LEGENDS OF MICHIGAN
The Melon Heads Legend of Michigan
Written by Michigan’s Otherside
What could be more terrifying than the thought of deformed children that never grew up living in the woods watching and waiting to attack? Those who grew up in Holland and Saugatuck the 1960’s and onward are very familiar with the Legend of the Melon Heads. The traditional story tells of a hospital in the area that was treating hydrocephalic children long ago. The hospital was forced to close, and the children had nowhere to go, so they were released into the wilds to fend for themselves.
For decades, locals in the area have told this tale – especially teenagers growing up in that area during the 1960’s and 1970’s and parents looking to scare their children into good behavior with threats of the Melon Heads coming for them if they don’t go to sleep.
There are a few different theories as to where these creatures originated from and no doubt it’s from the depths of the human imagination. There was never a hospital in the Allegan County woods with a crazy doctor that treated hydrocephalic children. Historical records prove that. But for some reason, the story got started and was passed by word of mouth and later with the help of the Internet and preserved on websites like this one. Origins of local legends are iffy, but it’s how they continue on that makes tracking them fascinating.
This legend isn’t as common as others such as something like ghostly hitchhikers. It’s mostly exclusive to west Michigan but they Michigan Melon Heads do have some cousins in Ohio. Ohio has a legend very similar involving a “Dr. Crow” and the children he was experimenting on. If you have a Melon Heads tale to share, old or new, comment below or send an email.
I couldn’t leave this story out of the first book I published, Ghosts & Legends of Michigan’s West Coast, but since the publication of that book in 2009, fellow researcher Kevin Collier also suggested that the Melon Heads came to be because the children who went to school when the Felt Mansion was a seminary were considered “melon heads,” by the public school kids. They were the smart kids.
One thing about legends and the Internet is how mixed up things start to become. I’ve been seeing articles about Dr. Crow (part of the Ohio Melon Heads story) getting confused with the Felt Mansion in Michigan. The legendary Dr. Crow story (some spell it Crowe) is in no way connected to the Felt Mansion in Saugatuck, Michigan. Dr. Crow is part of the northern Ohio legends and as far as anyone can tell, is also a made-up figure from Ohio folklore.
Check out the website www.creepyclevelnd.net for accounts of Melon Heads running wild in Ohio.
No thank you.
Artwork by Michigan’s Otherside
RADIOACTIVE MELON HEADS?
This version of the Melon Head story was shared with me via email by a Michigan resident.
“This legend has made its way to my neck of the woods too. A little different though. In southwest Michigan, the Melon Heads are said to be located behind the Cook nuclear plant in Bridgman. There are two different stories of how they got to be there. The first story says there was an insane asylum in the woods before the power plant was built and there was a fire that burned the asylum to the ground and the Melon Heads escaped and have been living in the wild ever since.
The other story says there was a group of people who lived behind the plant in the woods. After exposure to the radiation, they began to have swelling of the brain, and out of embarrassment and shame, they stayed in the woods to be left alone by the public to live their lives. The nuclear plant and all surrounding property have been closed off to the public since the 9/11 attacks, but you used to be able to drive back into the woods and explore. It was a big pastime for teenagers to scare the bejesus out of themselves and their dates. I have been told that the whole area back there is like a maze, and unless you know the area well, it is very easy to get lost in. I suppose that just adds to the scare factor. So I would say that the Melon Heads from my area are just urban legend. But it always makes for interesting conversation, especially when talking with those who have been there and claim to have seen one.”
“I have lived in Laketown Township for about twelve years now and agree with everything that was said in your book, Ghost & Legends of Michigan’s West Coast. I have friends who have seen the melon heads in the woods a few times. Do I believe in them? Yes and no. (They say if you flick your car headlights you’re more prone to see something, but I’m too afraid to try.) I have heard insane ghost stories about the Felt mansion though. People seeing kids playing at the top of the stairs and then jumping off the balcony of the house. There was also a story about teens who were going to vandalize the Felt mansion before the restoration began in 2000. It was in the middle of the night and a man in a horse-drawn carriage pulled up and asked them if they needed a ride. They freaked out and ran away.”
“Last year, me and some of my friends at Hope College decided we wanted to go to the Allegan County woods in Hamilton in search of the Melonheads. On our first night there, we went back on a path for about a mile and came to an opening where there seemed to be a foundation of a building still there, but the building was gone. On the walk back to the opening, there was a sign hanging over the path but it was too faded to make out the wording. On the first night, we did not experience anything too out of the ordinary that we didn’t think we couldn’t explain by animals or other sorts. We went back the next night and it was raining mixed with some lightning. Me and two other guys were leading the group down the path and about a half a mile into our walk, there was a lightning flash and all three of us saw the same exact figure of a human about 4 and a half feet tall with an abnormally large head standing in the middle of the clearing that we had gone to the night before. We three kind of slowed down for a minute and the next thing we knew, we heard a huge crash in the woods to the left of us. We immediately turned and ran back to the cars.”