Howard Hughes was born in Texas in 1905 to Howard Robard Hughes and Dallas heiress Allene Gano. Raised by an overly obsessive mother who forced him to endure strange cleanliness rituals, douse himself with mineral oil daily, and avoid other ‘germ ridden’ children, Howard had no other alternative than to be different. His mother, who insisted on giving him hand-baths until his teen years, died when he was 16 years old and his father perished just two years later. The youth took over his father’s company (at the age of 18), the Hughes Tool Company, and was immediately recognized for his brilliant business skills.
Howard Hughes’ Life
Bored with the tool business, Howard became a movie producer and created such classics as Scarface, Hell’s Angels, and The Outlaw. His epic movie, Hell’s Angels, went down in history as the most expensive movie ever made. He turned his favorite hobby, flying airplanes, into a lucrative business forming the Hughes Aircraft Company. Before long, Hughes owned an international and two regional airlines, a major motion picture studio, mining properties, a tool company, gambling casinos in Las Vegas, a medical research institute, a vast amount of real estate. He quickly became the world’s richest man.
But as Howard’s riches grew, so did his eccentricities. After suffering several mental breakdowns in the 1950’s, Howard began conducting all business activities through intermediaries, particularly Mormons who he considered the only people clean enough to be allowed in his presence.
Howard Hughes’ eccentricities
In 1946, while test-piloting the XF-11 photo reconnaissance plane, Hughes crashed the airplane in Beverly Hills and was expected to die. The multiple fractures he sustained in the accident lead to the liberal administration of morphine and the beginning of his lifelong addiction to opiates.
His fear of people and the world around him lured him into purchasing his own hotel (the Desert Inn in Las Vegas) so he could remain isolated in the top-floor penthouse. Most of his time was spent watching old movies on a local TV station, Las Vegas’ KLAS-TV. When the station began airing alternative programming during the wee morning hours, Howard bought the TV stations so he could direct the programming.
In 1947, Howard told his aides that he wished to screen some old movies at a film studio near his home. Howard stayed in the darkened screening room for more than four months, never leaving, and living off of chocolate bars, chicken, and milk. He relieved himself in the empty bottles and food containers and when he finally left the screening room, he had not bathed nor cut his hair an nails for several weeks.
His personal entourage was forced to wear white cotton gloves and masks and required to perform bizarre cleansing procedures each time they left and entered his room. His aids were instructed to never speak to him unless he spoke to them first. He eventually eschewed clothing for sanitary reasons and began living the remaining years of his life naked. Lights were kept off to avoid contamination. Food consumption became scarce due to his fear of being poisoned. To ease the remaining pains of life, Howard turned to drugs.
The death of Howard Hughes
At the end of his life, his fingernails, hair, and beard had grown long long and unkempt and the the 6’4″ billionaire weighed a mere 90 pounds. When he died on April 5, 1976 at the age of 70 years old, coroners found several broken hypodermic needles embedded in his arms. Unrecognizable, the FBI had to resort to fingerprints in order to identify his body.