5 People Who Ruled At Things They Had No Right to Even Try

If we were to tell you the person who performed your emergency appendectomy wasn't an actual surgeon -- just some guy who happened to be delivering a singing telegram to the hospital that day, and figured he was good with knives, so why not? -- you might be a bit miffed. But what if he not only saved your life, he added a few inches there while he was at it. Yes, there. Suddenly you're not mad; you're just amazed. He had no business doing it at all, yet he totally excelled. Just like ...

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5
A 61-Year-Old Hillbilly Dominates His Very First Ultramarathon

If marathons exist for people to prove that they're intrinsically better than you, ultramarathons exist to shame you for drawing the same air as their participants. And Australia's Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon is the pinnacle. The event consisted of a 544-mile run -- we'd give up on driving that -- across brutal and unforgiving territory. So imagine everyone's surprise back in 1983, when a 61-year-old potato farmer named Cliff Young lined up right alongside the strapping young gods and goddesses that normally go in for this sort of thing. Literally toothless, dressed in gumboots and long trousers, he ran in a weird old-man shuffle. Cliff further revealed that he was a virgin who still lived with his mom -- as though that needed elaborating.

Cliff Young
"Eccentric Old Guy Keels Over At Starting Line, Shocks Precisely No One"

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By the end of day two, Cliff was not only markedly less dead than everyone expected, but had a sizeable lead on his competitors. This was largely due to his coach/insane friend Wally Zeuschner who, after an exhausting first day of running, accidentally set Cliff's alarm clock for 2AM. For the remainder of the race, Wally was right there, informing Cliff that sleep was for pussies, and hacking off foot blisters with a rabbit knife. When Cliff shuffled his way into Melbourne, he wasn't just ahead of his competitors -- he was miles and miles ahead, having knocked a good two goddamned days off the previous record for the course.

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Cliff passed away at the age of 81, but his influence on the sport is still evident today. In order to eke out the maximum possible performance, ultramarathoners now go to bed later, get up earlier, and run in an odd gait that makes them look like fitness zombies.

The Australian
If they were really dedicated, they'd all be virgins.

4
Nigel Richards Wins A French Scrabble Tournament Despite Not Speaking A Word Of French

This is Nigel Richards, a Scrabble World Champion and Undefeated Beardmaster.

Five Thirty-Eight
And nationally third-ranked fanny packer.

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A native New Zealander, Nigel won his national title before going on to land European, North American, and world titles as well. And that's no mean feat, considering the first time he played the game, he was 28 years old. So where does a World Champion go, once he's utterly dominated the English-speaking Scrabble scene? Why, he moves on to another language, of course. Even if he doesn't speak it.

In 2015, Nigel easily took the French world title with a score of 565-434 over the Scrabble-nightmare-named Schelick Ilagou Rekawe, and he did it without knowing a lick of French.

Federation Francaise de Scrabble
"Sock-ray blue!"

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How is that even possible? Simply put: Nigel is a mutant. That's ... that's really the only explanation. In preparation for the tournament, he just picked up the French Scrabble dictionary and memorized the words. All of them. He may not have had a clue what the vast majority of them meant, but he could play 'em. And he did. And he won. And that's not humanly possible, so Sentinels are already on the way to his house.

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3
Ray Stanford Finds Just ... All Of The Dinosaur Fossils (Where Experts Said There Were None)

Anybody with a whip and a fedora to their name knew that Washington DC was an archaeological dead zone, due to its iron-rich geology. Unfortunately, College Park, Maryland native and self-taught paleontologist Ray Stanford only had math-teacher glasses and a bolo tie. He didn't know DC was devoid of dinosaurs. So there was nothing to stop him from going there, and finding some.

Smithsonian Institute
Well, besides geology.

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Since 1994, Ray has spent his free time stomping through streambeds and collecting dinosaur tracks -- tracks which, prior to Ray's discovery, had never been found in the area. He then adds the fossils to his collection at the Stanford Museum ... AKA his living room, which looks "like a rock quarry exploded." When Robert Bakker, easily the most famous paleontologist of the past century, toured Ray's collection in person, he said, "My jaw stayed dropped for an hour."

Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post
Dr. Alan Grant, however, remained thoroughly unimpressed.

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The jewels of Ray's collection are a pterosaur track so large that it topples the previously accepted size of the beasts, and the teensy hatchling footprints of a species Ray personally dubbed Hypsiloichnus marylandicus. That's just one of several dinosaurs in his collection that the Smithsonian doesn't even have bones for yet.

So why hasn't some institution awarded Ray an honorary doctorate, and put his skills to official use? Possibly because all this paleontology business is just a side gig to his true passion: spotting UFOs.


Yep, that'll do it.

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2
An Undertaker Revolutionized Telecommunications To Spite A Rival

In Kansas City, 1878, Almon Strowger's undertaking business was booming. This was 1878: Life was cheap, but apparently death wasn't. A new undertaker opened up shop just down the road, and before you knew it, Strowger's customer base dried up. Possibly literally.

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This was back in the day when, in order to make a telephone call, a caller first spoke to an operator, who in turn connected them to their party. As it turns out, the upstart undertaker was married to an operator at the local phone company. When callers rang up and asked to be connected to Strowger's Crematorium Emporium, she'd simply connect them to her husband's place instead. Obviously, this villainous scheme required a solution, and for that, Strowger had to tap his spirit animal: Wile E. Coyote.

Kansas Historical Society
Strowger (Rigor Mortis Inventerous)

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As a child, Strowger was quite the inventor, whipping up complicated contraptions to get out of doing chores. So he decided that the telecommunications industry really needed a way for callers to directly connect to one another, thereby eliminating the middleman (and tossing a certain a*****e operator straight out onto the street), and got to work.

With some help from his nephew, and backing from a few business partners, Strowger developed a working prototype of the Strowger switch. He patented the invention in 1891. In 1892, he established his very own telephone company in La Porte, Indiana. Though Strowger would eventually return to the undertaking biz in 1902, his device would revolutionize telecommunications forever. And that, boys and girls, is how the spirit of vengeance invented your iPhone.

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1
John Corcoran Was A College Graduate, A Beloved High School Teacher, And A Real Estate Wizard (All While Totally Illiterate)

After breezing through both college and graduate school, John Corcoran became a highly regarded teacher, before ultimately transitioning to the field of real estate, where, by the age of 48, he employed 200 people, was a multimillionaire, and lived in the lap of luxury in a $600,000 villa overlooking the Pacific.

John Corcoran Foundation via NPR
"I'm carrying this book strictly for self-defense!"

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John's inability to read became apparent in elementary school. In his words, trying to decipher letters was like "looking at Chinese, at scribbles." Of course, this being 1940s America, his teachers simply called him lazy and encouraged him to "smart harder." Left to his own devices, John became a truly prodigious cheater. He convinced others to do his work for him and, in high school, even dated the valedictorian -- so she could do his homework for him.

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He cheated his way into a teaching gig, where he was well-loved by his high school students -- for them, social-studies class meant tossing the textbook aside and participating in an impromptu discussion, what's sus**cious about that?! -- and he generally got away with it. Then one night, the jig was up. As John "read" a children's story to his kids, his wife listened in. She realized he was just making s**t up as he went along, and called him out on it. He has since pursued tutoring, and worked through his illiteracy. Hell, he's even authored two books on the subject. Truly, it's an inspiring tale. You can cheat your way through anything!

KCRW
Seen here with the only thing he didn't cheat on: his wife.

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