What is an eccentric person? Is it a form of insanity? Or are these people simply free spirits who have the courage to do their own thing? This project is a collection of Famous eccentric people, the object being to link any profiles to Geni and perhaps build trees around them.
There are five salient qualities: nonconformity, creativity, curiosity, idealism, and self-awareness of being different. The writers suggest that missing any one of those traits means disqualification from membership in the guild of eccentrics.
Some secondary characteristics include: high level of intelligence, being opinionated and outspoken, possessing a mischievous sense of humour, not having a competitive nature, often being unmarried and having unconventional living arrangements and eating habits.
The Eccentric Club UK has a page of definitions
- Noun - a person that deviates markedly from an established norm, especially a person of odd or unconventional behaviour.
- Adjective - Departing from a recognized, conventional, or established norm or pattern.
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- Please add the relevant profiles of eccentrics (not their entire descendants - only those who fought in the war). This is easily done from the profile page using the Add to project link. Only profile profiles can be added to projects.
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The following people are listed under nationality of birth, and within that group alphabetically by last name. Links in bold are connected to Geni profiles, other links are to external web pages.
How to add a link is explained in the attached document - Adding links to Geni profiles in projects.
- Sarah Bishop (1753-1810) It would be difficult indeed for the world to experience a war that did not suffer from predictable atrocities. For young girls the fate is an obvious one. For Sarah Bishop of Long Island, N.Y., about 27 years old in the middle of the American Revolution, that suffering was to lead to her isolation from society, years later gaining for her the sobriquet of the "Atrocity Hermitess."
- Hetty Green 1834-1916 Hetty Green was an eccentric miser who became known as the “Witch of Wall Street”. With her business acumen she accumulated such wealth that she was the richest woman in the world. In order to save money, Hetty would work out of trunks at her local bank so she wouldn’t have to pay rent. When her son fell ill, she disguised herself and took him to a charity hospital; when they realized who she was, she fled claiming she would cure her son herself. Unfortunately he contracted gangrene and had to have his leg amputated. She always wore the same black dress and never changed her underwear unless it wore out. She moved back and forth between New York and New Jersey in order to avoid the taxman.
- Robert the Hermit (1769-1832) During the last 17 years of his life Robert was virtually devoid of any interest in humanity. Occasionally, when a person happened upon him, Robert looked through the passerby as he might a pane of glass. Robert was born in Princeton, New Jersey, around 1769 or 1770. His mother was of African descent and in bondage, and his father was "a pure white, blooded Englishman," a man of considerable eminence. His master moved to Georgetown, D.C., when Robert was four years old, after which time Robert knew no more of his mother.
- Joe Higginbotham (mid-19th century) Joe Higginbotham, called Buckskin Joe because he always wore buck skins, wandered the high mountain country of Colorado in search of gold during the Rush of 59. However, he was at heart not a prospector but a man seeking the freedom of solitude.
- Albert Large (early 19th century) An unrequited affair of the heart caused Albert Large to trek off into the Pennsylvania woods to become a 19th-century "wolf man." He was, at the time, in his thirties and, to the residents of Bucks County, a bit queer. He d been that way since early youth. The effort to keep him in school was truly a lost cause. Sent off to the little red schoolhouse, he followed his feet on other paths, straying into the woods away from the cares and worries of book learning. His mother died and was replaced by a stepmother who cared little what he did save that, as he got older, she undoubtedly wished he would leave the family fireside.
- John McQuain (fl. 1770s) in the 1770s, in the neighborhood of Waterford, Massachusetts, there thrived a hermit farmer who can only be described as a dedicated hater of womankind. John McQuain left Bolton and showed up in Waterford as a young man in his twenties. He clearly demonstrated a dislike for women, shuffling away with downcast eyes when one approached him. What caused this strange but consistent reaction, which clearly went beyond shyness an uncaring mother, an object of his affection who did not return his love? No one knew, but it soon became apparent to McQuain that he could not hope to avoid females in Waterford or anywhere else in civilization. And so he moved deeper into the forest, building a hut on a distant plot of land for $40. He owned no household furnishings other than a pail, a dish, and a spoon; all else he apparently held to be too feminine. His only companion was a dog male.
- Francis Adam Joseph Phyle (d. 1778) - For almost 25 years in the 18th century, Mount Holly, New Jersey, hosted a penitential cave dweller about whom little was known. The local citizenry knew not his name, and he, speaking no more than a few words of English, provided them with none. Yet from the 1750s perhaps 1755, but no one was sure when the hermit took up residence he was treated with general kindness and charity.
- Dan Pound (mid-19th century) Grizzled Daniel Pound - having for years prospected, first in the California hills apparently and later, in 1859, in the Pike s Peak area of Colorado, he carried through his hoax of prospecting to the extent of sometimes even building sluice boxes to wash out the dirt from the rocks he mined. It made for a cover
story that indicated there was nothing queer about him, that he led his solitary life because of a need for secrecy to protect his potential finds. What Pound was really searching for was solitude.
- William Buckland (1784 – 1856) William Buckland is famous for two things: he was the first man to write a full account of a fossil, and he was incredibly eccentric when it came to animals and food. Buckland’s love of natural history resulted in his house being something akin to a zoo. He filled it with animals of every kind and he then proceeded to eat them all (and serve them to guests). He claimed to have eaten his way through every animal. The creatures that he said tasted worst were bluebottle flies, and mole. Various guests to dinner describe being served panther, crocodile, and mouse. A famous storyteller at the time (Augustus Hare) told this tale of Buckland: “Talk of strange relics led to mention of the heart of a French King [Louis XIV] preserved at Nuneham in a silver casket. Dr. Buckland, whilst looking at it, exclaimed, ‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king before,’ and, before anyone could hinder him, he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost for ever.”
- William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland (12 September 1800 – 6 December 1879) A recluse, Cavendish spent the last part of his life living in private on the family estate of Welbeck Abbey. Previously a fairly public person Cavendish undertook vast building programmes, most of them underground, that he could enjoy in solitude. When Cavendish died there were thousands of men at work on these underground projects. Welbeck Abbey boasted one of the largest ballrooms in England, also underground, and capable of hosting thousands. No one but the Duke was ever invited. Servants who met the Duke in their work were instructed to ignore him totally, anyone acknowledging him was sacked. He preferred to stay in his bedroom, where food would be passed to him through a slot in the door.
- John Christie (1882-1962) and his wife are most well known for starting the Glyndeborne Opera Festival but John was also a famed British eccentric. One evening while sitting next to the Queen during the opera, he removed his glass eye, cleaned it, put it back in its socket and asked the queen whether it was in straight. If he got too hot, he would cut the arms off his formal jacket – which he would often wear with a pair of old tennis shoes. He owned 180 handkerchiefs, 110 shirts, and despite paying tens of thousands of pounds on an opera production, would travel third class and carry his own luggage to avoid tipping. For a while, Christie would wear nothing but lederhosen and in 1933, he expected all guests of the opera to do the same.
- John ‘Mad Jack’ Churchill famous for having gone through World War II armed with a bow and Scottish broadsword. He is famous for having said “In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed.” Despite his somewhat eccentric ideas about battledress, Churchill was a great success in the war, leading guerrilla style raids on the Germans. On the island of Brac when his team was killed and he ran out of ammo, Churchill stood his ground while playing lamentations on his bagpipes, which he also took into battle. Churchill survived the war after escaping from a German war camp.
- Sir Francis Dashwood was a well-known figure of the 18th century. He held the rank Chancellor of the Exchequer. Today he is best known as the founder of the Hellfire Club. This group of fun-loving gentlemen met in the caves Dashwood had excavated in Wycombe (which can be visited today). His house bore the Latin motto ‘Peno Tento Non Penitento’ – ‘I feel my penis, not penitent.’ It is not known exactly what happened at meetings of the Hellfire Club but once, during a mock Satanic ritual, Dashwood released a baboon dressed as the devil. One member of the club collapsed in tears begging for the devil to spare him. One visitor to Dashwood’s estate was Ben Franklin, who enjoyed strolling around the gardens in the nude.
- Helena, Comtesse de Noailles (c.1826-1908) was born in a wealthy and noble English family. She had a short marriage with the Duc de Mouchy. She had no children of her own but at the age of forty she saw a portrait of a young girl with which she became enamored. When she found the portrait had already been sold she set out to buy the girl who was the model of the portrait. The adopted girl was then raised by Helena’s unique educational strategy. Clothing had to be loose so as not to constrict circulation. The school pond had to be drained to remove any possible source of infection and she was convinced that methane was key to health. For this herds of cows were to be kept near to provide a healthy dose of methane. A life long innovator in health matters she supported herself in her final years on a diet of milk, champagne, and methane.
- Alexander Douglas 10th Duke of Hamilton - also the Duke of Brandon, a Marquess, held three Earldoms, and a handful of Baronetcies. The Duke was obsessed with his lineage and the importance of his birth. When his successes failed to live up to his expectations he began to plan for his death. This led to the Duke constructing a mausoleum 120ft high. Having outbid the British museum, he purchased an Egyptian sarcophagus, in which he planned to be buried. Unfortunately the Duke had purchased a sarcophagus made for a princess. The Duke was rather taller than the average princess and became concerned that he would not fit into the coffin. We would lay in the sarcophagus from time to time to convince himself he would fit in it. On his death bed he was still concerned that his body was too large and instructed his family to ‘double him up’ to make him fit. Unfortunately he was still too large and his feet had to be removed prior to burial.
- Francis Henry Egerton 8th Earl of Bridgewater (1756-1823) although English, spent much of his time living in Paris. He inherited his title along with a very large fortune in 1823. He became famous for his unusual dinner parties which he threw for dogs. All of the invited dogs would be dressed in the finest fashions of the day – including shoes. Another eccentricity was his manner of measuring time; Egerton would wear a pair of shoes only once – when he was done with them, he would line them up in rows in order to count the passing days. He also kept pigeons and partridges which had their wings clipped so he could shoot them for sport even with failing eyesight. When he died he left a large number of important documents on the subject of French and Italian literature to the British Museum, as well as a large financial donation to the Royal Society.He was an avid animal lover but did take this to extremes, much to the amusement of the French. But despite his eccentric behaviour, Lord Bridgewater was a very intelligent man. He was a great scholar and a patron of the arts. He was a fellow of the Royal Society. At the end of his life he donated a very important collection of documents - the Egerton Manuscripts - to the British Museum.
- Simeon Ellerton (1702-1799) lived in the 18th century and was a fitness fanatic. Because he loved to walk long distances, he was often employed to carry out errands or act as a courier for the locals. On his many frequent journeys he would gather up stones from the roadside and carry them on his head. His aim was to gather sufficient stones to build his own house. Eventually he had enough stones and he made a little cottage for himself. Having spent so many years carrying extra weight, he felt uncomfortable without it, so for the rest of his life he walked around with a bag of stones on his head.
- John 'Mad Jack' Fuller (1757-1834 ohn Fuller, better known as "Mad Jack" Fuller, was Squire of the hamlet of Brightling, in Sussex, and is well known as a builder of follies, and as a philanthropist, patron of the arts and sciences, and a supporter of slavery
- James Hirst (1738 - 1829) was so famous an eccentric in his own time, that King George III summoned him to tea. When he received the invitation, Hirst declined – stating that he was training an otter to fish. Eventually he did visit the King where he threw a goblet of water over a courtier who was laughing; Hirst believed the man was having a fit of hysteria. The King gave him a number of bottles of wine from the royal cellar. Jemmy loved animals and he trained his bull to behave like a horse. The bull (named Jupiter) would draw his carriage about the village and Hirst even rode him in fox hunts. Instead of dogs, he used pigs that he had trained as hunt dogs. He regularly blew a horn to invite the poor to his home for free food – which was served out of a coffin. When he died, he requested 12 old maids to follow his coffin to the grave, as well as a bagpiper and a fiddler to play happy music.
- John Mytton, also known as 'Mad Jack', a Regency gentleman known for his extreme spending. When he went up to Cambridge University Mytton took two thousand bottles of port to aid his studies. Academics bored him and so he left to tour Europe. After a period in the military he decided to try his hand at politics. He persuaded voters to support him by wearing a hat with ten pound notes attached which they were encouraged to snatch. He spent a fortune to win his seat yet had one of the least distinguished parliamentary careers of all time. He attended one meeting, found the chamber hot and uncomfortable, so left after thirty minutes and never returned. A noted prankster, Mytton would replace his vicar’s sermon with pages from a sporting paper. He once rode a bear into a dining room. He kept two thousand hounds for hunting. Mytton spent his way through a considerable fortune living in his lavish and eccentric style and died a debtor.
- Joshua Abraham Norton, also known as His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, was a celebrated citizen of San Francisco who proclaimed himself "Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico" in 1859. Although he had no political power, and his influence extended only so far as he was humored by those around him, he was treated deferentially in San Francisco, and currency issued in his name was honored in the establishments he frequented. Norton also corresponded with Queen Victoria, and he was referred to as His Imperial Majesty by local citizens and in the newspaper obituaries announcing his death. Though he was generally considered insane, or at least highly eccentric, the citizens of San Francisco (and the world at large) celebrated his presence, his humor, and his deeds—among the most notorious being his "order" that the U.S. Congress be dissolved by force, and his numerous decrees calling for a bridge to be built across San Francisco Bay.
- Matthew Robinson, 2nd Baron Rokeby, developed a fondness for all things watery. At a time when drinking water could be somewhat risky due to waterborne disease most people drank alcoholic beverages, Rokeby drank only water or beef tea. Each day he would walk to the beach and swim in the sea until exhausted. While Lord Rokeby would walk he was followed by a carriage and servants. Often he would swim to the point of collapse and have to be dragged from the sea. The risks of his obsession with the sea finally convinced him to construct a swimming pool on his estate. While wallowing for hours in the water he would often be accompanied by a joint of roast veal floating alongside him from which he would snatch bites. Rokeby’s unusual aquatic lifestyle seemingly did him no harm however as he lived to be 88 years-old.
- Sir George Sitwell (1860-1943) (father of the famous writer Dame Edith Sitwell) was a very bizarre man in many ways. He was a keen gardener (he actually studied garden design) and, annoyed by the wasps in his garden, he invented a pistol for shooting them. After he moved to Italy to avoid taxes in Britain, he refused to pay his new wife’s debts which resulted in her spending three months in prison. He was such an avid reader and collector of books that he had seven libraries in his home. Other eccentricities included paying his son an allowance based on the amount paid by one of his forebears to his son during the Black Death, and trying to pay his son’s Eton school fees with produce from his garden. But perhaps most bizarrely, Sir George had the cows on his estate stenciled in a blue and white Chinese willow pattern in order to make them look better. This is the notice that Sir George hung on the gate of his manor in Derbyshire, England: “I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”
- William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) is forever locked into history because the linguistic phenomenon known as a “spoonerism” is named after him. A spoonerism involves the accidental (or sometimes intentional) swapping of letters, words, or vowels in a sentence – for example: “Go and shake a tower” (meaning “go and take a shower”). Spooner was a professor at Oxford and he became so famous for his spoonerisms that people would attend his lectures just to hear him make a mistake. He was not pleased about the great publicity that surrounded him but as he neared death his attitude softened and he gave interviews to the press. Spooner not only got his words wrong: he once wrote to a fellow professor to ask him to come immediately to help solve a problem. At the end of the letter he added a post-script that the matter had been resolved and he needn’t come. Some spoonerisms attributed to Spooner are:
“Mardon me padam, this pie is occupewed. Can I sew you to another sheet?” (Pardon me, madam, this pew is occupied. Can I show you to another seat?) “Let us glaze our asses to the queer old Dean” (…raise our glasses to the dear old Queen) “We’ll have the hags flung out” (…flags hung out)
- Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope (1776-1839) was a famous English eccentric. She was born in 1776 - a time when women were not expected to be independent or adventurous. Yet Lady Hester travelled to the East, went hunting for buried treasure and was even crowned Queen by Bedouin Arabs.
- Screaming Lord Sutch Died 1999 David Sutch first became famous as a rock ‘n’ roll singer.
- Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson (1883 – 1950) Also known as Lord Berners, Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson got off to a strange start in life with a super-religious grandmother and a prejudiced mother. When he was nine he was sent to boarding school where he had a relationship with an older boy – the relationship ended when Lord Berners vomited on him. As an adult, Berners became a relatively good composer and writer – and an extremely eccentric man. He had the pigeons at his stately home dyed in a variety of colors (image above) and he kept a pet giraffe with which he would have afternoon tea regularly. His chauffeur had to fit his Rolls Royce out with a harpsichord so Berners could play music whilst being driven around the countryside. He left his estate to his much younger companion, the equally eccentric Robert Heber-Percy.
- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) During a time of moral conservatism, Wilde managed to survive his youth decked out in flamboyant clothing exuding eccentricity, because of his stunning wit – the true cause of his celebrity. While studying at Oxford University, Oscar would walk through the streets with a lobster on a leash. His room was decorated with bright blue china, sunflowers, and peacock feathers. He was the direct opposite of what Victorian England expected a man to be and he flaunted it for all he was worth. Unfortunately an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas brought an end to a brilliant career when Wilde was jailed for sodomy.
- William James Chidley (1860-1916). Among other beliefs to his everlasting notoriety, Chidley had a fixation on the idea that the male erection was a Bad Thing, and on Sundays in the Sydney Domain used to lecture ad nauseam on his gospel of what he termed “natural coition”. He recorded his theories in a volume (privately published, naturally, first in 1911 and with revisions in 1915) called The Answer — i.e. the Answer to the Sex Problem. Yet it wasn’t his ideas on sex that got him repeatedly arrested, but his silk toga-like tunic which was seen by the authorities as indecent dress. He wore it because he believed that heavy clothing caused unnatural erections that inevitably would lead to sexual indulgence, ill health and an untimely death.
- Dulcie Deamer (1890-1972) lived in Kings Cross during its heyday in the Roaring Twenties when it was a community for struggling artists and writers. At one point she was officially crowned the Queen of Bohemia. Perhaps her most notorious exploit was performing the splits at the 1923 Artists Ball in a leopard skin costume. She made her living from freelance writing for various Sydney newspapers and magazines. Apparently obsessed with the elemental passions of the Stone Age, Dulcie also wrote a number of short stories set in that sensual, barbaric and heroic age, “when men were strong and women were even stronger”. She had a serious side, too, as shown in her pessimistic but insightful article In a Women's Prison, about the Women's Reformatory at Long Bay, which appeared in 1925 in The Australian Women's Mirror. In later life she published her autobiography, The Queen of Bohemia.
- Billy King (1807-1873) was a devout and athletic practitioner of pedestrianism — the practice of travelling on foot. One of his many leg-driven adventures was to tramp from Sydney to Parramatta with a live goat weighing 40 kg plus a 5 kg dead weight on his shoulders. It took him just under seven hours. On another occasion he carried a 31 kg dog from Sydney to Campbelltown in nine hours. He also twice beat the Sydney to Windsor mail coach on foot, and walked from Sydney to Parramatta and back, twice a day, for six consecutive days. King was also known as The Flying Pieman. In the 1850s he sold pies, freshly cooked on a brazier, on the corner of Pitt and King Streets. The “Flying” epithet came from his ability to sell pies at Circular Quay to passengers embarking on the Parramatta River steamer and then meet the same passengers as they got off, having outwalked them to Parramatta, a distance of some 29 kilometres.
- Beatrice Miles (1902-1973), Bea who was forced to make hundreds of court appearances for her unconventional behaviours. Born into a wealthy Wahroonga family, Bea seemed to have a brilliant medical career ahead of her, but she abandoned her studies at Sydney Uni and, after a few years of living at home and working as an unpaid assistant in the emergency ward at Sydney Hospital, in 1926 she left the comfortable North Shore milieu forever and set out on an independent life as a bohemian.
- Arthur Stace (1884-1967) Born in a Balmain slum to alcoholic parents and four alcoholic siblings. became a drunkard himself. His alcoholism being so extreme by the 1920s, his mind began to fail and he was in danger of becoming a permanent inmate of a mental institution. In 1930 his life was turned around when he attended a meeting for men conducted by Archdeacon R.B.S. Hammond of St. Barnabas' Church on Broadway (Sydney). Some months later he heard the evangelist, the Reverend John Ridley, booming “I wish I could shout ‘Eternity’ through the streets of Sydney”. That day Stace felt the powerful calling to write “Eternity” on the pavement. From then on he would rise at 4 am, pray for an hour, have breakfast, and then set out. He claimed that each night God gave him the name of the locality where he should write the next day, and he arrived there before dawn — Wynyard, Glebe, Paddington, Randwick, Central Station. First he wrote in yellow chalk, but later switched to marking crayon because it stayed on better in wet weather. In all, he wrote his anonymous message more than half a million times over 35 years — a one-word sermon in an elegant copperplate hand. There is even a fading example still extant at the old Sydney Post Office in Martin Place — eleven storeys above the street, inside one of the tower bells.
- Erik Satie - Socrate, I was born Alfred Eric Leslie Satie in 1866 to a Norman father and Scottish mother. French composer Erik Satie hated rules and refused to be categorized. Known as “the velvet gentleman,” because he always wore velvet, he said: “If I have to follow someone, I think I can say it’s just going to be myself.”
As yet not Classified or investigated
- Charles James Fox,
- William Lamb (Lord Melbourne),
- Richard Brinsley Sheridan,
- Charles Stanhope (The Earl of Harrington),
- Henry Peter Brougham (Baron Brougham and Vaux),
- Theodore Hook,
- James Sheridan Knowles,
- Lord Denman,
- Lord Campbell,
- William M. Thackeray,
- Jack A. Harrison,
- Sir Charles Wyndham,
- Viscount Burnham,
- The Earl of Lonsdale,
- The Earl of Birkenhead,
- Lord Montagu,
- Lord Bristol,
- The Duke of Westminster,
- Sir Frederick Wells,
- Sir James Miller,
- Sir Herbert Tree,
- Sir George Alexander,
- Sir Walter de Frece,
- Sir Seymour Hicks,
- H. Montague-Bates,
- G. N. Barnes,
- George Milne,
- Walter J. W. Beard,
- Thomas Honey,
- Percy Leftwich,
- W. E. Garstin,
- A. J. East,
- Ernest Stuart,
- Dudley Hardy,
- Julius M. Price,
- Lionel Brough,
- John Hollingshead,
- M. and Jean de Paleologue,
- Henry Ainley,
- George Robey,
- Dan Leno,
- Little Tich,
- Sir Henry
- J. Wood,
- Sir Landon Ronald,
- Sir Gerald du Maurier,
- Fred Bishop,
- Bill Gavin,
- Dick Upex,
- Bud Flanagan,
- Tommy Trinder,
- Ben Warris,
- Joe Davis,
- Jack Trevor,
- James Moore,
- Louis Scott,
- George Graves,
- Talbot O'Farrell