)
Time Survived: 60 Days
Anastasia was born a citizen of Rome during the late Empire under the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. Christians during this time were suffering extreme persecution, if a person was discovered to be an adherent of Christ they were a stripped of social standing, imprisoned and tortured until they had renounced all belief in trinity and reaffirmed their allegiance to the Roman gods of old.
Emperor Diocletian, upon receiving advice from the oracle of Apollo, a biased source some would argue, embarked on the systematic persecution of all Christians in 303. Anastasia, who had been known for providing food and medical care to Christian prisoners, was sentenced to death by starvation. Surviving 60 days without food (without any ill effects) the magistrate sentenced her to be drowned in an open boat which was cast out to sea. When the boat drifted back to land, Anastasia was recaptured by the authorities and burnt at the stake.
Few can, even in this day, match the Roman states dedication to persecution.
7. Barry Horne (1998)
Time Survived: 68 Days
Barry Horne was a British Animal rights activist during the movements late 90’s / early 2000’s heyday, a period when more time was spent in Westminster debating fox hunting than the invasion of Iraq.
He was arrested in 1996 for planting fire bombs in drug and leather stores and the charity shops of cancer research organisations. Sentenced in late 1996 he began his first hunger strike in 1997 lasting 35 days, this garnered serious media attention and resulted in the Labour party pledge to reduce and eventually ban vivisection. Encouraged by the positive response he went on hunger strike again in August of 1997. He began his third and last hunger strike in October 1998.
On day 43 of his hunger strike he received the last rights and was placed in a “hunger strike cell”, fitted with just a cardboard chair and table. By day 66 he was hallucinating, deaf in one ear and blind in one eye; he could no longer remember why he was on hunger strike. After 68 days without food he ended his ordeal.
In 2001 after a series of erratic, unsupported hunger strikes, he died of liver failure.
8. Brother Yun (1995)
Time Survived: 75 Days
A Chinese born preacher an evangelist Brother Yun has both suffered incredibly hardships and experienced the most amazing of miracles.
Refusing to join the official Christian church of china he was imprisoned and tortured in the notorious Zhengzhou Maximum Security prison. During this time Brother Yun claims to have engaged in a total fast for 75 days, beating his own saviours record for endurance (Jesus lasted a mere 40 days and nights). Being the only person ever to escape Zhengzhou prison, Brother Yun also claims to have been granted the power of invisibility to escape his oppressors.
9. Ram Bahadur Bomjon (Buddha Boy)
Time Survived: 11 Months
This miraculous young man from Nepal was ‘discovered’ when he was 15 years old, found meditating under a tree he apparently required neither food no water and has sat in the same position for 11 months, pondering the very nature of reality. With reports of blue halos manifesting around his head and spontaneous combustion, complete flames flying from his eyes. In 2007 the discovery channel in made an entire documentary about him and even they, in their infinite wisdom, were unable to confirm or deny the marvellous stories circulating about him.
Since coming into the limelight and entire industry has sprang up around the ‘Buddha Boy’ becoming the main source of income for the remote Nepalese faming village he calls home.
On July 22, 2010 villagers climbed upon his meditation platform manhandled and mimicked the would be Buddha, according to Bomjon himself he was “therefore forced to beat them”.