The Man Who Bore a Hole in His Skull to Get Permanently High

Joseph Mellen is a British-Born author famous for ‘Bore Hole’, a controversial book about his three attempts at drilling a hole in his own skull so he could be permanently high.

Mellen, an active member of the Swinging Sixties acid revolution, wrote his famous book in 1970, but his story has been going viral online regularly for decades, for understandable reasons. It’s not every day that you learn of a man who tried to drill a hole in his own skull, not once, not twice, but three times, for the sole purpose of being permanently high. The archaic process of drilling holes in one’s skull is called trepanation and is considered by many the oldest operation in the world. Trepanned skulls have been found on all continents, and some African tribes even perform them today, but Joe Mellen is one of the few people in history to perform trepanation on himself to produce a permanent acid trip.

Photo: Ta Z/Unsplash

The English author first learned about trepanation in 1965, from a fellow acid enthusiast named Bart Huges, who had apparently also attempted it on himself. At first, the idea sounded preposterous, but as he told VICE back in 2016, one gets used to ideas over time, especially when they promise to make acid trips even trippier.

“The big idea is that humans have a problem,” Mellen said. “The problem is the sealing of the skull, which happens when we are fully grown [between 18 and 21]. Before that, the skull is in separate plates and there is 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. 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.”

Joey Mellen first tried his hand at self-trepanation in 1967. He was broke at the time, and couldn’t afford an electric drill, so he used a hand trepan bought from a surgical instrument shop. He described it as ‘a bit like a corkscrew but with a ring of teeth at the bottom,’ and it made the procedure feel like ‘trying to uncork a bottle of wine from the inside’.


The first attempt ended in painful failure, but convinced that ‘the human being needs more blood in its brain,’ Mellen took another shot at trepanation about a year later, and even though it went better than the first time, he wasn’t completely satisfied with the procedure.

“There was kind of a ‘schlurping’ sound as I took the trepan out and what sounded like bubbles,” the book writer recalled, adding that he didn’t remove enough skull to be satisfied.

It took a while for Joe Mellen to attempt trepanation again, but in 1970, on his third and final attempt, he finally achieved what he had set out to 15 years prior, and it only took him ‘half an hour all in all, including clearing up afterward’.


“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,” Mellen recalled. “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 realized, ‘This is it. It’s done’.”

Joseph Mellen legendary book, Bore Hole, goes into great detail about how he got the idea of drilling a hole in his skull and how he went about doing it on all three attempts. The book actually starts with the phrase ‘This is the story of how I came to drill a hole in my head to get permanently high’.

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