Freaking Out The Mainstream

Allen Falkner shows his split tongue as he talks about extreme body modification at his tattoo shop in Dallas, Tuesday, July 18, 2006. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)
AP Photo
Allen Falkner's tongue is just one of his unusual features.

It is split down the middle, and when he sticks it out, it looks like a two-pronged snake tongue.

The alteration — along with others — to the 36-year-old Dallas man's body might appear shocking, but they're standard for people in the underground activity known as body modification. It's a trend that has been growing steadily for about a decade, attracting more followers now that tattoos and simple piercings are more mainstream.

"I think there's definitely more and more interest all the time," said Falkner, owner of a Dallas tattoo and piercing shop called Obscurities.

Extreme body modification features a wide range of alterations, including some that are illegal in Texas and elsewhere. Some people get horns implanted on their heads. Some install magnets in their hands, creating a "sixth sense" for feeling magnetic fields. Others remold their ears to make them pointy.

"People want, I think in general with society — especially the younger sect — to be different," said Luis Garcia, international liaison for the Association of Professional Piercers, which takes no official stance on the modifications. "It's not different anymore to have your navel pierced."

Falkner did his work himself, experimenting with various methods and instruments that included scalpels and string. Already sporting multiple tattoos and piercings, he said he further modified his body for aesthetic reasons, and in part just to see if he could.

Falkner runs several Web sites dedicated to the topics and said he gets e-mails all the time from people interested in modifying themselves. Likewise, Garcia said people often ask for implants, split tongues, scarring or other procedures at his shop in Philadelphia.