Many years ago in our first house, I hung a full-length mirror at the foot of the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. The walls were of plaster, and I wanted to keep the hole as small as possible, so I hung it on a sewing pin rather than a nail or screw. I tapped the pin gently into the plaster at a slightly upward angle, then looped the thick wire behind the mirror over it. I slowly lowered the heavy mirror until it stopped, but I still held on, testing the strength of the pin.
It seemed to be holding. I gradually let go of the mirror, my hands only inches away, ready to catch it. It still held. I stepped back and waited. It still held. Success! The pin worked.
For about five years, all was fine, and I thought no more about it. Then, one day around four in the morning, my wife and I were wakened by a terrific crash coming from downstairs. We both sat bolt upright in bed. “What was that?” asked my wife, rhetorically she thought.
“Oh, drat! The mirror fell,” I replied. Even after all those years, I knew immediately what it was, without a moment’s doubt, never once thinking it could be a burglar, or the furnace, or a runaway car. I turned on the light and looked down the steps. Shattered glass was all over the landing. “I’ll clean it up later,” I told her, but she was already back asleep.
The possibility of the mirror falling was lurking in the back of my mind, just below the surface. I had not consciously thought of it in all those years, but it was there, waiting, ready to emerge, even from a sound sleep in the wee hours of the morning. That could not be healthy, and I never did anything like that again.
(The second time, I used a stronger nail, figuring I could spackle over a nail hole just as easily as a pin hole, if need be. I kid you not.)