Like footballers drinking milk, men in brocaded jackets spinning plates atop tall sticks and Open University presenters dressed in jumpers designed by static, popular entertainment used to routinely feature people lying on a bed of nails. No-one ever was perforated, but for most of the 20th Century people tuned in hoping somebody might be. Every act of danger needs the occasional victim to keep us watching. Lying on abed of nails became safe to the point of mundanity.
In 2014, the New York Times reported that lying on bed of nails was conducive to a good night’s sleep:
In August, one of the biggest manufacturers of nail mats, Shakti (named for the Hindu fertility goddess), gathered 3,000 people in one of Stockholm’s parks to occupy nail mats placed in the form of the rays of the sun. Most of the group sang mantras while sitting or lying on their mats, thus earning themselves a place in Guinness World Records. But the organizers said that only about 2,500 participants sang, since the remaining 500 fell asleep — a sure sign, they said, of the mats’ relaxing properties.
A look over the internet reveals the enthusiasts who have tried to push the envelope of nail-based entertainment and recreate its mainstream popularity:
In 2014, John and Amy Bruney set a new world record of117 jumps (beating the previous record of 70) for jumping rope on a man with bend of nails on his chest.
‘Most motorcycles driven over the body whilst laying on a bed of nails’ – was achieved by Simone Calati (Italy) on 12 May 2013 when he had 31 motorbikes driven over him in two minutes whilst laying on a bed of nails.
‘Heaviest concrete block break on a bed of nails’ – was achieved by Neal Hardy (Australia) on 12 February 2012 when he had 15 blocks weighing 774.99 kg (1708 lb 8 oz) placed on his chest and broken.
‘The most melons chopped in half on somebody’s stomach (with a samurai sword while they lay on a bed of nails)’ – was achieved by Johnny Strange (UK) on 13 October 2013 when he chopped 10 watermelons in half on the stomach of his assistant in 30 seconds.
‘Most-layered bed of nails sandwich’ – was achieved by Vispi and his Team (all India) on 23 February 2011 when they performed a five-layer bed of nails sandwich.
These pictures tell the story of how it used to be: