Independent Online

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

View 0 recent articles pushed to you.Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterView weather by locationView market indicators

Man chases a natural constant high by drilling hole in his own skull – not once, not twice, but three times

The man's final effort involved the use of an electric drill. Picture: On Kosuki/Pexels

The man's final effort involved the use of an electric drill. Picture: On Kosuki/Pexels

Published May 5, 2023


Joe Mellen, a former participant of the Swinging Sixties acid movement, came up with an idea to guarantee that he could continue to trip indefinitely, using the antiquated practice of trepanation.

According to Unilad, Mellen tried the operation three times before hitting the nail on the head, literally. After learning about the strange idea of trepanation in 1965, during Ibiza’s 1960s heyday, Mellen gave the phrase “chasing a high” a whole new meaning.

According to NDTV, trepanation, also known as trepanning, is widely regarded as one of the oldest medical techniques known to humans. Dating back centuries, is a surgical operation in which a circle-shaped chunk of bone is scraped or drilled, then removed, most frequently from the human skull.

Mellen remembers the first time he met Bart Huges, the person who would later tell him about of the operation, and how that encounter would go on to change his life, according to Unilad.

The British man told “Vice” in 2016: “I'd heard about this guy who had drilled a hole in his own head and I thought, ‘Well, he must be a nut case!’.”

Mellen begins his book “Bore Hole” with this statement: “This is the story of how I came to drill a hole in my head to get permanently high.”

There aren't many more engrossing memoir opening lines than the first line in Joe Mellen's 1970 book. According to “Vice's” 2016 article, it describes how he left the conventional life in 1963 to become a beatnik who took acid in Spain during the heavily hallucinogenic 1960s before searching for a more fundamental technique that would forever change his consciousness: auto-trepanation, which entails drilling a hole in your head.

The text goes into graphic detail regarding the author's trepanation experiences, which Mellen acknowledges some readers may find upsetting.

In an interview with “Vice”, he admitted: “When I first heard about it, I thought, ‘This is ridiculous!’ And the idea that someone would do it to himself or herself was absurd. But you get used to ideas eventually, don't you?”

Explaining the theory behind it, he said: “The human being requires more blood in its brain. And this doesn't give you a big high; it merely brings your vitality back to what it was when you were younger – the vigour that you start to lose as you become older.”

Mellen made his first attempt in 1967, two years after he first learnt about trepanning. He recalls that because he was strapped for cash and couldn't afford an electric drill, he bought a hand trepan from a store that sold medical equipment.

He told “Vice” that the object was “sort of like a corkscrew, but with a ring of teeth at the bottom”.

He said the procedure was difficult. According to the “Daily Star”, “it was like attempting to uncork a wine bottle from the inside”. The first attempt was unsuccessful, but Mellen was not going to give up.

After a year or so, he gave it another shot and succeeded in “removing some skull”, but not enough, he told “Vice”: “There was kind of a slurping sound as I took the trepan out and what sounded like bubbles.”

According to his book, Mellen’s third and final attempt, in 1970, only took half an hour, including clean-up time.

“Vice” quoted Mellen as saying: “I was feeling great because I'd done it, but then I noticed after about an hour I started to feel a lightness, like a weight had been lifted off me. I did it in the evening and went to bed at 11pm feeling good, and I could still feel it when I woke up the next morning. And then I realised, ‘This is it. It's done.’ ”

I guess the saying is true: third time's a charm.

Read the latest issue of IOL Health digital magazine here.