Date: Wed, 30 Aug 95 15:43:58 EST From: Terry Colvin
Reply to: GENERALLYWEIRD Distribution List Subject: Trepanning
THE PEOPLE WITH HOLES IN THEIR HEADS
Amanda Fielding lives in a charming flat looking over London's
river with her companion, Joey Mellen, and their infant son,
Rock. She is a successful painter, and she and Joey have an art
gallery in a fashionable street of the King's Road. Another of
her talents is for politics. At the last two General Elections
she stood for Parliament in Chelsea, more than doubling her vote
on the second occasion from 49 to 139. It does not sound much,
but the cause for which she stands is unfamiliar and lacks obvious
appeal. Fielding and her voters demand that trepanning operations
be made freely available on the National Health. Trepanation
means cutting a hole in your skull.
The founder of the trepanation movement is a Dutch savant, Dr.
Bart Hughes. In 1962 he made a discovery which his followers
proclaim as the most significant in modern times. One's state
and degree of consciousness, he realized, are related to the
volume of blood in the brain. According to his theory of evolution,
the adoption of an upright stance brought certain benefits to the
human race, but it caused the flow of blood through the head to be
limited by gravity, thus reducing the range of human consciousness.
Certain parts of the brain ceased or reduced their functions while
others, particularly those parts relating to speech and reasoning,
became emphasized in compensation. One can redress the balance by
a number of methods, such as standing on one's head, jumping from
a hot bath into a cold one, or the use of drugs; but the wider
consciousness thus obtained is only temporary. Bart Hughes shared
the common goal of mystics and poets in all ages: he wanted to
achieve permanently the higher level of vision, which he associated
with an increased volume of blood in the capillaries of the brain.
The higher state of mind he sought was that of childhood. Babies
are born with skulls unsealed, and it is not until one is an adult
that the bony carapace is formed which completely encloses the
membranes surrounding the brain and inhibits their pulsations in
response to heartbeats. In consequence, the adult loses touch with
the dreams, imagination and intense perceptions of the child. His
mental balance becomes upset by egoism and neuroses. To cure these
problems, first in himself and then for the whole world, Dr. Hughes
returned his cranium to something like the condition of infancy by
cutting out a small disc of bone with an electric drill.
Experiencing immediate beneficial effects from this operation, he
began preaching to anyone who would listen to the doctrine of
trepanation. By liberating his brain from its total imprisonment
in his skull, he claimed to have restored its pulsations, increased
the volume of blood in it and acquired a more complete, satisfying
state of consciousness than grown-up people normally enjoy. The
medical and legal authorities reacted to Hughes's discovery with
horror and rewarded him with a spell in a Dutch lunatic asylum.
Joseph Mellen met Bart Hughes in 1965 in Ibiza and quickly became
his leading, or rather one and only, disciple. Years later he wrote
a book called _Bore Hole_, the contents of which are summarized in
its opening sentence: 'This is the story of how I came to drill a
hole in my skull to get permanently high.' . . . (a few paragraphs
detail Joseph Mellen's early experiments with LSD, and how he finds
out about Bart Hughes.) The time came when Joey felt he had preached
enough and that he now had to act. He did not agree with
Holingshead that the third eye was merely a figure of speech,
believing in its physical attainment through self-trepanation.
Support for this can be found in archaeology. Skulls of ancient
people all over the world give evidence that their owners were skill
fully trepanned during their lifetimes, and many of these appear to
have been of noble or priestly castes. The medical practice of
trepanation was continued up to the present century in treatment of
madness, the hole in the skull being seen as a way of relieving
pressure on the brain or letting out the devils that possessed it.
By his scientific explanation of the reasons for the operation, Bart
Hughes had removed it from the area of superstition, and Joey Mellen
proposed to be the second person to perform it on himself in the
interest of enlightenment.
Bart had become a close friend of Amanda Fielding, and they went
off to Amsterdam together while Joey took care of Amanda's flat.
This was the opportunity he had been waiting for to bore a hole in
The most gripping passages in _Bore Hole_ describe his various
attempts to complete the operation. They are also extremely gruesome,
and those who lack medical curiosity would do well to read no further.
Yet to those who might contemplate trepanation for and by themselves,
Joey's experiences are a salutary warning. It should be emphasized
that neither he, Bart nor Amanda has ever recommended people to
follow their example by performing their own operations. For years
they have been looking for doctors who would understand their theories
and would agree to trepan volunteer patients as a form of therapy.
Strangely enough, not one member of the medical profession has been
In a surgical store Joey found a trepan instrument, a kind of auger
or cork-screw designed to be worked by hand. It was much cheaper and,
Joey felt, more sensitive than an electric drill. Its main feature was
a metal spike, surrounded by a ring of saw-teeth. The spike was meant
to be driven into the skull, holding the trepan steady until the
revolving saw made a groove, after which it could be retracted. If all
went well, the saw-band should remove a disc of bone and expose the
Joey's first attempt at self-trepanation was a fiasco. He had no prev-
ious medical experience, and the needles he had bought for administering
a local anesthetic to the crown of his head proved to be too thin and
crumpled up or broke. Next day he obtained some stouter needles, took
a tab of LSD to steady his nerves and set to in earnest. First he made
an incision to the bone, and then applied the trepan to his bared skull.
But the first part of the operation, driving the spike into the bone,
was impossible to accomplish.
Joey described it as like trying to uncork a bottle from the inside.
He realized he needed help and telephoned Bart in Amsterdam, who
promised he would come over and assist at the next operation. This
plan was frustrated by the Home Office, which listed Dr. Hughes as an
undesirable visitor to Britain and barred his entry.
Amanda agreed to take his place. Soon after her return to London she
helped Joey reopen the wound in his head and, by pressing the trepan
with all her might against his skull, managed to get the spike to take
hold and the saw-teeth to bite. Joey then took over at cranking the
saw. Once again he had swallowed some LSD. After a long period of
sawing, just as he was about to break through, he suddenly fainted.
Amanda called an ambulance and he was taken to hospital, where horrified
doctors told him that he was lucky to be alive and that if he had
drilled a fraction of an inch further he would have killed himself.
The psychiatrists took a particular interest in his case, and a group
of them arranged to examine him. Before this could be done, he had to
appear in court on a charge of possessing a small amount of cannabis.
The magistrate demanded another psychiatrist's report and demanded him
for a week in prison.
There followed a period of embarrassment as the rumor went round
London that Joey Mellen had trepanned himself, whereas in fact he had
failed to do so. As soon as possible, therefore, he prepared for a third
Proceeding as before, but now with the benefit of experience, he soon
found the groove from the previous operation and began to saw through
the sliver of bone separating him from enlightenment or, as the doctors
had predicted, instant death. What followed is best quoted from _Bore
'After some time there was an ominous sounding schlurp and the sound
of bubbling. I drew the trepan out and the gurgling continued. It
sounded like air bubbles running under the skull as they were pressed
out. I looked at the trepan and there was a bit of bone in it. At
last! On closer inspection I saw that the disc of bone was much deeper
on one side than on the other. Obviously the trepan had not been
straight and had gone through at one point only, then the piece of bone
had snapped off and come out. I was reluctant to start drilling again
for fear of damaging the brain membranes with the deeper part while I
was cutting through the rest or of breaking off a splinter. If only I
had an electric drill it would have been so much simpler. Amanda was
sure I was through. There seemed no other explanation for the
schlurping noises I decided to call it a day. At the time I thought
that any hole would do, no matter what size. I bandaged up my head and
cleared away the mess.' There was still doubt in his mind as to whether
he had really broken through and, if so, whether the hole was big enough
to restore pulsation to his brain. The operation had left him with a
feeling of wellbeing, but he realized that it could simply be from
relief at having ended it. To put the matter beyond doubt, he decided
to bore another hole at a new spot just above the hairline, this time
using an electric drill. In the spring of 1970, Amanda was in America
and Joey did the operation alone. He applied the drill to his forehead,
but after half and hour's work the electric cable burnt out. Once again
he was frustrated. An engineer in the flat below him was able to repair
the instrument and next day he set out to finish the job. 'This time I
was not in any doubt. The drill head went at least an inch deep through
the hole. A great gush of blood followed my withdrawal of the drill. In
the mirror I could see the blood in the hole rising and falling with the
pulsation of the brain.'
The result was all he had hoped for. During the next four hours he
felt his spirits rising higher until he reached a state of freedom and
serenity which he claims, has been with him ever since. For some time
now he had been sharing a flat with Amanda, and when she came back from
America she immediately noticed the change in him. This encouraged her
to join him on the mental plane by doing her own trepanation. The
operation was carefully recorded. She had obtained a cine-camera, and
Joey stood by, filming, as she attacked her head with an electric drill.
The film shows her carefully at work, dressed in a blood-spattered white
robe. She shaves her head, makes an incision in her head with a scalpel
and calmly starts drilling. Blood spurts as she penetrates the skull.
She lays aside the drill and with a triumphant smile advances towards
Joey and the camera.
Ever since, Joey and Amanda have lived and worked together in
harmony. From the business of buying old prints to color and resell,
they have progressed to ownership of the Pigeonhole Gallery and seem
reasonably prosperous. They have also started a family. There is
nothing apparently abnormal about them, and many of their old friends
agree in finding them even more pleasant and contented since their
operations. There is plenty of leisure in their lives, mingled with the
kind of activities they most enjoy. These of course include talking and
writing about trepanation. They have lectured widely in Europe and
America to groups of doctors and other interested people, showing the
film of Amanda's self-operation, entitled _Heartbeat in the Brain_. It
is generally received with awe, the sight of blood often causing people
to faint. At one showing in London a film critic described the audience
'dropping off their seats one by one like ripe plums'. Yet it was not
designed to be gruesome. The soundtrack is of soothing music, and the
surgical scenes alternate with some delightful motion studies of
Amanda's pet pigeon, Birdie, as a symbol of peace and wisdom."