How Tall Was He?

Johan as Carnival Giant

Johan in the movie "Why Worry"

News articles and promotions universally listed John Aasen's height to be 8' 4" tall or taller. His height was frequently listed at 8' 9". The heights would probably have included 3" heels and a hat. So how tall was he?

John Aasen made his living being a giant. It was reported that he would never allow himself to be measured. He or his manager would always tell reporters how tall he was.

How can his height be measured?

One way to do this is to examine the photo on the left taken in 1923 that was used to promote the motion picture "Why Worry?". To do this, the photo was scanned and loaded into Photoshop. John Aasen and Harold Lloyd were then both measured in pixels. John measured 1373 pixels high and Harold measured 979 pixels. Both heights were measured by estimating the location of the heel in the shoe and the top of the head. Now, if we know Harold Lloyd's height, we can calculate John Aasen's height.

Harold Lloyd is recorded to have been 5' 10" (70 inches) tall according to the book The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia written by Annette D'Agostino Lloyd. His height was also confirmed to be 5' 10" on several web sites including the IMDb (International Movie Database) web site.

If Harold Lloyd's measurement (979 pixels) corresponds to 70 inches, then John Aasen's measurement (1373 pixels) corresponds to 98.6 inches or 8' 2.6". This test would seem to confirm John Aasen's claim to be over eight feet tall.

Another example is the composite picture below of John Aasen and Harold Lloyd on the right side and Shaquille O'Neal and Stewart Scott (ESPN Sports Caster) on the left. Given that Harold Lloyd is 5' 10" and Stewart Scott is 6' 0.5", the picture was adjusted so that their relative heights are about the same with Stewart Scott about 2.5" taller than Harold Lloyd. Shaq is 7'1" and is clearly significantly shorter than John Aasen according to what we see.

Comparison between Shaq and Aasen


A third example is the picture below showing John Aasen "sparring" with Jack Dempsey (in the center with a light-colored suit). They are both in a crouched boxing pose in this picture, so it is difficult to make a measured comparison. Jack Dempsey was 6' 1". John Aasen appears to be closer to eight feet tall than seven feet tall.

Johan at LA General Hospital in 1935

The picture below on the left shows John when he was hospitalized in 1935 at the Los Angeles General Hospital. On the right is a picture taken July 5, 2008 that shows a door in the same ward where John was hospitalized. The doorway at the hospital is exactly 7' high. It appears that the doorway has the same steel frame and same mopboard that existed in 1935.

Johan at LA General Hospital in 1935 and doorway in 2008

To further confirm the height of the doorway, the mopboard was layered on top of itself multiple times in each picture using Photoshop. This shows that the doorways in both pictures are about ten and a half times the height of the mopboard. From this we can conclude that the doorway in the 1935 picture is seven feet. This makes John Aasen about 7' 3" or possibly 7' 4" if he stands up straight.

The photo below is provided from the private collection of Herman "Bruce" Froelich. This is a picture of Herman's grandfather taken with Johan in 1925. Herman reports that his grandfather (who was in the Navy at that time) was 6' 4" tall. Given that height and measuring the relative height in pixels (i.e., 498 pixels cooresponding to 6' 4" and 575 pixels to Johan's height), Johan's height is calculated to be 7' 3".

Many thanks to Herman Froelich.

Furthermore, John Aasen's skeleton kept at the Loma Linda University Museum of Embryology was measured in June 2008 by Dr. Kerby Oberg confirmed that the skeleton to be 219 cm (7 foot 2.4 inches). However, the skeleton may not be an accurate representation of the height of the living body. For example, the vertebrae discs added between the bones in the construction of the skeleton may not be accurate in thickness and the spine of his skeleton may be more curved than when he was alive. In addition, the height of the skeleton does not include flesh beneath the heel and on the top of the head.

These latter revelations do not agree with the measurements taken above, especially the Aasen/Lloyd comparisons showing him in the eight-foot range. Could John Aasen have shrunk significantly in his later years? Could the doorways at Los Angeles General Hospital have been modified in the last 70+ years? Was Harold Lloyd not 5' 10" but very very short?