You Must Have Holes in Your Head

History of Medicine

Apr 03

Say you’re an anthropologist and say you’re on a dig in a remote part of the world and say you come across some ancient graves, and say that a few of the skulls found in those ancient graves have holes in them. The holes range in size from a nickel to a quarter to a half dollar.

Do you wonder to yourself, “What the hell were these people doing?” or do you rummage through your studies packed away somewhere in your memories about modern surgical techniques to treat subdural hematomas (a collection of blood) that go all the way back to Hippocrates? Do you pull up a memory from one of your classes concerning the middle ages in which holes were drilled to let the demons out?

You might conclude that you’ve discovered some kind of proof of early surgical procedures, and try to guess how successful they were way back then.

I wonder if you’d ever conclude that perhaps this was just a method used to get high.

In the mid-sixties, getting high was the in thing, as we all decided to “turn on, tune in, and drop out,” and there was one guy who also decided to “drill down.” His name was Bart Hughes, a self-help guru, who put in a rousing effort to bring back trepanning, the surgical process of drilling holes in skulls. Hughes felt strongly that this procedure could expand his consciousness and increase his brainpower.

Having successfully drilled into his skull, he did a few interviews with reporters, after which he was placed into a mental institution for observation. But wouldn’t you know it, trepanning seemed to catch on and followers popped up everywhere.

His most famous follower is today known as the Countess of Wemyss, or as some call her, the Crackpot Countess. But then, anyone experimenting with mind expansion is often labeled a crackpot, such as Timothy Leary, who despite being called a crackpot, was also a genius. To people like him, it’s the rest of us who are all crackpots.

Amanda Feilding

The countess, also known as Amanda Feilding, founded the Foundation to Further Consciousness in 1998, and claims that after she had successfully trepanned herself, she experienced euphoric highs.

However, when she first tried to drill into the skull of her boyfriend, Joey Mellen, in the mid-sixties, the hole wasn’t deep enough, and the second try hospitalized him because of loss of blood. After that, he went home (after a psychiatric watch) and did it himself. He drilled into his skull until he heard “schlurp” which meant two things.

  1. He’d finally done it.
  2. He’d drilled into his brain.

He survived to go on and have two sons with Feilding: Rock Basil Feilding Mellen and Cosmo Birdie Feilding Mellen. They were never married, and the relationship fizzled out in the early nineties.

Mellen next met Jenny Gathorne-Hardy and he quickly drilled a hole in her head, after which they were married and she bore him two children. Speaking of boring, he authored the book Bore Hole, which you can pick up at Abe Books.

Amanda Feilding

Not much is known of Mellen today, but according to her foundation, the Countess Amanda has co-authored over 50 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, and as of 2019, has been conducting research into the use of LSD to trigger long-term improvements in creativity. [Ref]

Despite the efforts of these pioneers in trepanning, this practice has “gained no support from the medical community over the years.” [Ref]