Mellen decided to take the trepanation plunge. Huges had lent Mellen the money to buy an antique hand trepan, kind of like a big corkscrew, designed to be worked by hand even though he had used an electric drill on himself, in the hope that Mellen would be able to prove that anyone, even those who lived in the Third World without access to electricity, would be able to enjoy the advantages of expanded consciousness. However, the centerpiece of the drill was so blunt that Mellen struggled for two hours to get it into the bone, a failure that was not perhaps helped by the fact that he’d steeled his nerves for the operation with LSD. He described his efforts in his unpublished memoir, Bore Hole, as “like trying to uncork a bottle from the inside.” The book reads something like an unintentional comedy of errors.
Mellen phoned Huges, who was in Amsterdam with Feilding, and he agreed to return to England to help. However, Huges was refused entry into the country (an interview he’d done before he left London had resulted in the unhelpful headline, “This Dangerous Idiot Should be Thrown Out”), and Feilding aided Mellen in his place, using all her might to get the point of the trepan to hold so that the teeth of the drill could find a grip. Mellen, again high on acid, took over the drilling until he blacked out. Feilding phoned for an ambulance and he was rushed to hospital.
Feilding and Mellen began seeing each other after she separated from Huges—they would go on to marry and have two children together. Yet Huges’s influence continued to dominate their lives. The following year, after Mellen had spent a week in jail for possession of cannabis, Feilding assisted him with another attempted self-trepanation. “I found the groove from the previous operation and got going,” Mellen wrote in his memoir: “After some time there was an ominous-sounding slurp and the sound of bubbling … It sounded like air bubbles running under the skull as they were pressed out.” However, when he examined the trepan it held an irregular sliver of bone, and when he didn’t feel the expected difference in mood, he attributed this to his having drilled through at an angle. The hole he had managed was evidently too small.
Three years later, in the spring of 1970, to make sure the hole was of sufficient size, Mellen decided to make another one, this time with an electric drill. Amanda was not in town, so he did it alone. He selected a spot above the hairline and applied the drill. After half an hour, the drill burned out. He had it repaired, and tried again the next day. “This time there was no doubt. The drill 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.” He claimed that the operation had produced the desired effects. He claimed that he had achieved the permanent high that he had sought for so long.