I probably tested wires that way when I was real young but by the time I was working I was doing the "should be dead" test with a screwdriver and my safety glasses on. There have been a few times when it wasn't dead. (things like the "main disconnect" breaker wasn't)
One of my favorite "old timer" tricks was driving a nail in HV cable to drain the sheided jacket by grounding out the nail. It don't work that well when the wrong circuit is shut off and the breaker that is being worked on is an auto reset type One of my instructors shared that story and to add insult to injury, they were in an underground vault... I still gringe then chuckle
When I was a burglar alarm installer, my central office (CO) had a type of alarm system which used 130 volt DC. The CO would send out 130 VDC and it would run through the BA system and the CO would be able to tell if the negative side or the positive side of the alarm was broken. Anyway, when we got to the job site, we would have to get the telco guys to find our "BA" line. One day this guy was looking for our BA line by touching his tongue with a piece of wire and touching the telco terminals. We tried to warn him several times by reminding him that it was a BA line. When he found it, he let out a very loud scream and asked us what was on that line. That was when my partner told him that it was 130 VDC. He never looked for a BA line again that way.
Me too. I was hooking up some phone lines in my house dozen years ago when my wife decided to call home to see how I was doing. After getting zapped, hitting my head and hand trying to back away from the power, I answered the phone. Needless to say, it wasn't a good conversation. She has the knack to call me in the most inopportune times.
I have my Dad's 1953 NEC and couldn't find anything on this, but I do remember for checking spark on 60's vintage cars by pulling the wires off while the engine was running. I got knocked on my can once working on a school bus motor trying something similar! Greg