Human Blockhead

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Captain Darron von Awesome of Tinderbox Circus Sideshow blockheads with a running power drill.
Roslyn Walker, one of very few UK sideshow entertainers, gives a close-up of the human blockhead using a 6 inch nail.

A human blockhead is a carnival or sideshow performer who hammers a nail or other implement (such as an awl or screwdriver) into his or her nasal cavity via the nostril. The stunt is often shocking to audiences, who believe that the nail is being hammered into the skull itself. In reality, the stunt plays on the anatomical misconception that the nasal cavity goes upward, rather than straight back. The performer merely learns the terrain of the nasal cavity and lessens his or her sensitivity (and urge to sneeze) until the implement can be slid straight back through the nasal cavity until it hits the back of the throat. The use of a hammer merely adds to the shock value by creating the illusion that the nail is being pounded through bone. Some performers have even gone so far as to use a power drill.

Herbie Hatman, of the 999 eyes carnival sideshow, blockheads a butter knife.

This stunt is said to have been developed by renowned magician and sideshow performer Melvin Burkhardt (1907-2001)[1][2] after his nose was broken in a boxing bout and he became fascinated by the way that the doctors inserted instruments into his nose. Since then, it has become one of the staple acts of traditional-style sideshows. Some sideshow performers have put their own twist on the blockhead act. Thomas Blacke, for example, does his version with a lollipop instead of a nail or tool.


The "Human Meathead" was created in the year 2000 based on the Human Blockhead stunt and it is invented by Ryan Stock. The performer displays a large meat hook and then proceeds to force it into the nostril, through his nasal cavity and out his mouth. When performing this stunt, Ryan Stock has said that he had suspended up to 70lbs from the end of the inserted hook.

Preacher Muad'dib, a world record holding sideshow specialist based in the UK, is famous for performing several advanced variations of the human Blockhead including a running power drill, fireworks, lit fire-eating rods, sharp knives, lit cigarettes and more.

Similar versions of this stunt often performed with condoms, noodles or balloons have been presented for many years under the name "mental Floss", however most sideshow performers regard mental floss (also known as "skull floss") as an entirely separate stunt.


  1. ^ Elizabeth Gilbert: The Lives They Live: Melvin Burkhart, B. 1907; Life as a Blockhead, The New York Times, Dec. 30, 2001
  2. ^ Douglas Martin: Melvin Burkhart, 94, 'Human Blockhead', dies, International Herald Tribune, Nov. 19, 2001

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