Friday, September 22, 2006

Rogues Gallery #4: DR. CORNELIUS SHAM

The more you dig into the life of Dr. Cornelius Sham, the less you find you know about him.

He is pictured in two versions, the one on the right being the image he used on the labels of bottles of healing elixir he used to sell (considering his long life, perhaps it works in spite of the high amount of radium in the solution).

The only consistent information, it seems, is that he was born on May 5th, 1923. However, this lone documented fact (backed up by an Oklahoma City birth certificate) casts the shadow of doubt on many of the other tales and rumors about Sham's colorful and mysterious life.

For example, if he was born in 1923, how could he be a part of the scores of stories about him that took place before his birth? How could he have run off to join the circus with Tod Browning in 1896, only to end up running the sideshow a mere month later? How could he have been there at Teddy Roosevelt's deathbed to cryogenically preserve his head?

However, the birth certificate is all the tangible documentation of this man that we have... no paper trail has ever caught up to him. No social security number, no addresses, no license plates... it would be easy to think that the man never existed if there wasn't such a wealth of anecdotal evidence of him from so many different sources.

Did he really kick Mrs. O'Leary's cow? Was that really him on Elm Street in Dallas opening the umbrella in the sun as the motorcade passed? And if he really had a flying solar car in 1953, why did he choose to bike the Appalachians distributing hallucinogenic toads for breeding to the poor in 1955? And why is he wearing an Eleganza leisure suit in the grainy photos of him meeting Rockefeller in 1948? Certainly, that couldn't really be his reflection in Buzz Aldrin's helmet, even if the photos are from NASA.

Obviously, many of the stories about him are complete fabrications... but it is troubling that there are often scores of corroborating witnesses in many of the seemingly impossible ones. In spite of reports of his death in 1968 (honey overdose), 1972 (plane crash in Antarctica), 1997 (fell into vat of hydrochloric acid), and 2002 (eaten by elder god) there have been sightings of him as recently as three months ago. He was reported to have been operating a smuggling operation moving cloned sheep out of Australia in the pouches of kangaroos.

His current whereabouts are- you guessed it- unknown.


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