Saturday, June 19, 2010

How old?

Two women in 2 different centuries have claimed to live past the age of 150. The 1st was proven to be a hoax, and the 2nd cannot been authenticated.

Joice Heth (pictured above) was billed by American showman P.T. Barnum as "The greatest national and natural curiosity in the world." She was said to have been born in 1674, had nursed future president George Washington (1732-1799) while a slave, and was on tour in 1835 at the age of 161. Even though she was blind, toothless, nearly paralyzed, and toured with Barnum for only 7 months, Heth springboarded his career after he purchased her for $1,000 from her former promoter R.W. Lindsay. Her act - which consisted of telling stories about "little George," singing hymns, and entertaining questions from the audience - raked in a handsome profit for the showman. She performed for as long as 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, in everything from museums and concert halls to taverns and railway houses across the northeastern United States. Because of doubts raised repeatedly in the press about the authenticity of her age and even her person - some of it stirred up by Barnum himself to reignite interest, Barnum promised a postmortem examination. After Heth died of natural causes on February 19, 1836, Barnum engaged the services of surgeon David L. Rogers to perform an autopsy in New York's City Saloon before an audience of 1,500 - each of whom purchased a ticket for the privilege. When Rogers declared the age claim a fraud (she was probably no older than 80), Barnum insisted there was a case of mistaken identity and that Heth was still alive. Later he admitted the hoax.

Turinah has been discovered recently by census workers in Indonesia, who believe her claims to have been born in 1853, making her 157 years old. She still works around the house, has smoked clove cigarettes all her life, and has an adopted daughter aged 108. "Despite her age she still has an incredible memory, clear sight and has no hearing problems," says statistics bureau official Jhonny Sardjono. Turinah speaks fluent Dutch, a language used during the colonial period which ended in 1945. Although the Indonesian government accepts her age, the Guiness Book of World Records will not consider her claim - which would make her the oldest person who ever lived - because she burned her identification documents to avoid being linked to the attempted Communist takeover of the country in 1965.

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