Melonheads: Unearthly Cryptids that Stalk the Midwestern Woods

Hydrocephalus (Image: National Library of Medicine; 1800s lithograph showing a skull with Hydrocephalus)

According to urban legend, a group of hostile, horrifying-looking humanoid creatures stalk the woods of Ohio and Michigan. They’re called melonheads, because of their giant, unnatural-looking craniums. Other versions of the legend have sprung up in Connecticut, too, with some eerie similarities. But are the melonheads truly out there? And if so, what are these unearthly, malevolent beings?

As is the case with most urban legends, tales of melonheads vary depending on location as well as who’s recounting them, but the basics remain relatively consistent.

Some classic version of the modern myth tells of a group of people who were the unfortunate subject of horrible, government-run experiments, which not only left them with giant, melon-like heads, but also drove them insane. And in typical urban legend fashion, the government attempted to cover the whole thing up by abandoning its guinea pigs out in the wilderness of Lake County, Ohio.

melonheads-urban-legend (Image: Kate Geruntho Frank; Saw Mill City Rd, CT, home to some melonhead sightings)

Weird US offers a couple of versions of how the melonheads legend has evolved over time. One incarnation of the tale holds that the test subjects, unloved and uncared for, were banished to an isolated cabin in the woods deep in the Lake County area.

Longing for human contact, they attempted to rejoin society – but they were so frightened of the civilization they had never been introduced to that they fled back to the safety of their cabin. And where was this mysterious cabin in the woods? Supposedly near Wisner Road, if the urban legend is to be believed.

Meanwhile, darker stories tell of a Dr. Crowe, who cared for a group of children with hydrocephalus, a condition characterised by an abnormal build-up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Along with his wife, the Crowes kept their happy little family safe from the cruel taunts of the other children. But when Mrs. Crowe died, the family’s world was shattered. In their grief, the children knocked over a lamp and the cabin burned to the ground, killing everyone. The ghosts of the children still wander the haunted woods.

crybaby-bridge-urban-legend (Image: dalemccartney; Crybaby Bridge in Salem, Ohio)

The darkest tellings, however, claim that Dr. Crowe’s cabin in the woods was once the site of countless illegal abortions, and the spirits of the babies can still be heard, crying, as they haunt the vicinity of their unmarked graves. Daft as it sounds, the urban legend has been retold so often that it’s been woven into the fabric of the region, to the point that a nearby bridge is called Crybaby Bridge.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Melonheads are said to live in and around the ruins of the (now-restored) Felt Mansion in Laketown Township. Elements of the story are the same – they were originally children with hydrocephalus, who were so poorly cared for – and eventually abandoned – that they became feral children who now attack anyone who ventures too near.

Occasionally called ‘wobbleheads’, the children are often linked to two other grim places – the Junction Insane Asylum and the Dunes Correctional Facility. And that’s despite the fact that the asylum never existed. Perhaps the most eerie figure is the man who’s at the centre of the various legends – Dr. Crowe.

felt-mansion-michigan (Image: rossograph; the Felt Mansion, possible original of the melon heads urban legend)

Despite the intrigue (and who doesn’t love a good urban legend?), there’s another, more mundane explanation for how the melonheads became so deeply enshrined in Michigan folklore. When the Saint Augustine Catholic Seminary, a preparatory school, occupied the Felt Mansion in the 1940s, the local high school kids dubbed the private school pupils ‘melonheads’, in part due to their perceived intelligence, and partly because of the rivalry and resentment toward the more privileged institution.

In summary, the melonheads (or melon heads) myth bears all the hallmarks of a classic urban legend: a creepy cabin in the woods, gruesome medical experiments, an insane asylum that doesn’t exist, a government cover-up, multiple variations of the tale and ultimately a logical explanation arising from teenage school rivalry. But of course, that hasn’t stopped reports of the frightening cryptids from coming in.

Related – Beware of the Bunny Man: Fairfax County, VA’s Creepiest Urban Legend

 
 


 
 
 

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