The word “nail” has several different meanings. Clean, dirty, long or short, we all have fingernails and toenails, of course. If we complete a task successfully, some may say we “nailed it.” And, hey, what good is a hammer without a nail, right?
Before we go into a “Downward Spiral” of any more examples, may we present a list of odd and strange tales of this four-lettered word that begins with the letter “N?”
Hopefully, we hit the nail on the head.
1The artist who nailed himself to a car and was immortalized in a David Bowie song
No subject is off limits when rock legend David Bowie writes a song. From writing about characters like alien rock ‘n' roll star Ziggy Stardust to the cold, dark cabaret persona of the Thin White Duke, Bowie has enthralled listeners for decades.
One real-life character that Bowie wrote about found his way into the song, “Joe the Lion.” Recorded during his famous “Berlin period,” Bowie perhaps used William Burroughs' “cut up” writing technique for writing lyrics for the song that appeared on his 1977 album, “Heroes.”
One thing is certain; a few of Bowie's lyrics most definitely refer to an American performance artist, Chris Burden. “Tell you who you are / if you nail me to my car” echoes one of Burden's most notorious pieces, 1974's Trans-fixed, in which the artist was crucified to the hood of a Volkswagen.
Burden is also notorious for such works as being bolted to a gallery floor between two buckets of water, each with a live 110-volt electric line submerged in it, so that a viewer could, if they wished, kick over a bucket and kill him (Prelude to 220, or 110, 1971), and having his friend shoot him in the arm with a .22 rifle (Shoot, Santa Ana Gallery, 1971).
2The DNA mix-up that was known as the “time-travel murder”
This next story could have been straight out of any of the C.S.I. television shows.
Dr. Mike Silverman, forensic scientist and author, wrote about one of the strangest cases he was ever involved with in his book, Written In Blood.
Years ago, a woman was murdered in London. Biological material was found under her fingernails, which indicated she might have scratched her attacker in a struggle.
A sample of the material found under the victim's nails was analyzed and a positive match was found. The only problem was the identified culprit had been brutally murdered herself three weeks prior to the second murdered woman!
Did the first murdered woman travel through time to murder victim number two? Was the culprit a zombie?
Well, not quite.
German authorities spent two years and thousands of hours searching for the culprit, only to discover that the DNA had in fact been present on the swabs the crime scene investigators had been using to collect their samples. The swabs had been accidentally contaminated by a woman working at the factory that produced them.
It turns out that after victim two was murdered, a sample of DNA was taken from her fingernails and her body was placed in storage. Three weeks later, a second set of fingernail clippings was taken from victim two's body a day before the body of the second murder victim arrived at the morgue. The scissors used to take the fingernail clippings were cleaned, but not properly, leaving a tiny amount of victim two's DNA on them.
Shortly after, the same scissors were then used to take fingernail clippings from victim one. Some of victim two's DNA on the scissors transferred to victim one's fingernails. As a result, when the DNA from the fingernails was extracted, it appeared that victim one had very recently been in contact with victim two, despite victim two having died three weeks earlier.
Elementary, my dear, Watson (or is it my dear, Silverman?)!
3The woman who grew nails through her skin
Shanyna Isom of Memphis was a normal student at the University of Memphis working toward a law degree and then her life changed.
Her unbelievable ordeal began in September 2009, when Isom had an allergic reaction to steroids that she was given for an asthma attack. Within months, she was stricken by a debilitating skin disease that has not only made her lose her hair and left scabs all over her body, but caused her to grow nails from her hair follicles, a mystery condition that continues to threaten her life and baffle doctors.
In August 2011, Isom was admitted to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Doctors determined that she produces 12 times the number of skin cells per hair follicle, which suffocates her skin. Instead of hair, her skin follicles produce human nails.
For the past four years, doctors have been keeping her alive with many costly medications. Even though they have seen an improvement, the bills are incredibly expensive.
4The teacher who nailed and skinned a raccoon for his classroom
I don't know what kind of class teacher Jerick Hutchinson teaches, but in 2007 the Arkansas teacher was promised a raccoon by one of his students' parents to use as an example of skinning techniques. Much to Hutchinson's surprise, the student brought the animal alive and well in a trap.
According to school superintendent, Alvin Lievsay, Hutchinson “used to work at a slaughter house,” and took the raccoon outside to the back of his truck and shot it with a nail gun.
Lievsay said no students witnessed the animal's death. "He used the nail gun to, as they say, to dispatch the animal," Lievsay said. "It wasn't like he held a nail gun against the head of a cute little animal in front of the class." No, but the teacher took a page from Ted Nugent and skinned the creature in front of his class!
Maybe this teacher is better off teaching taxidermy.
5The nail polish created to prevent date rapes
Date rape is a serious problem and one that should never be taken lightly. The creators of Undercover Colors have taken account of this and have come up with a product that helps combat this issue.
The company has developed a nail polish that will be able to detect date rape drugs by changing colors in the presence of Rohypnol (roofies) or GHB (G-juice), the two most commonly used date rape drugs. To see if drugs have been slipped into your drink, all a person wearing the polish has to do is to stick their finger in the drink. If the fingernail polish changes color, your drink has been spiked.
According to Undercover Colors' Facebook page, 18% of women in the United States will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The company “wants to shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators.”
The polish is currently in the development stage.
6The devotees who crucify themselves to thank God
Many Christians celebrate Good Friday, the Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday. The holiday marks the day in which Jesus Christ was crucified. Some people in the Philippines re-enact the events of Jesus' crucifixion by being whipped and crucified themselves!
Dozens of devotees in villages across the country (estimated to be 80% Roman Catholic) participate in a ritual that has them carrying the cross, being whipped, and ultimately, crucified.
Ruben Enaje, a 49-year-old sign painter, was nailed to the cross for the 24th time as his way of thanking God for his survival after falling from a building. Mary Jane Mamangon, a 34-year-old rice cake vendor, was nailed to a cross for the 14th time in 2014 to seek God's help in saving her sick grandmother and helping her cancer-stricken sister.
Church leaders frown upon this ritual, stating “the real expression of of Christian faith during Lent is through repentance and self-renewal, not flagellation or crucifixion.”
7The man who nailed his scrotum in protest
Some people protest by holding up signs and voicing their opinions. Russian artist, Pyotr Pavlensky nails his testicles to the ground in protest.
After nailing his scrotum to the cobblestones of Red Square, the naked artist explained his strange act of protesting. Pavlensky described the nailing as “a metaphor for apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society.”
The artist, who is in his early 30s, has previously sewn his lips together in protest of the band Pussy Riot's arrest, and has also cut off part of his ear in defiance of his country's authoritarian regime.
Surely, there are less painful ways to protest, Mr. Pavlensky?
8The man who traded his bed of nails for a single nail
Most of us have seen a person lying on a bed of nails in a magic trick or a physical demonstration. Some have even used a bed of nails for meditation.
63 year-old Harley Newman went the minimalist route. He lies on a bed of nail. That's right, the sideshow performer claims he can support his entire body on the point of one 10-inch long nail.
Newman says the men who help him by holding on to his arms and legs only help him balance on the nail and don't hold him up.
The self-described “professional lunatic” says that while the nail trick hurts him a great deal, “it's just a question of how he can manage it in his head.”
If laying on a nail isn't your bag, Newman is also a fire-eater, walks on glass and can stop a fan with his tongue.
9The woman who called 911 after a bad manicure
You're unhappy with your manicure, what do you do? If you're Florida resident Cynthia Colston, you call 911. Four times.
Colston claimed her nails were cut too short and after arguing with her nail tech, she dialed 911 to complain. When a deputy arrived, she called the emergency line again because she found the policeman unhelpful when she was told she could not file any charges. She then called 911 two more times, which she said was by accident because she dialed with her knuckles. That was enough for authorities to arrest Colston on charges of misuse of the 911 system.
The authorities had the last laugh when they sent the obsessive 911-caller to jail where (guess what?) she had to remove her nails.
10The law that brought about the “nail house”
There have been recent changes in China's laws regarding private ownership of land. The People's Republic began to accept private ownership of real estate. Now, owners are free to realize a profit when their land becomes more valuable due to planned developments. In 2007, a law was passed prohibiting government from taking the land unless it's in the public interest. As result of that ruling, there have been cases of people refusing to sell to make way for impending construction. The result is the “nail house,” a house that sticks out like a sore thumb compared to its surroundings.
A “nail house” is a pun coined by construction workers, and alludes to nails that are stuck in wood and cannot be pounded down with a hammer.
Several of these “nail houses” have gained worldwide attention like the home that now sits in the courtyard of a mall. In another case, a family refused to vacate a home their family had inhabited for three generations for a construction project. Developers cut their power and water and excavated a 10-meter deep pit around their home. The owners broke into the construction site, reoccupied it, and flew a Chinese flag on top. Some may say they fought tooth and nail to standing their own ground.