Sep 16, 2022 - News

TikTok star is out to set a world record for VHS tapes of "Titanic"

@titanicfan97 with his collection, holding a copy of "Titanic" on VHS in front of his face
The mysterious @titanicfan97 with his collection. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios

Jack Dawson didn't die at the end of the movie "Titanic." He swam down to Tampa Bay.

  • That's what you would think, walking into the home of @titanicfan97.

What's happening: The 30-year-old Largo resident, who's known only by his username, has gathered a cult following of nearly 50,000 social media users, mostly through TikTok, as he builds the self-proclaimed world's largest collection of "Titanic" on VHS.

  • He gave Axios an exclusive look at the collection that's now surpassed 500 copies.

Once he collects 500 more, @titanicfan97, who asked to remain anonymous, told Axios he'll reveal his face to his fans.

  • "I think the mystery is good," he said. "I just love making content and having fun, and I love 'Titanic' on VHS."

Why it matters: The VHS format has been dead for nearly 20 years, piling up in thrift stores. But our "Titanic" fan has turned those rejected piles into a scavenger hunt for people around the world as they help build his collection.

  • He's received tapes mailed from as far away as Australia, and he's drained Tampa Bay of all its copies. If you're looking for one, you'll need to drive at least an hour away.
@titanicfan97's shrine of 501 copies of "Titanic" on VHS with his Jack dummies
Behold, the temple of "Titanic" on VHS tapes. Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios

How it happened: In 2012, he noticed 12 VHS tapes of "Titanic" at a Suncoast Hospice Resale Shop in Clearwater. They became the start of his collection.

  • "I knew that was gonna be the start of something magical," he said.

This is not just a hobby. When I stopped by his home, three televisions were playing VHS copies of the movie non-stop, while a family of five Jack Dawson dummies watched over the collection.

  • Most recently, he built a Jack Dawson out of the tapes to mark 500 copies and had Lowes create paint in the exact shade of blue as the VHS cover's spine for the door of his home office-turned-"Titanic" temple.
  • Followers will also send him obscure gifts, like one fan who put all of his TikToks on a VHS tape.

Yes, but: He's got competition. Another TikToker who collects "Shrek" on VHS is out to foil his plan and collect all the copies of "Titanic" on VHS he can find and destroy them.

  • But our "Titanic" fan isn't too worried. "I think the competition is good," he said.

The end goal: He wants to own as many as he can of the 25 million VHS copies of the movie that were sold, but he'll settle somewhere between 1,997 (the year it was released) and 1 million.

A whiteboard reading "Things to get:" with "Titanic on VHS" on the list nine times. and a VHS count reading 501
Photo: Selene San Felice/Axios
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