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Who was Colestein Veglin? Legend of 'The Oldest Man Yet' explored

Bruno Cooke January 20, 2022
Who was Colestein Veglin? Legend of 'The Oldest Man Yet' explored

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Saturnino de la Fuente García, from Spain – the world’s oldest man according to Guinness World Records – has died at his house at the age of 112 (and 341 days). His death has revived interest in longevity myths: stories, not necessarily true, about supercentenarians, people who are thought to have lived to be incredibly old. So, who was Colestein Veglin, and how old did he say he was?

Who was Colestein Veglin, and how old did he claim to be?

On 20 July 1876, The New York Times published a story about “an insane man”, who was arrested in Newark, New Jersey. It was a Thursday. Unfortunately, weather records don’t go back that far.

The title was The Oldest Man Yet; the man gave his name as Colestein Veglin.

“He claims to be 615 years of age, and to have six wives all living,” read the story. Veglin reportedly lived at 21 William Street, and was “worth considerable property”.

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Copyright has expired on this artwork. From my own archives, digitally restored. Genesis 48:1-9 “They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.”

But that was it. There was no follow-up. All the information available about this man is from this single New York Times piece. Although presumably, someone somewhere knows something – or knew something, about Colestein Veglin, like for example how old he really was.

Who are some other notable longevity claims/myths about?

In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), several individuals have very long lifespans – over 900 years. 

Those writing about trying to make sense of the number of Genesis say these are likely mistranslations; 900 lunar months, for example, equals just under 73 years, which is much more believable.

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Wrath of Man | Official Trailer | Amazon Prime
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Elsewhere, there are Japanese monks, Hindu holy people, spiritual leaders of Jainism, and Egyptian kings who supposedly lived for as many as 242, 279, 443, 9,000 or even 8.4 million years.

Four years ago, The Guardian reported on the death of Sodimedjo, also known as Mbah Ghoto (Grandpa Ghoto), who was, according to his papers, born in December 1870. That would have made him 146 – far older than anyone else currently living.

Could anyone live to be as old as Colestein Veglin claimed to be?

Colestein Veglin said he was 615. But all the “oldest people” you hear about these days are in their 110s – pretty old, but not that old.

But there are scientists who believe that the first person to live to be 1000 is already among us. 

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Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Dr Aubrey De Grey “has set out to end biological ageing”, wrote Futurism, following De Grey’s TEDx talk on the subject.

“The fact is, ageing kills 110,000 people worldwide every day,” the outlet quotes him as saying. 

“It unequivocally causes far more suffering than anything else that we have to experience, and contrary to the impression that most of humanity has forced itself into,” he claims, “it’s indeed a problem which is amenable through technological intervention.”

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.