Joe Mellen’s 1970 book, Bore Hole, is a memoir about how he came to drill a hole in his own skull. It is the story of how an Eton and Oxford-educated young man abandoned his future at his father’s firm of stockbrokers and joined the beatnik generation of the sixties.
Bore Hole: A Memoir
Joe Mellen is likely not the kind of person you might picture when you think of someone with a history of drug use. He is a well-spoken 76-year-old man with an Oxford accent, giving away his educational background.
What you can’t immediately tell about Joe, however, is that he has a hole in his head. It’s at the top of his forehead, in a “third eye” chakra position. You will never be able to see the evidence of this hole, however, unless he points it out to you.
Joe drilled this bore hole himself in 1970. Why? So he could be permanently high.
In the early sixties, Joe was just a few weeks away from his post-graduate accountancy exams. Once those were complete, he was set to join his father’s firm of stockbrokers. Instead, he decided to drop out and start smoking weed .
He joined the beatnik generation, which was a social movement in the fifties and sixties. It stressed artistic self-expression and rejected the conventions of regular society . From there, the world of drugs opened up for Joe. People he met introduced him to mescaline and LSD, and he experienced trips that he describes as “heaven on earth”.
A man named Bart Hughs introduced him to LSD, and taught him about drugs, how they affect the brain, and help you to achieve a level of “expanded consciousness”. Bart also had a hole in his head.
Trepanation: What is It?
Bart had performed self-trepanation. Trepanation is a crude surgical procedure in which you form a bore hole in the skull of a living person. This is done either by drilling, cutting, or scraping away parts of the skull with a sharp instrument. According to Dr. Raphael Davis, a neurosurgeon and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute at Stony Brook University, people have been performing trepanation for about five thousand years. This makes it one of the oldest medical procedures on the planet .
There is evidence of people performing trepanation as much as seven thousand years ago in Ancient Greece, North and South America, Africa, Polynesia, and the Far East. Most experts believe that these people performed the procedure primarily for medical purposes. For example, it was often used to treat pain from skull trauma or neurological disease.
Experts believe this because many trepanned skulls show evidence of injuries or diseases, often in the same area of the skull where the trepan was performed. However, researchers also believe that people performed trepanation for ritualistic purposes. For example, ancient humans may have performed trepanation to allow the passage of spirits in and out of the body .
Today, doctors still use trepanation for medical purposes. In most cases, however, we call this a craniotomy. This is when a surgeon removes a piece of the skull to access the brain. The purpose of this is to treat brain lesions like brain lesions and tumors. In this scenario, however, doctors put the piece of the skull back as soon as possible .
Trepanation to get High
Admittedly, when Joe first heard about self-trepanation, he couldn’t understand why anyone would do that to themselves. As he learned more about it, and about the reasons behind doing it, however, he became interested.
This is what his book, Bore Hole, covers. The central idea of the memoir, according to Joe, is that humans have a problem- the sealing of their skulls. This happens usually between the age of eighteen and twenty-one. Prior to that time, however, your skull is in separate plates, which gives it some give.
“Think of the brain as a pudding: It can expand and pulsate, but once the skull has completely sealed ’round it, it can no longer do that,” explains Joe. “The pulsation is suppressed and the blood passes through without pulsating. And this is why all of us want to get high. We want to get back to that youthful state of being where we have more spontaneity and more creativity and more life. This is what we miss. It’s paradise lost.” 
The Benefits of Getting High
When it comes to getting high, Joe speaks of ego. He describes ego as a mechanism for directing blood in the brain where it’s needed. According to Joe, the speech system is the part of the brain that dominates everything else.
“We depend on the speech system for survival and it dominates brain activity,” he says. “It does this by monopolizing the supply of blood. The speech centers—which deal with talking, writing, reading, and listening—were the last to develop in our evolution, and they’re in the cerebral cortex, far away from the heart.” 
Because so much blood flow is going toward the speech system, the ego is repressing other parts of the brain. Joe uses the term “word chain” to describe how people identify themselves. For example, you might describe yourself as a Christian, or a Muslim, or some other religion. Whatever word chains you use to describe yourself, then, become very important to you.
This, however, can be problematic. Your word chains can cause you to resist or attack people with other ideas. In reality, Joe says, there is plenty of room for all kinds of different ideas, but our ego gets in the way.
This, he says, is the benefit of getting high. It allows you to transcend your ego, and gives you an objective, rather than subjective, view. You can see what level everyone else is operating on, and see that you were there, too.
“I think everyone should get high,” says Joe, “and I think that Vladimir Putin should drop acid.” 
Joe Says: Don’t Give Your Self a Bore Hole
Despite the fact that he did it successfully on himself, Joe does not advise that anyone perform a trepanation on themselves. There are doctors in other parts of the world that are willing to do it for you for several thousand dollars, but it is incredibly expensive, and may not be safe.
“Really, there needs to be some sort of legal and social change in this country for it to happen,” says Joe. “I just wish that someone would do some research into drugs that get you high and their properties as vasoconstrictors.” 
Of course, drilling a bore hole in your head aside, it is important to remember that all drugs come with side effects, and most drugs are not legal. Doing illegal drugs is always risky, because it is impossible to know how safe they are, or whether or not they’ve been laced with something else.
Regardless of how “good” the high may be, doing drugs can be dangerous to your health, and can land you in serious legal trouble. We do not recommend using illegal drugs in any format.
- ‘I Drilled a Hole in My Own Skull to Stay High Forever’ Vice John Doran. Published February 12, 2016.
- ‘Definition of beatnik’ Merriam Webster’s Dictionary
- ‘What Is Trepanation?’ Live Science Alina Bradford. Published May 17, 2018.
- ‘Thousands of years ago, people were performing a form of surgery called “trepanation” that involves boring holes through a person’s skull’ BBC Robin Wylie. Published August 29, 2016.