So-Called 399-Year-Old Woman Goes Viral
The Cardiff Giant. Hitler’s Diaries. The War of the Worlds. Even before the internet, the world was being fooled by manufactured hoaxes, but there’s no doubt that the lightning-fast speed of the internet combined with social media has made it so much easier to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.
The latest bit of viral chicanery has some gullible TikTok users believing the all too unbelievable existence of a 399-year-old woman.
First of all, let’s get some actual facts on the table. No one in recorded history has ever lived to be 399 years old. The oldest known woman on Earth was Jeanne Chalmet, who passed away in 1997 at the age of 122.
The oldest man was Jiroemon Kimura, who lived to the ripe old age of 116 before dying in 2013. The oldest person currently alive is Kane Tanaka, who recently celebrated her 119th birthday in January.
The video currently making the rounds on TikTok shows an extremely emaciated and frail person in a hospital bed. Many users, Deliberately or otherwise, have incorrectly identified the person as a woman of extraordinary age in the text in the video or in the caption. Neither, however, is true.
The person in the video is Luang Pho Ya, a Buddhist monk from Thailand. The original video, posted by his granddaughter, began to first gather views and then began to fuel wild speculation regarding the monk’s age. One video, which speculated that Luang was 163 years old, garnered 88 million views and several thousand comments.
As the TikTok version of “Post Office” got further and further away from the initial post, Luang suddenly changed his gender and aged a further 300 years — which would have made Luang born around the same time as the Thirty Years’ War was fought in Europe and the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty was born, some 150 years before the USA became a country. No, “she” isn’t.
The speculation is nonsense, of course, but that hasn’t stopped multiple videos showing the monk from pulling down thousands and even hundreds of thousands of views across TikTok. There doesn’t seem to be any malice behind users sharing or reacting to the videos— just a great deal of credulity.
It may seem odd that people are more willing to believe that a person is capable of believing a human is capable of living for four centuries, but a quick look into the history of hoaxes, internet or otherwise, shows that people are fairly willing to let themselves be fooled for the sake of an interesting story.
However, if one is looking for a feel-good story of human longevity, look no further than the actual oldest person alive, Kane Tanaka. Ms. Tanaka is a full decade older than Luang and, if all goes well, will be celebrating her 120th year birthday in January of 2023.