"World's Dirtiest Man," Who Did Not Bathe for Over Half a Century, Dies at 94 After First Wash
He would eat roadkill, smoke a pipe and believed that cleanliness would make him sick.
An Iranian hermit who was dubbed the "world's dirtiest man" for refusing to bathe for more than half a century, died this week at the age of 94, shortly after washing for the first time in decades.
The state news agency IRNA reported that "Amou Haji," an Iranian endearment for an older person, died on Sunday in the village of Dejgah in the southern province of Fars. Local media reported that Haji, who lived in a cinderblock shack and was covered in soot, had not bathed in more than 60 years.
Villagers said Haji had experienced "emotional setbacks in his youth" that produced his aversion to bathing. Read on to find out more about Haji, and why one American doctor has embraced his no-showering approach.
In 2014, the Tehran Times reported that Haji would eat roadkill, smoke a pipe filled with animal excrement, and believe that cleanliness would make him sick. He said his favorite meal was porcupine. A short documentary film, The Strange Life of Amou Haji, was made about his life in 2013, according to Iranian media outlets.
A few months ago, neighbors persuaded him to wash for the first time in decades. IRNA reported that Haji became sick shortly afterward and died last Sunday. It's unclear what caused his death. Local media reported that doctors had examined the man earlier this year, and he seemed healthy.
CNN reported that a few years ago, a group of villagers took him to a nearby river in an attempt to bathe him, and he threw himself out of the car and ran away. Overall, locals treated him and his stance toward washing with respect.
The man had no living relatives, although townspeople were known to take care of him. His funeral was held on Tuesday evening in the nearby city of Farashband, according to IRNA.
The Guardian suggests that after Haji, the "unofficial record" for the world's dirtiest man could go to an Indian man who had also refused to bathe for decades. In 2009, the Hindustan Times profiled Kailash "Kalau" Singh, who had eschewed bathing or showering for more than 30 years to help end "all the problems confronting the nation."
"Every evening as villagers gather, Kalau … lights a bonfire, smokes marijuana, and stands on a leg praying to Lord Shiva," the news outlet reported. "It's just like using water to take a bath. Fire bath helps kill all the germs and infections in the body," Singh said.
In recent years, one American doctor attracted attention with his admission that he no longer regularly showered, saying he did so because Westerners are bathing too much, and that's harmful to the skin microbiome. In the 2020 book Clean, James Hamblin said he had gone without shampoo, deodorant, or regular showers for five years.
"I think that many people — not everyone — could do less, if they wanted to," he told NPR. "We are told by marketing, and by some traditions passed down, that it's necessary to do more than it actually is. Your health will not suffer. And your body is not so disgusting that you need to upend your microbial ecosystem every day."
Hamblin wrote that he continued to wash his hands with soap and water. But in terms of other body cleansing products, "As I gradually used less and less, I started to need less and less," he said. "My skin slowly became less oily, and I got fewer patches of eczema."
He added: "I didn't smell like pine trees or lavender, but I also didn't smell like the oniony body odor that I used to get when my armpits, used to being plastered with deodorant, suddenly went a day without it." His girlfriend noted that he smelled "like a person."