News Horror Gothic Lifestyle Fiction Movies Books and Literature Dark TV VIP Horror Professionals Professional Writing Tips Links Gothic Forum

Welcome to Weirdsville: Holey Fools by M. Christian

| |

I can understand it … a bit. The same way you can look at the strangest, the most twisted aspects of human nature and often squeeze yourself into it — at least enough to get a passing glance at empathy. Blood sports? Sure, a powerful ritual of personal sacrifice, playing on the edge. Cults (i.e. religious mania)? I can see that, the sense of absolute belonging, of being certain in an uncertain world. Eccentrism? Okay, wouldn’t it be delightful to be so into your own brilliant mental landscape that a lot of ridiculous self-consciousness just gets put aside.

Like said, I can project … a smidgen. Let’s all whine for the writer — when I get a bad cold I get neuralgia, a pressure on my teeth. Feels like a bad toothache. A very bad toothache. I have this fantasy when the throbbing starts and I know I’m in for two or three days of throb, throb, throb — I go through it, slowly in my mind: getting out the pliers, wrapping the jaws with electrical tape so they won’t bite too sharply and to better grip my smooth enamel, carefully squeezing them into my mouth, hunting for the one tooth that happens to be driving me insane, getting a good grip, rocking it back and forth, feeling the gums loosen with sharp squelching noises, and then the tooth sucking free … naturally when I have the sniffles I hide the toolbox — but I still have the urge.

But despite my little self-mutilation fantasy I just can’t quite wrap my … head around Dr. Bart Hughes. Okay, what he preaches isn’t all that new, after all there’s evidence that a lot of cultures have felt the same way. Though, since all we have are the … afters, it’s impossible to say exactly how successful they were. Still, even with historical precedent is pretty fucking tough to see why anyone would want to drill a big hole in their head.

Technically it’s called trepanation, or trepanning. While those old skulls with their neat little squares or circles cut out of them show that this not a new practice, Dr. Hughes brought this ancient rite/healing practice up-to-date. Considered by those in the know as the guru of head-boring, in 1962 Dr. Hughes reported some ground-breaking discoveries. Consciousness, he said, is directly related to the amount of blood in the brain. Evolution, he mused, had caused an overabundance of that liquid red stuff in the brain. Solutions: Drugs? Sometimes. Meditation? Only occasionally. Yoga? Not really.

Drill a hole in the head? Bingo! Want to permanently develop a more enlightened consciousness, an expanded mind, a broadened range of vision? Well, friends and followers, take yee up thy holey (sorry) implement of cutting and … well, hand yourself a piece of your own mind.

If you think that this theory is a bit … unusual, then rest assured that the immanent Dutch thinker did spend a spell in a crazy bin. But weird ideas have a habit of lasting — even developing followers. Symbolically having a piece of bread and some wine turn into the blood (yech!) and flesh (blech!) of someone who died 1999 years ago? Who ever would have thought of that!

Slowly, Dr. Hughes gathered himself a loyal little following. His biggest was Joseph Mellen, who would later write the text book on skull-punching, _Bore Hole_. By far the most erudite and moving work on the subject, _Bore Hole_ is one man’s trip on the road to mind expansion, or, as Mellen describes it in his opening line: ‘This is the story of how I came to drill a hole in my skull to get permanently high.’

By far, though, the best part of _Bore Hole_ concerns the time he was flat-sitting for fellow trepanation fan, Amanda Feilding in London. Realizing that while theorizing and postulating are fine and dandy, Mellen was struck by the maxims “practice what you preach” and “no time like the present.”

Setting out, Mellen scoured the city until he managed to acquire an auger. Not some high-tech, new-fangled gizmo for Mellen. No, he felt that such a modern convenience would not allow him the sensitivity to accurately perform the operation. So, hand-cranked implement at the ready, this intrepid explorer in the field of deep-mind drilling set to work.

You might have a like gizmos in your local hardware store — a central point surrounded by a saw-edged band. The spike was to get an accurate point, while those saw teeth did the cutting. Sometimes wood, sometimes metal, in this case — Mellen’s own skull.

To say that this first attempt didn’t go well you be a slight understatement. His first problem was that he didn’t have the gear to anesthetize himself and so had to resort to (you may moan) LSD to try and dull the pain. As anyone who has dropped can tell you, it’s hard enough to tie your shoelaces let alone drill a hole in your own skull. First cutting a bit of the skin away, Mellen next tried to hold the hand-cranked gizmo steady, Mellen didn’t execute his perfect cut — rather he just grazed over his own bleeding scalp, scoring deep groves in his skull.

Calling for help, Mellen tried to get Dr. Hughes to make a trip to the UK to assist him with his next attempt at air-conditioning his skull. Hughes was more than eager (and one can almost see him packing for the trip: ‘Towel, toothbrush, change of underwear, drill to cut into human skull’ ….) but those damned conservative Brits wouldn’t let the esteemed doctor into the country.

Luckily for the world of enlightenment through head-boring, Amanda saw the necessity for this ground (and skull) breaking practice and so volunteered to help Mr. Mellen with this important step. Once more into the breach, Joseph popped some windowpane, and started to saw into his own skull. Alas, even drilling a sizable hunk out of his own headbone seemed too much for poor Mellen as he passed out before completing this important act. Recognizing — perhaps because he was bleeding from a huge scalp wound — that he needed some expert care, Amanda got him to hospital, where those fuddy-duddy doctors and their quackery medicine told him that he had come very close to loosing a good, and rather important, piece of his gray-matter. Though you have to wonder, in Mellen’s case, if any of his gray stuff was working well enough to matter.

The funny stuff is that after this botched second attempt (and a run-in with the law) Mellen became rather annoyed that people were … interested … in the fact that he had cut out a nice hunk of his skull when he hadn’t. So, faced with being famous for something he didn’t do, Mellen did what any self-respecting member of a new and burgeoning spiritual and surgical practice would have done … and no, he didn’t say, “this is fucking stupid” he went right ahead (bravo!) and tried it again.

I quote verbatim from Mellen’s book, _Bore Hole_: ‘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.’

I’ll wait, give you a chance to sprint to the toilet. There, feeling better? Well, you’d better be, because this gets even better. See Mellen wasn’t all that assured that he’d done the job correctly — even with the wet, squishy evidence that he had, indeed, drilled a damned big hole in his skull. So, later, totally alone, Mellen gave it another shot — this time with an electric drill. Nothing like modern convenience for an ancient, and psychotic, practice.

In something what can only be described as dark comedy (insert laugh track here), this time Mellen was confounded in his attempt to drill a hole in his head by a mechanical failure (hahahaha) after trying for thirty minutes. But, luckily, a downstairs neighbor was able to tinker the gizmo into working again, and the next day our intrepid explored in the field of mind … well, I wouldn’t call it ‘expansion’, how about ‘penetration’? — started to drill (hahahaha) into his own forehead again.

Here he is again, in his own words: “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.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this joke. Guy walks into a doctor’s office with bruises on his head. The doctor asks him why they are there. ‘It’s from hitting myself with a rock, doc,’ the guy says. ‘Why the fuck do you do that?’ the doc responds. ‘Because,’ he responds, ‘it feels so damned nice when I stop.’

To this day — and, yes, you may feel quite shocked that Mellen even HAD a ‘next day’ after taking an electric drill to his own forehead and punching at least an inch into his gray matter — Mellen reports a feeling of well-being and serenity. I bet that’s because he stopped doing it.

Ah, but the story doesn’t stop there — because if it did this would just be about this poor crazy schmo and his head boring fetish. No, sir, there is even more to this tale of headbone penetration and erstwhile mind expansion. See Amanda really liked what she saw in her pal Joey (maybe it was the really nice hole he’d punched in his skull) and so she decided that this was something she had to do as well.

Not only that, but to the edification of really twisted movie buffs everywhere, Amanda had the whole procedure filmed. Yes, friends, you too can share in the experience of one lovely young British lass punching a whole in her skull. Hear the whine of the drill! See the flowing blood! On a screen near you, “Heartbeat in the Brain” (available from — Amanda Feilding’s personal cinematic demonstration of her belief that punching holes in your skull is good for you.

The film is simple but powerful: Amanda smiling in front of the camera. Amanda cutting her scalp. Amanda putting a drill to her skull. Blood pumping out of Amanda’s skull. Amanda’s blissed-out smile — all intercut with scenes of her pet bird. Birds and holes in the head … a two-some that just makes me shudder.

Ah, but trepanation doesn’t stop with a film that regularly shows up on bills opposite _Faces of Death_. See Amanda was so taken with her new-found feelings of exaltation and calm that she realized that this wonderful transcendental experience should be available to anyone who wanted it. So, say you wake up one day — blues around you like a hot, wet blanket — and determine, yessiree Bob, that what you need is a nice little ol’ hole in your skull to cheer you up. But then you realize that you’re damned broke. What to do? Well, Amanda had a solution, and even ran for Parliament twice on her special platform: Trepanations to anyone who wanted them! A car in every garage, a chicken in every pot, and a hole in … well, you get the idea.

If you think that this unusual practice is limited to those distant and exotic shores (i.e. Britain) then you’re sadly mistaken — but just be grateful that this extreme form of Body Modification never quite caught on with much of a vengeance over here. Still, trepanation does have its international and US supporters.

Peter Halvorson, for instance, who drilled his own hole in the ‘70’s described the experience: “I could hear a gurgling, and I could feel the shifting of volume in the brain water.” About four hours later, this new addition to the holey order of trephanators was feelin’ fine and groovy, though one has to wonder if a little Prozac might have done the same thing, and made less of a mess.

And, like any other group that has at least three members, there is a International Trepanation Advocacy Group out there (, who have a mission to ventilate skulls for the betterment of mankind. And while you’re waiting to have your own skull drilled out, you might want to visit the gift shop, where you can pick up many fine trepanation -related items, such as T-shirts, copies of pro-trepanation books, and — one has to wonder why no one’s thought of it yet — decorator plugs for your own mental health hole.

Like I said, it hovers just on the other side of understanding. Migraine sufferers I know have pondered it in the middle of a bad attack, and I know at least three or four freaks who have so exhausted the facial piercing thing that the idea of piercing your head-bone has become strangely attractive.

Still, understanding can only be pushed so far — and drilling a hole in your own skull is just one of those things that just kind of escapes rationality. But then I might not be one to judge — after all, the only holes I have in my head are the ones I was born with.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts
Posted by on Thursday, December 15th, 2005. Filed under Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry