Carson City man sets world record for most insect tattoos

It’s not like Josh Thornton woke up one day and thought he’ll establish the world record for most insect tattoos on his body. While maybe not that exact record in a story that’s also worthy being in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” Thornton dreamed of setting a record like this ever since he was a kid.

After all, Thornton played with bugs and the first book he ever bought was a Guinness Book. Thornton, who lives in Carson City and owns Skeleton Skin Tattoo which has been in Mound House for the past nine years, has set the world record of having 420 insect tattoos on his body. The Guinness organization which publishes the Guinness Book of World Records officially recognized Thornton’s feat as a world record last week.

Thornton bought the Guinness book at his elementary school’s book fair when he was a kid. “I’ve always dreamed about being in the Guinness Book of World Records since I was a little kid,” Thornton said.

Thornton actually had the 420 insect tattoos put on his body on Oct. 20 of last year. Then the long process of having the feat recognized as a world record began.

Thornton had the tattoos done on Oct. 20 because that was the day of the Reno zombie crawl. Thornton had the tattoos done in honor of Rick Genest, the “Zombie Boy,” a model and artist known for his skeleton-like full body tattoos. Genest died last year.

As it happened, Thornton broke the record held by Genest. The old record held by Genest was 176 insect tattoos. “We blew it out of the water,” Thornton said.

Thornton actually decided to accomplish the record as a tribute to Genest after he died.

It took five tattoo artists — Steven Riggs, Dave Sanchez, Erik Martin, Trevor Jarland and Thornton’s wife, Heather Conka-Thornton, to place the 420 insect tattoos on Thornton’s body. All 420 of the insects are ants.

Sanchez, Martin and Jarland also live in Carson City while Riggs is from Southern California. It took the five tattoo artists three hours to place the 420 insect tattoos on Thornton’s body.

“It was insane,” Thornton said. “I thought it was going to take 20 to 30 minutes but it took three hours.”

The whole process actually took five hours as it took another two hours for the counting and stenciling of the tattoos. “It was definitely interesting,” said Heather, who is her husband’s main tattoo artist and an award-winning tattoo artist in her own right know for her tattoo portraits that look realistic.

Ninety percent of Thornton’s body is actually covered by tattoos. He said he doesn’t know how many tattoos he has, but knows it’s more than 1,000. He has spent 29 hours of having tattoos placed on his head and 120 hours of tattoos placed on his body.

When asked why he decided to shatter Genest’s record by such a large margin, Thornton said 420 is “one of the common numbers that people are familiar with.” He added it’s a “number that sticks out to people.”

But he also said, “if you’re going to do it, go big, My motto is go big or go home.”

After the tattoos were done, the process to have the feat recognized as a world record just began. “It was a really crazy process,” Thornton said.

A nine-minute video of the tattoos being done taken by Jess Truell had to be submitted to Guinness. A dermatologist from Carson Dermatology, Max Gratrix, had to certify the tattoos were real. “He was way cool,” Thornton said.

An entemologist, Jeff Knight of Reno, also had to certify it the ants depicted in the tattoos were real. “He was really cool,” Thornton said.

Martin was in charge of placing the tattoos on Thornton’s hands, feet and arms. “It wasn’t that difficult,” said Martin, who added about the record, “I’m very proud of it. It’s pretty significant.”

Sanchez added he “never thought I’d be part of something like this. It’s great to experience and be a part of it.”


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