According to Dave Seebach in The New Tops, Vol. 27 No. 4, Apr. 1987, p. 22, this illusion was invented by Ken Whitaker.
An early precursor – using a different method – was patented and published in Will Goldston's The Magician Annual 1908-9, 1908, p. 95, where the head of the performer is impaled on a spike.