Anyone seeing Alfred David waddling through the backstreets of Brussels, Belgium, will think he is on his way to a fancy dress party. But he is not. He has in fact spent much of the last 40 years living out his obsession with penguins.
The Belgian eccentric, affectionately known as“Monsieur Pingouin”, almost always walks around the neighborhood of Schaerbeek in his big penguin suit and even “talks” like a penguin.
The pensioner’s life changed in May 1968 when he injured his hip in a car accident which left him with a limp his friends and colleagues thought was more like a waddle, so they gave him the nickname Mr. Penguin. David took a real interest in the flightless bird and eventually became obsessed with it, collecting all kinds of penguin memorabilia.
As his obsession grew, he eventually set up a museum in his home displaying some 3,500 items of penguin memorabilia.
However his wife was not so pleased and showed him and his collection the door when he told her he wanted to officially change his name to Mr Penguin.
Alfred later donated his penguin collection – which ranged from penguin lavatory paper to cups and toys – to raise money for a local football theme, but his obsession for the flightless birds and his giant suit stuck with him.
Alfred has also appeared on dozens of TV shows over the years and was invited as a special guest to the 1992 Amsterdam premiere of Batman Returns – which featured Danny DeVito as the hero’s nemesis ‘The Penguin’.
In an era of movies such as “Happy Feet,” “March of the Penguins” and “Mr Popper’s Penguins,” television appearances are now rarer but he is still well-known in the streets of Schaerbeek, the Brussels district where he lives and where the locals greet him: ‘How are you today Monsieur Pingouin?’
Alfred thinks his relationship with real penguins is so special that they can understand what he’s saying to them. Every time he goes to the zoo and tries to imitate their “ah, ah, aah” sounds, they come towards him and answer. He believes he will be reincarnated as a penguin, either in Antarctica or in some zoo.
He dreams one day he’ll find eternal rest in the icy waters somewhere near Antarctica, dressed in his penguin suit and laid out in a penguin-shaped coffin decorated with penguins. His gravestone has already been made in the shape of two penguins.