“How long would these nails grow if I did not cut them? Until they crippled my hands?” --Coffin Joe (This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse)

Coffin Joe’s signature characteristic are his long, untrimmed nails, which he sometimes uses to gouge out his victims' eyes. The nails are an extension of Coffin Joe's ideology that there is no "supreme force" and that even nature is inferior to the mind of man.[1]



Mojica getting his nails cut on Viva a Noite

As a young boy, José Mojica Marins kept his thumb nails long as a hobby.[2] In 1964, when he took up the role of Coffin Joe in At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul, his makeup man noticed this and suggested that Marins add fake nails to the rest of the fingers to complete the look. The makeup man had a friend who would make the nails for free, if Marins would appear on a TV show to advertise his work. Marins agreed.[3] For subsequent installments, Marins used his own nails, often growing them to incredible lengths, and adopted them as part of his everyday persona: "When I created this character that would become a living legend and I began to develop it, I saw an obligation to use my own nails so the people saw that they were real, authentic.”[4]

Throughout the 70's, Marins increasingly relied on his character to survive. He began making public appearances dressed as Coffin Joe, and continued to let his nails grow, in hopes of being recognized and receiving job offers. By 1982, his nails had reached nearly 20 centimeters and were severely interfering with his daily life. His hands would become paralyzed, if he did not cut them. When Marins told his friends in the Boca Do Lixo that he was going to cut his nails, one of them introduced him to Gugu Liberato, host of of the TV show Viva a Noite (Live at Night), who invited him to perform the “ceremony” on his show[5]. The event featured an appearance by musician Zé Ramalho, who performed "A Peleja Do Diabo Com O Dono Do Céu."

Marins later re-grew his nails, and in 1998, was invited to perform another ceremony to cut them, which took place at a Sepultura concert. The nails were estimated to be 25 centimeters long, and three of them were given away to friends. Marins kept the ring finger nail to display in the Coffin Joe Museum in São Paulo, while the pinky nail was auctioned on the internet for 50 thousand Real, with the proceeds donated to a children's foundation.

In the 2008 film Embodiment of Evil, Marins used artificial nails on most of his fingers, with only the left thumbnail being his own.

In FilmEdit

Below is a list of films that reference Coffin Joe's nails:

  • Mentioned once in This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse: Coffin Joe asks one of his victims, “How long would these nails grow if I did not cut them? Until they atrophy my hands?”
  • Mentioned twice in Awakening of the Beast: When Marins is shown on TV arguing with a panel of critics, one of them asks “Mojica, that fingernail on your thumb, that tusk of a wild boar, do you hang your clothes on it?” Later, when asked about Coffin Joe, one of the LSD test subjects replies, “His long nails are disgusting.”
  • Mentioned once in Perversion: Veronica asks Vitorio why he has long nails. He tells her, “We need to be different from one another.”
  • Mentioned twice in The Bloody Exorcism of Coffin Joe: A reporter asks Marins why he doesn’t use fake nails, to which Marins replies, “It’s a matter of authenticity.” When Marins visits his friend’s home, the youngest daughter, Betinha, looks at his hand and asks him if he ever cuts his nails.
  • Mentioned once in World Market of Sex: Mauro has long nails because he made a promise not to cut them until he finds a story worthy of the front page.
  • Mentioned twice in Embodiment of Evil: The Colonel describes Coffin Joe’s appearance as: “Hat, black cape, beard, every (censored) nail this big.” Later, in a letter from Coffin Joe to the Colonel (which accompanies a box of severed hands), he writes: “Nails still grow even after death.”

In The MediaEdit

In 1967, Coffin Joe's likeness was used to market a line of beauty products called Mistério (Mystery), the most popular of which was a nail “vitalizer.” To promote it, Marins invented a bizarre sales pitch: "This vitalizer works because it is made with radioactive sludge from Serra Negra. Now anyone can have nails as strong and long as mine." The product was a success.[6]

In 2009, Marins participated in a video for Revista Gloss Online, a Brazilian beauty magazine for women, where he offered his advice on nails and explained how to tell whether a nail is “male” or “female.”

In 2009, during Brazil’s football (soccer) season, Coffin Joe launched a humorous campaign for “Unhão faz a Força” (Union is Strength), which invited fans from all over Brazil to "donate" their nails “to help those who no longer have any to bite on behalf of their teams.”


center|thumb|250px|Coffin Joe cuts his nails on Viva a Noite center|thumb|250px|Coffin Joe cuts his nails at a Sepultura Concert center|thumb|250px|Gloss: Coffin Joe talks nails
center|thumb|250px|Coffin Joe's "Union is Strength" Campaign


  1. Cinema Na Web Blogspot (reproduced from Notícia da Manhã, periodical of Catanduva, edition 08/08/2008)
  2. Roda Viva - Entrevista - José Mojica Marins (Zé do Caixão)
  4. Lucchetti, R.F. (1987). Ivan Cardosa encontra Zé do Caixão. In “O Estranho Mundo do Zé do Caixão: Noite Negra"
  5. Barcinski, André;Finotti, Ivan “Maldito: a vida e o cinema de José Mojica Marins, o Zé do Caixão"
  6. Barcinski, André;Finotti, Ivan “Maldito: a vida e o cinema de José Mojica Marins, o Zé do Caixão"
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.