The UK’s very own ‘Joe Exotic’ who was famous for shoving rats down his trousers and eating cockroaches has died.
Ken Edwards passed away on January 9 at the age of 79, Manchester Evening News reports.
During the 1960s and 70s, he worked as a zookeeper, where he would be responsible for looking after all sorts of animals, like lions, tigers, emus, hippos and giraffes.
One day, while working as a ratcatcher, he was asked to set traps at a glove factory in Stockport, Cheshire, when he met worker David Potts.
The two struck a quick bond and David would later go on to be the Robin to his Ratman and variety act ‘Ratman and Robin’ was born.
‘Ratman and Robin’ toured the UK extensively throughout the 1980s and appeared on a number of television shows including The Russell Harty Show, Over The Top (OTT) and Just Amazing.
The shocking act featured a number of stunts involving animals, including the eating of cockroaches and ‘stripping’ while live rats roamed his trousers.
When asked what cockroaches tasted like, Ken simply said: “They taste awful. I just cannot describe them. I just think of England and a pint."
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In another interview, he described it as "like having an anaesthetic at the back of your throat".
The record number of rats Ken was able to stuff into his trousers at any one time was 47 – earning him a place in the 1988 Alternative Book of Records.
He earned another Guinness World Record years later in 2001 for the most cockroaches eaten in one minute (36) while appearing on The Big Breakfast.
In 1987, the RSCPA attempted to ban the act but were unsuccessful in their efforts, while in 1990, RSPCA Inspector Dale Eaton described the act as "barbaric".
Ken would often catch the rats in traps from Manchester’s sewers, and then clean them up and look after them in his six garden sheds before enlisting them in the act.
He told reporters in 1985: "Our rats are really well treated. The rats are all caught from sewers, shampooed, deloused, and kept in special galvanised cages."
Speaking of the act, he told the Liverpool Echo in 1988: "I put the rats down my trousers, it's boring but the audience loves it."
His home would often contain around 150 rats, a pet mink, and even a Mexican coatimundi – a type of raccoon.
One of ‘Ratman and Robin’s’ most controversial acts revolved around a ‘Coffin of Blood’ performance, which involved Ken being handcuffed inside a Perspex coffin.
Assistant David would inflict several wounds to his body and then introduce 30 wild rats into the coffin, while audiences watched in horror as they fed off his open wounds.
Ken once said he loved to take himself “to the limits of disgust” with the act.
He told the Liverpool Echo: "I just think of the money. But I soon realised people love to be disgusted."
It wasn’t just cockroaches he ate either – he once took part in a slug-eating competition to raise money for Hyde United football club.
Ken even appeared on Britain's Got Talent in 2012, where he ate cockroaches out of a paper bag in front of the judges.
He didn't manage to get through to the next round, but he did leave a lasting impression on David Walliams, who later said his children's book Ratburger, particularly the character Burt, was inspired by Ken's audition.
Ken's family said he, along with fellow record-breaker Peter Dowdeswell, raised thousands of pounds for charity, including those looking after handicapped children.
Peter said in tribute to Ken: "He was one of the best. He will be missed by a lot."
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