5 people who transformed into animals through body modification
Everybody loves animals, but some people love animals so much, they try to become them, transforming their bodies in shocking ways.
Body modification is the altering of human anatomy through tattoos, piercings and implants. For centuries, people have done it to perform a rite of passage, display their membership with a group, express their true self, or just shock the hell out of people.
Here are five people who transformed into animals through body modification.
1. Tom Woodbridge, Leopard Man
Tom Woolbridge wanted to be a leopard so much he legally changed his name to Tom Leppard. But the name change was nothing, compared to how he altered his body. The armed forces veteran spent over $7,000 to cover 99.9% of his body with that distinctive spotted pattern. (And you thought just getting one tattoo hurt.) In an interview, Tom described it as "a leopard-skin design, with all the skin between the dark spots tattooed saffron yellow." The Guinness Book of World Records named him the world's most tattooed man - and a few years later, the most tattooed senior citizen.
In 1987, Tom retired to the Isle of Skye, which by Scotland. He lived in a small, self-made stone hut without any electricity or furniture. Every week, he canoed three miles to the mainland to re-stock on supplies. In 2008, he finally abandoned his crude shelter, moving to a one-bedroom house on the mainland with more comforts. However, he said he "loved every minute."
"When you're covered in leopard tattoos, you certainly get noticed," said Tom, reflecting on his life in a newspaper interview. "I became a bit of a tourist attraction on Skye."
Tom died in a nursing home in Inverness in 2016.
2. Erik Sprague, The Lizardman
It isn't easy being green, and it certainly isn't easy becoming a lizard. Erik Sprague has a surgically bifurcated tongue. His teeth are filed into points. He has subdermal implants in his eyebrows. His earlobes are stretched. His skin is covered with green, scale-like tattoos. And he's in a rock band called Lizard Skynyrd because of course he is.
As you might suspect, Erik doesn't work as a barista at Starbucks. He's a performer. In his one-man show, he does incredible stunts, like swallowing swords, suspending weights from his piercings and pushing a giant corkscrew through his head. In fact, he has a Guinness World Record for the heaviest weight lifted and spun with pierced ears: a 35 pound beer keg. (Ouch.)
While growing up, Erik was always fascinated by such performances."It does play into my personal egomania," said Erik in an interview. "When you do what I’ve done, you become a powerful symbol. I am essentially a mythological creature that exists in cultures around the world: I am a reptilian humanoid."
Erik currently lives in Austin, Texas, which is perfect, because the motto there is "Keep Austin Weird." And yes, he is married. Despite his shocking appearance, he's never had problems with the ladies: "I don’t want to boast too much," said Erik. "But a split tongue can be a heck of a draw."
3. Katzen Hobbes, Catwoman
Forget Selina Kyle - Katzen Hobbes is the real Catwoman. ("Katzen" is German for cat, and Hobbes is reference to the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes).
As a child, she dreamed of herself as a tiger. Now she's 40, and tiger stripes cover 90 percent of her body. "I still need a little bit of work under the right armpit and right ear," said Katzen. "But I’m pretty close to completion." It took 160 tattoo artists to complete the stripes. At one point, 23 people were inking her at once. Due to the pain, she fainted several times.
For fourteen years, Katzen wore genuine tiger whiskers, which were sent to her by zoos and held into place on her face by piercing rings. However, they obstructed her eyesight, so she had them removed. Now she has "whiskers" scratched permanently into her cheeks through scarification.
Like The Lizardman, Katzen lives in Austin, Texas, a safe haven for all kinds of self-expression. By day, she works as a tattoo artist. By night, she performs in a variety show, doing acts ranging from musical performance to the flaming human pincushion. She's a mother-of-tw-, married to the male performer The Enigma, and has no regrets her transformation. "Most of us are more than skin deep," says Katzen. "I feel more beautiful this way."
2. Dennis Avner, Stalking Cat
Dennis Avner, aka Stalking Cat, was one of the most famous faces of the body modification community. A conversation with a Native American chief sparked his desire to transform into a "feline-like creature." The chief advised him to "follow the ways of the tiger." So he did. He spent the rest of his life trying to complete that transformation. In 2005, he explained that he descended from Native America heritage. "I’m Huron and Lakota," said Stalking Cat. "I’m just taking a very old tradition, that to my knowledge is not practiced anymore."
To morph into a female tiger, Dennis spent an "uncalculated amount." The operations included tattoos, tooth filing, facial piercings, pointing of the ears, and the bifurcation of his upper lip. He also overgrew his fingernails, and had a mechanical tail. The Guinness Book Of World Records honored him with the title of "most permanent transformations to look like an animal." He went on to appear on many television shows, such as, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, VH1's Totally Obsessed and Animal Planet's Weird, True & Freaky.
In 2012, Stalking Cat took his own life at the age of 54. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy.
1. Ted Richards, Parrot Man
Ted Richards, 56, describes body modification as his "oxygen," and has transformed into a parrot. He has a split tongue, two horns in his forehead, several dermal implants, 50 piercings and 110 tattoos, two inked eyeballs and he had his ears removed. After that operation, he discovered an unforeseen problem: his glasses wouldn't stay on. So, he fixed the problem by implanting two synthetic lumps. Currently he is looking for a surgeon who can transform his nose into a beak.
Like Tom Leppard, Ted also changed his name - to Ted Parrotman. "Because I walk around the streets with my parrots so much, around here I’ve been known as Ted Parrotman for years," said the retired shoe factory worker. "So it only seems natural for me to change my name."
At his home in Bristol, England, Ted lives with his pet parrots, and considers them more than feathered friends. They're his family:
"I’ve not had any contact with my mother and father for years because we didn’t really get on. I don’t even know if they’re dead or alive, and I also don’t talk to my siblings anymore – so I felt no connection to having a family name. For me, my real family are my parrots – so it only seems fitting for my surname to reflect this...
"This is just what I love doing, modifying my appearance. But when I look in the mirror I do think 'who am I?'"
You may not agree with any of their choices, but you don't have to. We're all trying to express ourselves and find happiness in life. It just means different things to different people.