List of notable eccentrics
Definition of eccentricity
Eccentricity is necessarily a relative definition. An eccentric is someone whose behaviour, beliefs and/or hobbies deviates in significant way from the accepted norms that the rest of the society that defines that person recognizes as proper or as traditional. He or she may be regarded as strange, odd or at least unconventional, irregular and erratic. Other people usually regard the eccentric with apprehension but also with considerable amusement.
The eccentric is usually alone with his beliefs. Although society may regard members of some subcultures like hippies and so-called computer geeks as deviators of a social norm, they have others with similar disposition to talk to. Eccentrics are usually too impractical to attract serious following even in the level religious movements, like breatharians and if they do, the followers are similarly non-threatening.
Rich and powerful people often behave in strange ways because they can afford it. However, an eccentric millionaire would not behave in a way society or other millionaires would recognize as typical - maintaining lavish surroundings, for example. Instead he could take his life to an opposite direction.
However, in many cases eccentricity is clearly intentional. Many comedians behave in eccentric ways even off-stage for professional reasons - to maintain their funny public image . Some entertainers and artists like Salvador Dalí use eccentric lifestyle to draw attention to themselves and exploit the common perception that creativity and madness are closely related. Athletes may behave in aggressive ways because it is part of their image as "tough guys" and as a way to intimidate their opponents.
There are historical cases where an eccentric may have taken the mantle intentionally for religious reasons (Holy fools of Russian folklore, for example) or used it as an unusual way to make a semblance of living. Some of their contemporaries may have regarded them with religious devotion.
Sometimes the eccentricity may be based of psychological problems. Many historical cases can be recognized as victims of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Eccentrics with possible mental problems are usually relatively harmless and may face only social ostracism and ridicule, and even some bemused affection and respect. Others' whose behaviour is radically different but dangerous, like mad rulers and serial killers are rarely regarded as eccentrics.
While some people would like to have them locked up as lunatics because they are a public nuisance, others regard them mainly with amusement or even recognize that eccentrics may be a source of new ideas. Some communities cherish their own village idiot s.
Further insight in the complex relations between madness, eccentricity and the perception of deviant behavior by mainstream society can be found in A social history of madness by Roy Porter (1987 - ISBN 0297795716). This book also treats several examples of "famous" people ending up in asylums, as a result of their eccentric behavior, e.g. Schumann.
- Charles Ribart, 18th century French architect who designed a building shaped like an elephant.
See also: by George R. Collins et al. ISBN 0810909146
- Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as Ludwig the Mad, builder of Neuschwanstein Castle
- William Thomas Beckford, builder of Fonthill Abbey
- Lord Cornbury, British governor in America whose political foes claimed, falsely, that he was a transvestite
- Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater who organized banquets for dogs
- John Mytton, English squire who would ride a bear
- Matthew Robinson, Lord Rokeby who wanted to be amphibious
- William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, 5th Duke of Portland in UK who liked to live underground, and preferred not to be seen; built an entire underground mansion, painted it pink, and filled it with brown wigs packed lovingly in cardboard boxes
- Stephen Tennant, English aristocrat who spent his life in bed
- Brigid Berlin Warhol superstar, Actor, Artist
- Ivor Cutler, Scottish poet, musician and thinker
- Salvador Dalí, Spanish surreal artist
- Alfred Jarry, French playwright
- Edward Leedskalnin, Latvian-born sculptor who built a castle in Florida
- Edith Sitwell, British poet who recited her first poem through a curtain and claimed to be descended from Plantagenets
- Andy Warhol New York Artist and social commentator
- James Whistler, US painter
- Hector Camacho, world champion boxer
- Naseem Hamed, world champion boxer, famous for his ring entrances
- Chris Eubank, world champion boxer who wears a monocle
- Dennis Rodman, former NBA star with brightly dyed hair and numerous tattoos.
- E. H. Bronner, US soapmaker who covered his product's packaging with dense text expounding his philosophical views
- Timothy Dexter, US businessman who literally sold coal to Newcastle
- Hetty Green, US businesswoman famous for her stinginess; her estate was more than $100,000,000
- Howard Hughes, US industrialist and aviator who became a recluse and feared germs
- Bernarr McFadden , US publisher and fanatical fitness proponent
- George Francis Train, US businessman who circled the world four times
- GG Allin, Punk rocker
- The Great Antonio, Canadian strongman
- Syd Barrett, British psychedelic musician
- Robert Coates, "Worst actor on Earth"
- Louis T. Hardin , Street musician called the Moondog
- Michael Jackson, US pop singer, likes to be like a child and be with children; has had multiple facial surgeries
- Ol' Dirty Bastard, US rapper famous for a series of bizarre public actions and legal trouble
- Prince, American singer, changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol
- Edie Sedgwick Model, Actor
- Phil Spector, Producer
- Stanley Unwin, comedian and wordsmith
- Farouk, the last King of Egypt and an accomplished pickpocket
- Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as Ludwig the Mad, builder of Neuschwanstein Castle
- Jean-Bédel Bokassa, president of the Central African Republic who had himself crowned "Emperor."
- William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada who regularly consulted his dog and the spirit of his deceased mother for political advice.
- Maximiliano Martínez , President of El Salvador, who believed that hanging colored lights in San Salvador would cure a smallpox epidemic.
- Charles Taylor, President of Liberia
- Kim Jong Il, leader of North Korea, noted for his movie collection, cognac consumption, platform shoes and "pleasure squad."
- Saparmurat Niyazov, President of Turkmenistan ; renamed months of the year after his family and declared himself "President for Life" and "Father of All Turkmen," among other things.
- Enver Hoxha, leader of Albania
- Alex Chiu, discoverer of immortality rings
- Alfred Lawson, ballplayer, economic theorist, founder of Lawsonomy
- Nikola Tesla, Serbian-born obsessive-compulsive who feared pearl earrings
Main article: List of occultists
- Aleister Crowley, British occultist
- G. I. Gurdjieff, Armenian-born mystic
- Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, magician
- Brigid Berlin, Warhol superstar, actor & artist.
- Horace de Vere Cole, British aristocrat
- Brian G. Hughes, US banker
- Joey Skaggs, US media prankster
- Edward Askew Sothern , British actor
- Hugh Troy, US painter
- Grigory Rasputin, Russian monk who became the advisor of the last czar
- Hester Stanhope, who wanted to carry a child of a messiah
- Cyrus Teed, US proponent of a Hollow Earth theory
Scholars and scientists
Main article: Mad scientist
- Jeremy Bentham, British philosopher who wanted himself mummified
- Horace Donisthorpe, myrmecologist
- Francis Galton. British scientist
- Oliver Heaviside, British scientist who replaced his furniture with giant granite blocks
- Patrick Moore, British astronomer
- Gene Ray, Discoverer of the Time Cube
- Josef Maria Wronski, Polish mathematician
- David Belasco , US writer and producer, wandered New York dressed as the Bishop of Broadway
- Beau Brummell, British fop
- Fred Crisman, paranormal enthusiast
- Bobby Fischer chess prodigy
- Quentin Crisp, English homosexual activist
- Florence Foster Jenkins, US lady who thought she could sing
- Edward Wortley Montagu, who wanted to be an Ottoman prince
- Norton I, self proclaimed "Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico"
- Archimedes Plutonium, "The King of Science"
- Dr William Price, who refused to treat smokers and carried out an impromptu cremation of his baby son
- John Roche , Irishman who built a castle for himself in County Cork
- Richard S. Shaver, US author who believed the earth to be controlled by sadistic inner-earth dwellers operating mind-controlling ray machines
- William James Sidis, US secluded genius
- Viv Stanshall, notable English eccentric
- David Sutch, British founder of Official Monster Raving Loony Party
- John Cleves Symmes, US proponent of a Hollow Earth Theory
- Charles Waterton, English explorer who improved on nature
- Sarah L. Winchester, US heiress who continued construction of her house for 38 years to confuse the spirits
See also Impostors
- Le livre des bizarres (in French) - Guy Bechtel and Jean-Claude Carričre, Robert Laffont, Paris (1981)