The Kenyan woman who knew everything. Supposedly.
Her name was Tsula Mwangi. She could speak every language, deliver the punch line to any joke, answer every riddle, recite every line of every poem ever published, identify every known plant, draw a detailed map of all the planets, and recite the Bible forward and backward. She was the Rainwoman.
Unlike the Rainman though, Tsula had access to information she had never heard of before. Her mind, the story went, was connected to “the universal mind.” She had an IQ higher than all charts because she knew “everything there is to know-and processes information faster than a computer.” She was also blind. And completely fake.
Every few years, an internet user resurrects the story of Tsula Mwangi with the simple question “Was she real?” The answer is no. She was made up.
The woman in the image was definitely real but she was not Tsula Mwangi or the Rainwoman. In fact, there has never been any known person called Tsula Mwangi, except in the annals of an American satirical newspaper called Weekly World News (WWN), “the world’s only reliable news source.”
On September 26th, 2000, one of the stories the black-and-white tabloid carried was titled “Meet the Woman, Who Knows Everything.” It was the first and last mention of Tsula Mwangi but keeps reappearing every few years. It’s a fantastic story, but patently untrue. Also, notice the blurb on her head that reads “Hey guys, sound like anyone you are married to?”
Weekly World News was launched in 1979 after publisher Generoso Pope Jr. bought a color press for his main tabloid The National Enquirer. He still owned the black-and-white press and needed a project to keep it running. That idea became the Weekly World News. Its first editor was a 10th-grade dropout, but he managed to build a niche market for the paper.
Where tabloids run true but sensational stories, Weekly World News exists in the thin line between fictional and non-fictional sensational news. Most of its stories cover paranormal themes, like the Tsula Mwangi hoax, told as true stories. But it was a weekly sitting on supermarket shelves across America with no fine print disclaimer. So some people were definitely going to take its stories as true. It didn’t help that some were, in fact, true.
In 2004, four years after the Tsula Mwangi story, the newspaper added the short line “the reader should suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoyment.” Its current editor believes that three kinds of people read WWN “those who believe, those who don’t believe, and those who want to be believe but aren’t sure.”
The Weekly World News has always been dedicated to weirdness. One of their most popular characters was a 2-feet tall half-bat, half-baby boy aptly named Bat Boy. He was caught by the government, promptly escaped, attacked a child, and was the one who led troops to Saddam’s spider hole. WWN also carried such headlines such as “Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby”, and “I was Bigfoot’s Love Slave.”
In Men in Black (1997), Tommy Lee Jones’s character, Agent K, comments on Weekly World News, saying it “has the best investigative reporting on the planet.” It was a joke, but an excellent plug-in. WWN ceased printing in 2007 and is now an online only production, with the same bizarre stories and the black-and-white funk.
There have probably been many Kenyan geniuses. Bethuel Mbugua’s case was one, and also one of the most disputed. There have been recent cases, such as the kid who can read colors, and the 4-year-old with an incredible memory. Tsula Mwangi, however, has never existed.
One story is Good,
till Another is told.
Last modified: February 17, 2023