The shortest path from obscurity to at least a little notoriety is making it into the hallowed halls of Guinness World Records. Since 1954, the banner has acknowledged feats ranging from the truly impressive (the loudest cat purr clocks in at nearly 55 decibels) to the absolutely inane (the most Marvel Comics tattoos).
Occasionally, Guinness record categories have been withdrawn from consideration—not because they’re ridiculous but because they present controversies or dangers that make that tiny bit of celebrity not worth the effort. Here are a few now-obsolete records.
Can you eat 50 wedding cakes in one sitting? Good for you, but don’t expect any special attention from Guinness, which prohibits any attempts that involve “excessive eating.” The ban on binging began in the 1990s. Prior to that, people like Edward Abraham “Bozo” Miller—a gastrointestinally gifted man who consumed a hearty 25,000 calories daily—were celebrated.
But there is a caveat: speed eating is fine. “All of our eating records showcase the skill of speed eating only, and as such are limited to short time periods and small quantities of food, such as fastest time to eat three cream crackers,” the official Guinness site notes. Thus, competitive eater Leah Shutkever earned honors for Fastest Time to Eat a Head of Lettuce in 2023. It took her just 46.52 seconds.
2. Invasive Medical Testing or Surgeries
It’s quite possible you could set a record for the most rectal exams received, but Guinness doesn’t want to hear about it. (Quite honestly, nor does anyone else.) The company “does not monitor any medical testing records that involve the skin being pierced, or an examination in which a device enters the body beyond what is reasonably comfortable. This includes any tests which require a needle; or an internal physical examination.”
Guinness also isn’t interested in the most tests in a limited time span, though they might if you’re the one performing them. The Iglesia Ni Cristo church got a nod for Most Medical Ultrasound Examinations in Eight Hours back in 2016, overseeing 7152 of them. And while Guinness doesn’t observe surgeries as a rule, there is one standout in the non-elective category: As of 1994, Charles Jensen racked up 970 procedures to treat his basal cell condition.
3. Being Buried Alive
Though it has highlighted Italy’s Faroppo Lorenzo’s consenting to spend nine days underground in 1898, Guinness has rarely acknowledged the morbid endurance test that is being buried alive—a feat typically performed in a coffin with a source of oxygen and a newspaper or two. Englishman Mick Meaney lasted 61 days in 1968 on the belief he’d be feted by the organization. Instead, he resurfaced and was surprised to learn no one from Guinness was even in attendance. Such attempts can be fatal, as in the case of Janaka Basnayake of Sri Lanka, who died in 2012, just hours after being lowered and sealed into a 10-foot trench.
One can, however, be burial-adjacent. Allen McCloskey earned the title of Longest Career as a Grave-Digger at 68 years, 191 days in 2021. (A 2023 [Logansport, Indiana] Pharos-Tribune article indicated McCloskey was still at it, placing his reign at 70 years, seven months, and 20 days.)
4. Fasting or Hunger Strikes
The dangers of going without food are rather obvious, which is likely why Guinness wants no part in encouraging anyone to risk their health for a shot at infamy. “This is such a sensitive and difficult area to monitor, we do not accept public applications for this category,” its site notes.
Guinness did recognize Angus Barbieri, who managed to subsist only on liquids and vitamins for 382 days from 1965 to 1966. A 1973 Postgraduate Medical Journal case study described [PDF] a patient known as “A.B.” who admitted himself to a hospital and, under supervision, went from 456 pounds to 180 pounds.
The fasting restriction doesn’t apply to parasites, however. Guinness cheerfully notes that Ornithodoros turicata, or the soft tick, can go up to five years between feedings.
5. Longest Continuous Note on a Saxophone
Jazz may be the coolest music genre going, but Guinness isn’t too relaxed when it comes to breaking a record for the longest continuous sax note. When musician Vann Burchfield did it in 2000, he clocked in at an unbelievable 47 minutes, 5.5 seconds. How? By using a circular breathing method, which Guinness subsequently declared too dangerous to attempt.
Circular breathing allows air to come in the nose and out through air in the cheeks. There was concern the practice could be unsafe due to the potential to starve the brain of oxygen, though there’s no direct medical evidence of such. Even so, Guinness did away with the record. Burchfield still holds it, but Guinness won’t recognize any attempts to out-sax him.
6. Longest Kiss
While there’s nothing wrong with romance, endurance smooching is apparently too risky for Guinness, which deactivated the category in 2013. The rules of having the longest kiss were fairly cruel: Participants had to remain lip-locked standing and without breaks or rest. (They could take liquids through a straw, though they had to keep their lips touching.) The result meant that hopefuls were becoming sleep-deprived, among other ill health effects.
The current and presumably final record holders are Ekkachai and Laksana Tiranarat of Thailand, who kissed for 50 hours and 35 minutes. Instead, Guinness endorses Longest Kissing Marathon, which permits rest periods.
7. Grueling, Uninterrupted Dance Marathons
Like kissing, dancing is yet another seemingly harmless activity than can prove torturous when taken to extremes. The dance marathon craze that consumed the country in the 1920s and 1930s involved participants boogeying without rest for hours, days, or even months at a time. After the death of contestant Homer Morehouse in 1923, major cities including Boston and Los Angeles banned the contests. Guinness will acknowledge a dance marathon, but only if entrants are over 16 and take a minimum five minutes of rest each hour.
8. Stupid Pet Tricks
While it’s perfectly fine to see if your dog can outdo Otto the skateboarding bulldog, Guinness generally won’t review record attempts involving anything that might prove harmful to animals. “This includes any records in which the animals would have to be put to greater stress to achieve a new record, such as endurance records, or records which include any level of danger for the animal,” Guinness says. Your plans for a doggie dance marathon have been dashed.