#3. Man Survives Stroke, Becomes Graphic Artist
Ken Walters' story begins with a ridiculous run of bad luck that started in 1986, when he got into an accident that broke his back. That left him bedridden and in pain for an entire year, and unable to walk ever again. Later, he was actually kicked out of his new house by the government -- then charged 5,000 pounds (nearly $8,000 in 2011 dollars). The stress ended up giving him two heart attacks. In 2005, after nearly 20 years of joblessness, depression and living off the government that screwed him, Walters had a stroke.
We're just sayin'.
Walters didn't know it at the time, but a blood clot in the fleshy innards of his skull would change his life -- for the better. During the first day of his latest stay at the hospital, he wrote a note to a nurse, presumably asking her if the hospital had medicine to treat gypsy curses, when he noticed something odd. After he wrote the note, his hand began to wander across the piece of paper, and he began to doodle -- something he was never really prone to doing.
Weirdest of all, he didn't even notice he was doing it until the nurse asked him what he was drawing. Only then did he look down at the piece of paper and realize his hand was drawing patterns all by itself.
What you just heard was the sound of several thousand desktop wallpapers changing.
The floodgates opened from there. Walters would wake up every night in the wee hours of the morning with visions of art in his head, and he would draw until the sun came up. He had hated art in school, and was never any good at it, so he thought of it as a symptom. He asked his doctor what the heck was happening to him and, controlling his urge to tell Walters that he was possessed by Casper the Friendly Drawer, the doctor instead told him that after a stroke, the brain can rewire itself to avoid damaged areas. Usually, this rewiring causes things like personality changes, but in Walters' case, it gave him the insatiable urge -- and the ability -- to draw. The doc told him not to worry, that this was likely just temporary. Boy, was he wrong.
Walters, who was an engineer before he was paralyzed, started to draw like a maniac. He used mostly his computer to draw abstract patterns, eschewing paper and pencil for the digital canvas, and sold his designs over the Internet in the online game Second Life.
It took off from there. People started buying Walters' pieces by the dozen. Companies like IBM and Java were contacting him, telling him they wanted to hang his art in their offices. He got his art featured in magazines and real-life galleries where real-life people oohed and aahed at his digital abstract creations.
But Walters' biggest break came when video game maker Electronic Arts saw his gallery. They hired Walters to draw them some monsters, and now his stuff appears in the world-building video game Spore.
Which of course were then morphed into dicks by the actual players.
No longer down in the dumps, Walters actually says he wouldn't change his life for anything. Yeah, that tends to happen when you raise your income by nearly 2,000 percent and become a world-renowned digital artist.
He's still got a ways to go before achieving his ultimate goal: Buying the government and having them dissolved. In acid.
#2. Man Has Aneurysm, Becomes Painter/Poet/Sculptor
British man Tommy McHugh had made it to his 50s by being one of the bigger assholes in the U.K., having been arrested for a bit of a drug habit and an unfortunate lifelong penchant for punching random blokes in bars. Then, while he was sitting on the crapper, he got a violent headache and went to the hospital. There he got mildly bad news: his brain had started to bleed from not one but both sides due to ruptured aneurysms (nasty blood bulges in a brain's blood vessel), and he'd have to go into surgery immediately ... or die.
"First tosser I see when I wake up is getting my thumb in his eye socket, he is."
McHugh got his internal head wounds all clamped up and everything seemed fine to the docs, at least brain-wise. Yet, when McHugh got home, he started doing some seriously odd things. For the first three months after his surgery, he was only able to speak in weird rhyme, and after that passed, he experienced a never-ending "slideshow" of images in his brain.
Never in his 50 years of drunken fisticuffs did McHugh express any creativity. The dude was a builder by trade and creative arts fell squarely into the "shove it up your piehole" category. But after his aneurysms, McHugh was unable to stop the flow of words and images in his brain. He felt the need to pour them onto paper, or onto a canvas, or to make sculptures out of them. One day, his wife came in to the kitchen to find her hubby drawing hundreds of alien-like faces with mouths agape.
"Honey, I'm feeling a bit down. Could you make me a cup of t-WHAT THE FUCK!"
McHugh's mania only got more pronounced. He'd finish a painting and then have to start another, then follow that up with a poem, then maybe sculpt himself a little something, then write, then paint, then do it all the hell over again. The man who previously couldn't string two words together on a piece of paper began to fill notebooks with poems and make sculptures like they were going out of style. And like Michelangelo on speed, the dude used his own walls to paint murals on, covering every inch of his house with his art, floors and ceilings included.
"Honey, could you take the out the trash and -- You have GOT to stop this!"
McHugh sent letters out to doctors -- written in verse, of course -- so they could come look at him. Soon, a team of researchers put him through every cognitive test imaginable and concluded that, yes, his artistic output was due to his brain's sudden decision to start bleeding, which caused some damage to his frontal lobe.
Though, hey, if life gives you visions of freaky skinless couples with extra faces on their backs, why not share them with the world?
McHugh has had his art exhibited in many galleries in the U.K., and obviously continues to sculpt, write and draw. Though he's particularly fascinated with faces, it seems that the dude will make art about anything, just about anywhere. He says of his experience, "My mind is like a volcano exploding with bubbles and each bubble contains a million other bubbles, and then another million bubbles of unstoppable creative ideas." We totally believe you, man.
One additional nice side effect of McHugh's aneurysm-induced artsplosion, according to McHugh himself, is that he's actually become a much nicer person. That's right, in addition to becoming an artist, he's also forsaken the ways of the bar warrior, and he says he wishes he'd been that way all his life.
#1. Man Has Part of Brain Removed After Stroke, Becomes Artist
At the age of 35, New Jersey man Jon Sarkin started to hear ringing in his ear. This was the type of ringing that, it turns out, could only be explained by overgrown blood vessels that require freaking brain surgery to fix.
Sarkin got his noggin cut open to fix the blood vessel, but later suffered a stroke and actually had to have part of his brain removed. All in all, it was almost the worst possible outcome for the surgery aside from death.
Or losing those awesome eyebrows.
Or at least, it would appear that way. Apparently the stroke and the brain surgery affected the "not being an artist" part of Sarkin's brain, because after he left the hospital, the man became obsessed with drawing. Like the other people on this list, he had never shown any talent or flair for art, but became so fixated on it that he would rush off in the middle of family dinners to sketch symbols, draw objects and plain old paint for hours as ideas came to him -- delicious mashed potatoes be damned!
Sarkin was a chiropractor by trade, and actually returned to work, but he found no joy in savage neck twisting and back breaking anymore. He became withdrawn, and in between seeing patients, he would doodle obsessively. Then, his sister told him that if he liked drawing so dang much, he might as well make a buck or two at it. Sarkin sent a dozen drawings of weird and ghostly faces to The New Yorker, and much to his delight, the magazine bought them.
From then on, the dude has been on an artistic roll. So much so that the doctors who examined him said his stroke has rewired his brain and given him something they dub "sudden artistic output," a rare condition that has seen less than a handful of diagnosed cases ever (another of them being fellow Cracked listee Tommy McHugh), and which continues to mostly baffle the experts since it doesn't really follow a specific pattern of brain injuries.
Meanwhile, other national magazines such as GQ have bought Sarkin's stuff, his paintings regularly sell for $10,000 a canvas and he's had a book written about him. Oh, and Tom Cruise's production company has actually bought the rights to his life story, so there's a chance we could see Cruise himself play Jon Sarkin in a future biopic.
You can visit Eddie's website here.
For more "superhumans" come to earth, check out 7 People From Around the World With Real Mutant Superpowers. Or find out why you'd qualify for the Avengers in 5 Superpowers You Didn't Know Your Body Was Hiding From You.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover your inner Hulk.
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