W O R L D 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? By STEWART GRIFFON
LYNSEY ADDARIO/CORBIS FOR TIME
Rescue workers search through debris in Florence, Italy
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
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.
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."
DETAILS OF THE METAHUMAN REGISTRATION AND RESTRICTION ACT:
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
Fifty-five years ago, however, such sentiments were in the quiet
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"...