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People Lying On A Bed Of Nails Was Once All The Rage

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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.

 

Eight-year-old Mark Harman from London enjoying a game of Monopoly with his brother Graham and sister Belinda, from his bed of nails. Mark is being trained by world Champion Roy Singfield and spends two hours every other evening relaxing on his nail bed. (Photo by Ian Tyas/Getty Images)

Eight-year-old Mark Harman from London enjoying a game of Monopoly with his brother Graham and sister Belinda, from his bed of nails. Mark is being trained by world Champion Roy Singfield and spends two hours every other evening relaxing on his nail bed. (Photo by Ian Tyas/Getty Images)

 

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:

 

A Hindu Yogi on a bed of spikes, 1913

A Hindu Yogi on a bed of spikes, 1913

 

 

circa 1920: Dr Johra Bey, a Muslim fakir, lying on a bed of nails. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

circa 1920: Dr Johra Bey, a Muslim fakir, lying on a bed of nails. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

 

 

 

circa 1910: A Hindu fakir sitting on a bed of nails with other holy men or sadhu at Benares, a holy place on the river Ganges, India. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

circa 1910: A Hindu fakir sitting on a bed of nails with other holy men or sadhu at Benares, a holy place on the river Ganges, India. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

circa 1920: Dr Johra Bey, a Muslim fakir, lying on a bed of nails. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

circa 1920: Dr Johra Bey, a Muslim fakir, lying on a bed of nails. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

Stunt man Michael Blondini puts the finishing touches to his bed of nails on the Palace Pier, Brighton. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Stunt man Michael Blondini puts the finishing touches to his bed of nails on the Palace Pier, Brighton. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

1955: A fakir performing the bed of nails trick. (Photo by Peter Purdy/BIPs/Getty Images)

1955: A fakir performing the bed of nails trick. (Photo by Peter Purdy/BIPs/Getty Images)

 

1955: A fakir performs the bed of nails trick. (Photo by Peter Purdy/BIPs/Getty Images)

1955: A fakir performs the bed of nails trick. (Photo by Peter Purdy/BIPs/Getty Images)

1955: Mike Costello, otherwise known as Blondini or the White Yogi, lying on a bed of nails whilst balancing a woman on his chest. (Photo by Reg Coote/BIPs/Getty Images)

1955: Mike Costello, otherwise known as Blondini or the White Yogi, lying on a bed of nails whilst balancing a woman on his chest. (Photo by Reg Coote/BIPs/Getty Images)

30th July 1956: Heather Boe performs under the name of Rahnee Moti at the Eve Club in London, where she lies on six inch nails and sharp swords. (Photo by Peter Purdy/BIPs/Getty Images)

30th July 1956: Heather Boe performs under the name of Rahnee Moti at the Eve Club in London, where she lies on six inch nails and sharp swords. (Photo by Peter Purdy/BIPs/Getty Images)

27th September 1968: Kenyan stuntman Jackie Paul lying on a bed of nails in front of a crowd at Weymouth. (Photo by C. Woods/Express/Getty Images)

27th September 1968: Kenyan stuntman Jackie Paul lying on a bed of nails in front of a crowd at Weymouth. (Photo by C. Woods/Express/Getty Images)

 

February 1981: Czech stuntman Z Zahradka performs his bed of nails act. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

February 1981: Czech stuntman Z Zahradka performs his bed of nails act. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)