This is a pretty fundamental act, but it takes what I call the
that I mean you need to get away from much of the conditioning
that culture expects.
would stick pins in my precious body? Not me, not me! Well, a
little thought says that when a doctor gives you a shot,
that's a pin. Touch something hot? No way!
when a person irons she/he checks the heat by wetting her
finger and pressing it to the face of the iron… What's my
point? If you can overcome the conditioning, most sideshow
acts are pretty simple.
your body, there are many places where nerve endings are
fewer, or farther apart. These are easy to find if you
the old days almost any pointed object was fodder for the pin
cushion act. Sewing needles, hat pins, some with ornate heads,
skewers, and safety pins were in demand . Now, surgical
needles, (hypodermic) are the norm. While any size can be used
including the cannulas, The most common gauge is 20 or 21.
They are readily available from suppliers of medical
equipment. I suggest you make a friend at a supplier and
accept his knowledge. A mini-show and honesty will get you a
lot of information.
Pinch anesthesia is simply a body’s response to pinching the
skin. Where it is pinched that area is temporarily is less
sensitive to pain. It will still let you know you are doing
something evil to it, but the feeling is much lowered. Just
pinch the skin where you are making an opening. There is
seldom any bleeding, but it can happen. Sterility is a factor
to consider.. It is simple insurance against the possibility
Here’s how… There are some areas of your body to start with,
but you can find more. Try any area you can explore to see
where you are less sensitive. One performer I know uses a huge
hatpin through the bridge of his nose, through the cartilage
at the very top just under his forehead. The inside of your
arm opposite the elbow is a good place to start. There are
very few nerve endings there and you will likely find at least
one null point where you can stick a straight pin into the
zone. Caution says not to deep because the elbow joint (bones)
are close. I like to sharpen a large safety pin (3 inch) and
run it through the back of my hand at right angles to my
fingers, and then close it. It’s usually the first time the
audience realizes it is not a trick but something real. Does
it hurt? Yeah, a little. You can, if you choose to, stick a
lot of hypodermic needles into your chest, but my own take is
“less is more.” If you can solder there’s an easy gaff to
make. Take a safety pin, solder it closed, and cut out a
section of the bar to accommodate the skin so it looks as
though it penetrates. This works on the nose, fingers, and
ears. The pins need to be placed without the audience seeing
it done, so I don’t find it a valid part of the act. Skewers
through the cheeks depend largely on pinch anesthesia. Bicycle
spokes can be sharpened for this. Just pinch the site both
inside and out with your fingers as you insert it. (them) You
will probably find your skin is more difficult to penetrate
than you think, especially coming through your cheek from
inside your mouth. Skin is tough.
where a needle is put through the skin, a thread can follow.
Suture needles can be purchased in both curved and straight
shapes and many sizes. India seems to be a great source for
this. An internet search will turn up many sites. They can be
bought in forms the will take clipping the suture (thread) in
a variety of ways. The “Brahmo Thread Mystery” is one of
these. The effect is that the performer swallows several
inches of thread, contorts a bit and then draws the thread out
of his skin, supposedly from his stomach. (It doesn’t make
sense to me either but audiences like it) It’s done by running
a threaded needle under the skin for two or three inches under
the skin close to the navel and clipping the end (tread) off
very near the skin surface, leaving about a foot hidden under
your belt or in your pants. For presentation, appear to make a
nick in your skin at the site and slowly pull out the
concealed part of the thread. Use hard thread or suture ( E.g.
catgut ) so that no fiber is left under your skin.