Pete, who lives on a 40-acre farm in semi-rural Wernersville, Pa., plans to escort a second group of 15 people to Mexico in November. The procedure costs $2,500, and Pete says he doesn't see a dime of it. The only money he makes through trepanation is in the sale of T-shirts and videos offered on his website, which he says barely covers his costs. "My only interest is helping people change their lives through trepanation," he says.

Before ushering them south of the border, Pete says, he insists they get "engrammed," which involves copying and reciting into a tape ten times some literature Pete has prepared on the procedure-"so they fully understand the choice they're making.

" After trepanation, he recommends they take the Creative Intelligence Program, a "one-on-one training program to evolve human potential," created by Pete's colleague, Jack Krueger, "an artist and third-eyer." "We don't merely want to change people from being unhappy couch potatoes to being happy couch potatoes," Pete says. "We want them to realize their own unique brilliance and to develop their personalities to the fullest."

Most doctors maintain that if a person notices any changes after trepanation, it's probably due to the placebo effect. "OK, suppose it is just the placebo effect," Pete replies. "Can you tell me what are the medical benefits of face-lifts and breast implants? Talk about the placebo effect! And these procedures are far more risky than trepanation, yet plenty of doctors are willing to perform them."

By adulthood, Pete says, our skulls have hardened and sealed, restricting the volume of blood in our brains. "That's why so many of us experience a major downer after our teens," he says. "Unfortunately, most people spend the rest of their lives as couch potatoes heading on a downward spiral."

Chris Emery, 55, whom I'd seen under the drill on Pete's videotape from Mexico, told me she decided to get trepanned after years of struggling with depression. "After the surgery I noticed a big difference in my energy levels and outlook on life," she says. "Whereas I used to wake up, walk to the kitchen and have to sit and rest for a while, I now get up, make my coffee and get to work." About the 15 minute procedure, she said, "It was nothing. I actually fell asleep during it. I'd rather get trepanned than go to the dentist any day!"

The world, of course, is full of people who lead happy, productive lives without drilling holes in their heads. According to Halvorson, many successful people--leaders in business, science, politics and education, artists and musicians--are "third-eyers." Which means that either (a) their intercranial seams never closed with age (approximately 10 percent of the population) or (b) they sustained a head injury that never fully healed (another 10 percent).

"Take Hitler," Pete says. "In World War I he was trepanned after sustaining a major head wound, like a 1 ½- to 2-inch hole. Unfortunately, he was a sociopath who used his genius for evil." A hole in the head-well, that's certainly one way to account for Hitler's atrocities.

In a 1998 Washington Post article, scientists dismissed the claims for trepanation, saying that brain function depends on blood flow, not blood volume. Even if trepanation did increase the blood flow, they said, there's no evidence that it would increase brain function.

When I asked Pete about the Post piece, he replied: "Doctors have a selective hearing disorder. We've never said that trepanation affects blood flow to the brain. We're saying it increases blood volume in the brain, and these doctors have absolutely no data about blood volume because there's never been a single U.S. medical investigation into any aspect of elective trepanation."

Which is why Pete is so thrilled about his association with Dr. Kirsch and his team in Mexico. By giving each patient an MRI before and after the procedure, as well as six months later, Pete hopes he can offer conclusive proof that trepanation increases the brain-blood volume. Psychological evaluations, he says, will demonstrate that trepanation improves brain function.