The White Castle where Flesche got his hamburger sacks

Before the 2004 gross-out fast food doc Super Size Me, there was a 1930s experiment that had one man eating White Castle hamburgers for 13 weeks straight. This sick science experiment was kicked off by Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram, owner of the White Castle fast food chain, who wanted to prove his products were healthy after one author declared: "The hamburger habit is just about as safe as walking in a garden while the arsenic spray is being applied, and about as safe as getting your meat out of a garbage can standing in the hot sun."

Ingram got Jesse McClendon, Ph.D. (from the University of Minnesota's Department of Physiological Chemistry) to take on his test, and "The White Castle project allowed the biochemist to devise a study that would influence public thought (as well as hamburger sales) for years to come."

adwhitecastle2.gifMcClendon fed "a single experimental subject only White Castle hamburgers—including the bun, onions, and pickles—and water for 13 weeks." That subject was med student Bernard Flesche, who kept a diary throughout the process. Flesche's daughter has said that "He started out very enthusiastic about eating 10 burgers at a sitting, but a couple of weeks into it, he was losing his enthusiasm." But he spirited through, and maintained good health for the entire three months, eating 20 to 24 burgers a day by the end.

Ingram made the study a big part of his ad campaign at the time, and said this proved to customers that they "could eat nothing but our sandwiches and water, and fully develop all physical and mental faculties." As for Flesche, "he never willingly ate hamburgers again," and died at age 54 from heart problems.