Friday, November 13, 2009

The Human Cork

This week in my Local History Notebook, published in the La Farge Episcope newspaper, I wrote about the interesting life of Bill Claybrook. He was a La Farge lad who gained some fame in the 1930's & '40's as "The Unsinkable Man" or "The Human Cork". Apparently, Bill was a floater extraordinaire, who was featured in Look magazine and on the Ripley's Believe It Or Not" radio show and syndicated newspaper column. In the October 11, 1939 Milwaukee Sentinel, Bill was featured in the Ripley's column, which included a photograph of him. The column said,"He is called "The Human Cork", being given that name because he can stand erect in water, even walk and sleep, but his face always remains above the water's surface."
Bill graduated from La Farge High School in 1914, moved from the Kickapoo and worked in theaters in Minnesota for nearly 20 years. It is thought that Bill may have acquired his buoyancy skills while in this line of work, perhaps learning from traveling vaudeville shows. When World War II broke out, Bill offered his services to the U.S. war department, with no luck. Later, the Canadian government approached Bill regarding training their servicemen in his floating skill. Bill lived in Charleston, West Virginia when he passed away in 1944 at the age of 51. He was brought back to his home town for the funeral and buried in Bear Creek Cemetery. "Non-Sinkable William" had returned to his home.


  1. Brad, Did Bill teach the Candians his floatation skills? Do you know it? Can you teach us?

  2. Hi, My name is John and I am William Claybrook's great-nephew (by marriage, he married my mother's aunt). Would you please contact me at