Many of the people we refer to as ‘superhuman’ are those who have mastered some skill beyond our wildest dreams- they can sing higher than us, run faster than us, swim distances that would put migrating killer whales to shame, or perform insane number crunching feats in their head.
But sometimes, when we say ‘superhman,’ we mean it in the traditional, hard-to-believe comic book sense. Some people boast not only superhuman skills, but physical traits that are rare and bizarre enough to be considered superpowers.
One such superhuman is Gary ‘Stretch’ Turner, who set the Guinness World Record for stretchiest skin back in 1999 and still holds that title to this day.
Garry Turner was born in Caistor, Lincolnshire, England, United Kingdom in 1971.
Unlike some superhumans, who don’t realize their abilities until they’re older, he was aware of his super-stretchy skin from an early age- when he was just four years old, his ten-year-old uncle would show his insane skin-stretching abilities off to his friends. From their reactions, Garry ‘Stretch’ Turner knew that he was different.
Aside from the cool party trick, his childhood was relatively standard for most of his early years.
Throughout his school years, he loved sports, but his body had a pesky weakness for bleeding- bruises would worsen and refuse to heal over time, and if he cut himself, he lost so much blood you would think he’d been bitten by a shark. At first, doctors thought it as hemophilia.
Finally, when he was thirteen years old, doctors figured out the cause of the stretchy skin that had been the envy of ten-year-old boys everywhere: a rare genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which affects roughly one in every 10,000 people.
Meet the Man with the World’s Stretchiest Skin - Garry Turner
Don’t go wishing for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome so you can share Garry’s abilities! His strain if this disease is exceedingly rare- in fact, doctors doubt if there’s another person currently living who boasts the same skin stretchiness as Garry Turner.
EDS is a disease that results in poorly-formed skin cells and even more poorly-formed collagen (the chemical which binds skin cells together and makes them hold their shape; this is why most of us can’t stretch our skin very far). For most people, it affects mainly blood vessels and joints. In Garry’s case, it also affects the skin.
So, what does Garry do with his skin-stretching abilities? Well, the stretchiness isn’t equal throughout his whole body. While the skin on his hands and feet remains relatively stiff, his neck and his stomach are another story. The skin on his neck can stretch all the way up to completely obscure his mouth from view- like some grotesque (but intriguing!) gag.
The skin on his stomach is what won him a Guinness World Record, though: it can stretch to a mind-boggling 6.25 inches away from his body.
One of his favorite tricks is to stretch this stomach shelf tight and use it as a small table, which can hold about three beers. We have no word on whether or not his friends like to drink the ale offered to them off of this cringe-worthy Tummy Table, but as party tricks go, it has proven a hit.
For another trick, he pulls his skin down with massive paper clips and does a grotesque impersonation of Batman.
What Can We Learn From Him?
No matter how ‘cool’ Garry makes EDS seem, it’s still an illness, and it still causes him some pain- particularly in his joints.
The valuable lesson here is one in opportunism and optimism. Garry easily could have tried to live in spite of his illness, but instead, he embraced one of its less disastrous side effects and used it to make a living.
Instead of ignoring the collective gag reflex that his stretchy skin elicits, he latched onto it and turned it into a way to gain our awe, respect, and cringing shudders of equal parts horror and admiration.
What Is He Currently Doing?
Garry Turner has been a busy man. As a former Circus of Horrors star, he auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent in 2011. In 2012, he began performing with a group called the Royal Family of Strange People, who are a group of jaw-dropping, unique performers awing audiences in London.
Garry has said many times that he loves the stage- loves to perform- and seeks to continue making audiences of a thousand people laugh for years to come.