Meet the Cult-Leading Nudist Who Worshipped Coconuts

He ate nothing but coconuts for 17 years
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2015 2:31 PM CST

(Newser) NPR has a fascinating look at a little-known 20th century eccentric named August Engelhardt, "a sun-worshipping German nudist" who ate nothing but coconuts and died "a freak show for tourists" in the South Pacific. Born in 1875, Engelhardt latched onto a movement that believed the raw and natural meats and vegetables eaten by apes was "the proper food for man." He took that belief even further, zeroing in on the coconut as the only untainted food fit for consumption. "He believed that since the coconut grew high up in the tree, closest to God and closest to the sun, it was godlike," author and Engelhardt expert Christian Kracht tells NPR. "And since it had hair and looked like a human head, he thought it came closest to being a man." Engelhardt believed to eat coconuts was to be an "eater of God."

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After being ridiculed straight out of Germany, Engelhardt moved to what is now Papua New Guinea, where he founded a cult called the Order of the Sun in 1902 and commenced his all-coconut diet, NPR reports. Far from curing "all mankind's woes" as he believed, the coconuts left Engelhardt ulcer-ridden, mentally ill, malnourished, and rheumatic. He was, as NPR puts it, a "sack of bones." Things didn't go much better for his 15 or so German followers, who either died or fled back to Europe with malaria. After being briefly imprisoned during the first World War, Engelhardt was reportedly found dead on the beach in 1919 at the age of 44 and weighing only 66 pounds. Read the full story here. (Read more coconuts stories.)

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