This week, our cover story in the print edition of New Times profiles a group of young South Florida men who find enlightenment in hanging their bodies with hooks.
The group calls their practice out-of-body experiences, or OBEs, and testify to the practice of suspending one's self in the air with hooks is a soul regenerating enlightening experience.
Spiritual enlightenment while being suspended with hooks is a tradition that grew from the Mandan tribesmen, who once resided along the banks of the Missouri River in what we now know as the Dakotas.
Mandan boys would traditionally take part in a ritual spiritual rite of passage called Okipa. The ritual, which lasted four days, would typically have the boys fast from food. They would dress in animal skins and body paint and perform a bull dance before being suspended by their chests with hooks and held in place with animal skulls.
The South Florida group looks to find that same spiritual enlightenment, and members claim to have out-of-body experiences while suspended.
"It's not the suspension that hurts," one of them says. "It's before and after."
Madrid's eyes well up with tears. He grips his stomach with his left hand and clenches his toes. Pushing with all his might, Mikey is able to make the skewer go through about four inches of his buddy's skin and pop out the other side. He slips what looks like a tiny coat hanger on the skewer and secures it with a screw and nut on top. Eventually, three of these are inserted and secured.
By recounting members' experiences, and being an eye-witness to the ritual, writer Allie Conti paints a fascinating picture filled with ritual, spirituality, and red rivulets of blood turning one of the members into "a hipster Christ."
Click here for the story, or run out and pick up a print edition.
Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.