More Human Than A Human
The 55 year history of "metahumans" has been both turbulent and mysterious. What does the future hold for them — and the rest of the world?

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Tuesday, Jun. 01, 2004
Gregory Lipton's parents never would have guessed that their newborn child would herald in a new age that changed the world forever. Doctors at the Dexter Community Hospital in Dexter, New Mexico, reported nothing unusual about the birth or the child. On March 7th, 1941, Gregory James Lipton was born to James Lipton, an airplane mechanic, and his wife Hillary. The 6 pound 9 ounce newborn seemed perfectly normal. "There was nothing at all unusual about the birth," said obstetrician Matthew Lewison during an interview in 1963. "Greg Lipton was a normal healthy newborn."

Today, however, Gregory Lipton is not known for being a typical child. Far from it. When Greg was a spry 8 years-old, his parents observed a very unusual event. "He was playing in the yard and the neighbor's dog Roddy got free of its chain," Greg's father recounts. "Roddy wasn't a very friendly dog, and it was running at Greg. Before I can get there, Greg yells out and holds up his hand and it's like the dog ran head long into a brick wall. One second Roddy's charging at Greg and the next its lying in a heap on the ground." The local veterinarian afterwards reported that Roddy had suffered a concussion and showed serious facial bruising. When New Mexico University researcher Eric Bradford caught wind of this and other similar phenomenons involving Gregory, he invited the family to participate in a series of experiments in 1949. What he found has since changed the world.

In a process still no one understands, Gregory Lipton was able to halt the motion of any object moving toward him — by will alone. The research quickly became the scientific event of the century. Scholars from all over the world clamored to invite young Gregory and his family to participate in studies and experiments of all types. Eventually James Lipton put a halt to it and tried to withdraw the family from the firestorm of scientific controversy. For many, Gregory was seen as the evidence of telekinesis and other powers of the mind. However, the boy's talent seemed limited to simply stopping moving objects, not lifting or moving them with his thoughts. At first his strange power worked best only on light items. Heavier entities, such as an adult human, were only slowed in their approach. As Greg grew he was able to put more and more force into his ability. "His greatest increase came during puberty," describes Dr. Bradford, the only researcher the Liptons allowed to remain in continuous contact with their son. "It was a link too significant to ignore."

In another ominously foreshadowing event, Gregory Lipton was murdered in 1957 at the young age of 16. His killer, Robert Edward Peterson, described the youth as "an abomination before God" and "possessed of the devil." Peterson shot the boy in the back of the head, catching Gregory unaware. "The ironic thing is that I think Gregory could have stopped the bullet, if he had known about the attack," says Dr. Bradford. Peterson was convicted in 1960 and is currently serving a life sentence in New Mexico state prison.

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At the height of the scientific frenzy over young Lipton, two more cases of unusual talents were made known to the public. In 1951, Wesley Matthews, then 19, contacted researchers at UCLA to demonstrate his bizarre ability to make his hands glow... bright enough to blind, if he so desired. Several months later, Donna Rhett of Nebraska came forward to reveal her newfound power of creating illusionary images. Said Professor of Psychology Thomas Zdrok, "It was akin to mass hypnosis. She could change her appearance, or that of an inanimate object, or conjure some image out of thin air." Rhett's illusions, while appearing quite solid, could be passed through without resistance and never showed up on film. Both found themselves the center of huge media storms. Three years later, Matthews took his own life. Donna Rhett disappeared from public life, no doubt in part aided by her uncanny ability.

"With Lipton no longer the only game in town," describes CDC biologist Herman Danvers, "the scientific community had to seriously address the source of these beyond-human abilities. We began referring to anyone exhibiting these talents as 'Metahumans.' And each one effectively defied everything we know about the workings of the universe." In the next two years, the discoveries of five more Metahumans were revealed to the public in various news publications. Dr. Bradford told Time Magazine at the time, "It is generally accepted that more than just five Metahumans 'manifested' during that time. But as more become known, the public concern began to rise. Metahumans became increasingly reluctant to identify themselves."

And in some cases, public concern was justified. Of the dozens of Metahumans made known to the world in 1954, it was Franklin Underwood who made the most significant impact. His failed attempt to rob a bank using his camouflage power led not only to his death, but also a Congressional committee and hearings on the origin of Metahuman abilities and the threat they may pose to the public. Walter Crawford, Republican senator from Iowa from 1948 to 1960, actively pushed for the hearings. "We don't understand the source of these 'Metahumans.' We don't understand the source of their particular talents. They go against everything we know about the laws of physics. All we do know is that they have the capacity — the potential — to present a significant threat to the public at large."

While the wheels of government turn slow, the phenomenon of Metahumans did not. Manifestations spread across the United States and soon began appearing outside of its borders. In the same year, 1956, two Metahumans were reported in Canada and one in Brazil. The next year, the unexplained process had leaped into Europe and Asia, giving rise to bizarrely gifted individuals in those continents as well. Simultaneously, the number and severity of unusual birth defects in America had begun rise — a situation that many scientists believe to be related to the Metahuman phenomenon. Dr. Bradford explains that "the bizarre aspect is not really that the number of defects began to increase, but that infants with such severe abnormalities were otherwise completely healthy." For instance, a youth in Wisconsin was born with an extra pair of arms — complete with fully formed hands and fingers. Not only that, the child developed the ability to control each arm, hand, and finger, independently, something Dr. Bradford calls "unheard of in the medical field."


  • Any person who knowingly possesses powers or abilities beyond those of normal human beings is classified as a metahuman.
  • All metahumans living in the United States and its territories must register with the MREA.
  • Metahumans must update their registration address within 30 days of relocation.
  • Law enforcement personnel can perform up to 4 unannounced checks a year to determine that a Metahuman is abiding by the restrictions in this law.
  • Failure to notify change of address is a Class C misdemeanor.
  • Unsanctioned public use of any metahuman power or ability, except in extreme circumstances, is a Class B misdemeanor.
  • Use of any metahuman power or ability toward another person without their permission is a Class A misdemeanor.
  • Use of any metahuman power or ability in furtherance of a crime is a Class D felony (mandatory minimum of 5 years).
  • Many of the 21st century now attribute much of the 1950's Red Scare to the public and political climate of fear surrounding Metahumans. Committee transcripts recently disclosed do, in fact, contain quite a few mentions of Communism and its possible connections with Metahumans. The end result of the committee meetings and hearings was the "Metahuman Registration And Restriction Act", a wide-reaching bill that in 1958 passed through both the House and the Senate with wide margins — and was almost immediately denounced by many as the return of National Socialism, only this time inside the United States.

    Hyperbole aside, what the MRARA calls for is the registration with local authorities of known Metahumans, restrictions on the use of Metahuman abilities in public, and penalties for using those particular talents in the commission of a crime (see left panel). The registration was "necessary in order to keep track of potentially dangerous abilities and the people who possess them" according to remarks Senator Crawford made after the signing of the act into law. "Unlike a weapon, the abilities of a Metahuman cannot simply be taken away if used irresponsibly. The government has a responsibility to the people to keep track of Metahumans as best it can."

    Not everyone is in agreement with the Senator's remarks. Joshua Mancer, current chairman of The American Council of Metahumans, equates the act to registration of Jews in Nazi Germany. "We don't have numbers tattooed on our arms, but the effect is the same. Metahumans — the Gifted — aren't monsters. We're just people who want the same things everyone else wants."

    Fifty-five years ago, however, such sentiments were in the quiet minority.

    The number of documented manifestations of Metahuman abilities across the world climbed steadily for years, until about 1963. Even then, says Dr. Bradford, "there are probably thousands of people who have Metahuman abilities so slight or difficult to perceive that they do not even realize it." Collectively, many Metahumans at this time began referring to themselves as "The Gifted", not liking the connotation of the word "Metahuman" suggesting that they are something other than human. And so, their powers became known to them as "The Gift" — or "The Curse", depending upon whom you ask. Most of the public, on the other hand, still to this day continues to refer to them by the label "Metahuman"... or worse.

    From the Jun. 07, 2004 issue of TIME magazine

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