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Published Friday, March 20, 2015

Keep Them in Suspense

“Hanging from the ceiling by hooks piercing my skin is a real snooze.” – Someone, apparently

If you’ve ever seen a suspension, or even just Googled it (Go ahead. YouTube has plenty of videos too), you may find the idea of it going mainstream ludicrous. For a practice that started out, in the modern era anyways, with people grinding the barbs off fish hooks and hanging themselves from said hooks off of improvised rigs, it has actually kind of, sort of, hitting it big.

But first, a history lesson.

In the 1830s,

An author and painter named George Catlin made several trips to visit indigenous tribes and returned to display his paintings and give lectures. He had visited more than 50 tribes and gathered a ton of material. One of his stories would prove particularly influential, that of the Mandan tribe’s Okipa(Oh-kee-pah) ritual.

An initiation ritual for young warriors, the Okipa involved, among other things, being hung from the ceiling by wooden sticks jammed under the warrior’s skin via slits. Particularly brave souls added heavy weights, presumably so they could throw shade at the regular hangers who did it without weights.

In 1970,

In the movie A Man Called Horse, Richard Harris (AKA Original Dumbledore) recreated the feat using a prosthetic chest. Around this same time, or slightly earlier depending on who you ask, the modern primitives movement was beginning to take off, and people started doing suspensions for spiritual reasons, and from there quickly branched out into non-spiritual, meditative and the why-ask-why-it-looks-so-cool type reasons cited today.

How mainstream has it gotten? Well, today you can go to and search for groups in your area and probably find a group to join. In Texas, where I live, there are like a dozen groups. They have them in Anchorage, Alaska and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world in increasing frequency. Model/Performance artist Miss Crash, who has been suspended as the opening act for the band Jane’s Addiction has been featured in Spin and Rolling Stone.

To put that in perspective,

Just think how few IKEA locations there are.

It’s getting bigger, people are getting interested and media exposure is, in fact, making the practice more mainstream. The question for many people is why. Some, like Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, say they do it for the experience, while cites “seeking the opportunity to discover a deeper sense of themselves and to challenge pre-determined belief systems,” but also notes that some people (And I’m quoting), “Find it boring.”

This article...

Is not the only article that will appear here on the art and craft of suspension, it’s just the first, a kind of “Intro to Suspension” if you will. In future articles we’ll get more in depth and explore some of suspension’s finer points and talk to some people who actually do it.

If you’re interested in being suspended and getting involved, you can go to and search for groups in your area. These groups have varying levels of experience and proficiency, so go at your own risk. Actually, even with a great amount of experience you’re still very much at your own risk, so keep that in mind. Find a group, take things slowly and get comfortable, or at least as comfortable as possible.