4Stephen Wiltshire Has a Perfect Visual Memory
Stephen Wiltshire can look at a city once and draw it from memory. So can we, big deal. The thing is, Wiltshire's drawing will actually look like the city, with every single building in its exact place and perfectly sized in proportion to real life. Buildings, windows, arches, doorways -- almost every detail is precisely correct in size and placement. Once again, he does this from memory. We, on the other hand, searched the Internet Movie Database five times in one hour because we kept forgetting Ray Winstone's name.
Above: A guy who doesn't need to set aside a half hour per day to find his keys.
Wiltshire has been drawing his entire life. His first words were "paper" and "pen" (which really throws his folks' parenting skills into question, if you think about it), and he's been traveling the world for 25 years on a continuing quest to draw different cities and landmarks, like if Caine from Kung Fu and Bob Ross collided in a time tunnel.
For instance, Wiltshire took a brief helicopter ride around New York City and produced this drawing afterward, purely from memory:
$5 to the first person who spots where he hid the dick.
And he doesn't just remember these landscapes long enough to do the drawing. He retains them, possibly forever.
So What's Going on Here?
Wiltshire is an autistic savant (yes, like Rain Man). Autism hinders certain parts of the brain from communicating with one another, which can lead to difficulties with learning and processing information. But, this lack of communication between parts of the brain actually helps give Wiltshire his ability. It'd be sort of like if you had some kind of defect in the muscles of your arm that allowed it to only perform a perfect kung fu chop to the neck. It'd suck for everyday tasks like eating or working, but over the course of your life you'd get so good at kung fu neck chops that you could behead a man.
"One time, I sketched a skyscraper in half."
So take Wiltshire's helicopter ride -- most of us would be distracted by things like the noise of the chopper, or by thoughts such as "Why are these buildings spaced like that?" or "Is that a body in the East River?" But Wiltshire's kung-fu-chop brain can focus like a microscope on just the details, carefully recording them all at the expense of all other normal thought. Because of this, he is not only able to notice relationships and properties of the buildings, but can remember them exactly and use them later in his drawings.
His clouds are kinda half-assed, comparatively.
And when it comes to this kind of freakish recall, he's not alone ...
3Kim Peek Remembers Everything
"Anyone up for a stirring monotone recitation of Finnegan's Wake?"
One reason he was able to put away so many books is that he could read them two pages at once, one page with each eye, because apparently that's something you can do. It is claimed Peek had an eidetic memory, or photographic memory, something that people aren't even sure actually exists. However, if it does exist, Peek is probably the best case for it, reportedly being able to recall 98 percent of everything he ever experienced in perfect detail. To compare, most of us can't recall 98 percent of the previous goddamned sentence.
Peek's story was also the inspiration for the film Rain Man. However, when someone asked Peek to read a book on gambling (which would have taken him about 30 minutes), he told them that using his powers for gambling would be "unethical."
In your face, Hoffman.
So What's Going on Here?
Many assumed Peek was, like the guy in the last entry, an autistic savant, because Americans think "autism" means "Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters." This wasn't the case; Peek's incredible ability is believed to have come from a congenital birth defect, which resulted in increased memory capacity. This is another way of saying he memorized everything, including the 12,000 books we mentioned earlier and sports statistics spanning decades. For a given person's hometown, he could tell you all highways leading to it, the county, area code and ZIP code, television stations available in the town, the name of the local telephone provider and any notable local history.
Throughout it all, Peek only wanted to share his gift with the world. His father and caretaker never accepted anything in exchange for Peek's appearances, except for the joy Kim felt when meeting other people. When Dustin Hoffman met him to research his role for Rain Man, he was quoted as saying, "I may be the star, but you are the heavens," presumably before Peek told him his future and levitated out of the room.
Richard Green, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System
And then stole his goddamn car.