Among all of the mysterious beasts, creatures, and monsters said to lurk in the wild places of our world there are occasionally those that go beyond the merely strange to plant themselves firmly into the territory of the almost absurd. Surely to be counted among the denizens of the domain of the patently outrageous are a type of nocturnal, large-headed beings that reportedly stalk rural roads in the northeast of the United States and which have come to be known as the Melonheads.
Such tales of something very bizarre lurking in the woods come to us from the wilds of the state of Ohio, where we have stories of an incredibly strange tribe of pale, bulbous headed, freakish looking cannibals that have long been said to stalk rural areas in and around Kirtland and Chardon, Ohio, and have come to be known as the Melonheads. These creatures are said to look more or less human, but with a sickly pallor and enormous, almost comically oversized craniums, often also mentioned as possessing sharp, shark-like teeth, that sit atop their slight, emaciated frames, and they wander about the forests surprising motorists, startling hikers, and sometimes downright terrifying people with their nightmarish visage. The supposed origins of this odd tale are murky to say the least, and there are many versions of how the Melonheads, also commonly written as “Melon Heads,” came to be, but the most popular is perhaps of a group of orphaned children that came to be the subjects of a dark and twisted scientific experiment gone awry.
According to this version of the story, a mad scientist by the name of Dr. Crow came into the possession of these abandoned children by unspecified means, and proceeded to take them out to a secluded facility in the middle of the rural woods near Kirtland, Ohio, in order to perform demented medical experiments on them. Depending on the version of this particular story, the children’s heads then became deformed and misshapen due to either the effects of the mysterious experiments or the fact that they already had a condition known as hydrocephalus, which causes a buildup of fluid in the brain. These deformed children went mad from whatever was being done to them, and escaped into the woods, again depending on the version either from sneaking out or with the help of Dr. Crow’s wife, who had become sympathetic with their plight. One permutation of this tale is that Dr. Crow’s wife died and in their sorrowful tantrum the children knocked over a lamp to burn the cabin down in a fiery inferno. In this story, the Melonheads are either the descendants of these freakish mutants or are the ghosts of the children eternally wandering the wilderness.
Another version of the Melonheads’ origin is a more straightforward story of a top-secret government project which was doing experiments out in the wilds of Lake County for who knows what nefarious purpose. In this scenario, the subjects underwent some sort of drastic experiments on their brains, which caused them to become ballooned and deformed. These subjects over time craved some sort of contact with the outside world, and are said to have escaped to make their way to civilization. Unfortunately, they soon realized that civilization did not want anything to do with them and their hideous visages, and so the forlorn freaks trudged back out into the wilderness to live forever in seclusion. The government, not wanting to create a widespread panic, did what any sinister government does in a good conspiracy theory and covered it up. Still other stories say they are the inbred descendants of a renegade band of witches who escaped into the forests to get away from persecution in colonial days.
Whatever they are, stories of these bizarre entities with their freakishly oversized heads prowling the woods of Ohio have persisted for years, and indeed the legend has spread beyond borders to both Michigan and Connecticut, which each have their own versions of the story ranging from that they are inbred cretins running amok, to government created mutants, to escaped hydrocephalic patients from an insane asylum. In most traditions, these strange entities are said to still live out in the wilderness, often haunting remote, rural roads, and have kept their numbers steady over the years through continued inbreeding, which has made them even more insane and alien looking.
Depending on the version of the tale these Melonheads are either shy and glimpsed only briefly, or that they are ravenous, vicious little monsters that will attack anyone who gets too near, and they are for the most part said to be best avoided. No matter what they are or where they reside, the Melonheads are very often purportedly not at all pleasant to be around. They are supposedly quite aggressive, feral creatures said to come out at night under the cover of darkness to roam the wilds hunting and getting into mischief, and it is said they are responsible for the mutilated bodies of animals sometimes allegedly found in the deep backwoods. They are also said to terrorize or even kill and eat people who wander into their territory from time to time, even each other on occasion, with those who have disappeared in Melonhead country sometimes said to have fallen victim to the vile creatures.
Stories and reports of eyewitness account of encountering these outlandish beings are numerous. One popular tale is that of a group of teenagers who were traveling through prime Melonhead territory in Wickliffe, Ohio in 1964, when they passed by one of the bizarre creatures standing by the side of the road just staring at them. When they slowed the car down to get a better look the creature scurried off into the wilderness and the teens decided to give chase. They made their way through the brush and trees until they allegedly came to a clearing in which sat an old-fashioned house with an older couple sitting leisurely on the porch with several of the Melonheads milling about them in a surreal scene none of the teens could quite believe.
One of the teens asked the man what was going on, and he wove a bizarre tale indeed. He apparently told the teens that he had once been a nuclear scientist during World War II, and that the radiation he had constantly been exposed to had caused his children to be born deformed with their bulbous heads. He claimed that the government had paid him to keep quiet about it and relocated him their into the remote area along with his wife and the mutated children, where they would be kept away from normal society. The man made them promise not to tell of the location of the house and sent them on their way.
Of course, teens being teens they supposedly immediately told all of their friends about how they had run into the legendary Melonheads, and a group of them went out to find them. As they drove along the lonely road towards the house they then apparently were stopped by a large group of police officers, which was surprising as they were in the middle of nowhere. The cops asked what they were doing out there and when the subject of Melonheads came up the police adamantly insisted that this was just an urban legend and that they had best head back. When the teens refused they were then allegedly taken to the police station and their parents came to pick them up. The teens would later claim that they had been doing nothing wrong and that they had just been driving minding their own business, making them suspect that a cover-up was going on.
Bizarre reports like this have come in sporadically all the way up to more modern times. In an account published in Weird U.S.: Your Travel Guide to America’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, in 2001 a witness known only as “Tony” claims that he had been out traveling the dark roads of Melonhead territory in Chardon, Ohio, actively trying to find any truth to the legends. Up until then he had driven back and forth along these remote roads and found nothing except the still dark and quiet trees of the forest, but as he was about to leave he claims that he looked out the window to have seen one of the creatures running alongside the car going around 40 to 50 mph. Interestingly, rather than being a short, dwarfed being as the legends say, he described this one as standing perhaps 5’7”, although with the same spindly limbs and outsized heads as in the lore. The creature apparently kept pace with the vehicle for a time before veering off back into the woods. He would say of the incident thus:
It didn’t look anything like I’ve heard in the stories. He looked about the same height as me (5’7″), was wearing brown pants which were very ripped up and where the seams would be, it was held together by what looked like corn husk. It wore a white shirt with brown and red stains all over it (hoping that the red stains weren’t blood). Its head was a very light-brown tint. It had two holes in the sides of its head which think were ears. Its head was swelled up and its eyes where very big looking. Just as we turned a curve it jumped into the woods. That is my story of the Melonheads.
In yet another relatively recent account a woman named Kelly Topp-Bedrosian claims that she had a run-in with the Melonheads as she was poking around the abandoned Felt Mansion, in Laketown Township in Allegan County, Michigan. While exploring the ruins of the old estate with some friends, she says that she happened to spy a man standing some distance away, and that she soon realized that there was something rather off about him. His head seemed to be larger than it should be, and then he began walking towards them. She would say of the rest of the encounter:
Not knowing who this man could be, my friend yelled, ‘Hello!’ to try and be friendly, but all we got was a loud grunt and the man continued to walk towards us, but now at a faster pace. At this point the same idea hit all of us and we all started sprinting towards our car. We scrambled in and peeled out of the parking lot at full speed not slowing down until we were several miles from the mansion.
Another account, this time from the Creepy Cleveland archives, was posted in 2009 by a witness who calls himself Jay B. He claims that as a child he used to live by the woods on Wisner Road, Ohio, near a place called the Lundgren barn. It was here that he would have his unusual encounter, which he would describe thus:
It was an early Autumn night around 10:00pm when I heard my dog bark and I ran outside to see what was going on. When I went outside to see what the commotion was all about I found my dog lying there bleeding. I looked towards the woods and saw what I believed to be a small figure with very pale skin and a large head. When the creature saw me it ran into the woods. I went out the next morning and followed the tracks but they stopped near a creek.
It is worth noting that Wisner Road in Kirkland, Ohio, is a notorious hotspot for Melonhead sightings. Indeed, certain roads have become known as being magnets for Melonhead activity, where sightings are especially frequent and mutilated animals can supposedly be sometimes found strewn about the vicinity. Another of these roads, which is probably the most famous of the “Melonhead Roads” of all is a road called Velvet Street, which runs through Trumbull and Monroe, Connecticut and is more well-known for its sinister nickname “Dracula Drive.” There have been scores of alleged Melonhead encounters along this road, and one of the more dramatic was one written of in Joseph Citro’s book Weird New England.
The account comes from the 1980s, when a group of girls named Megan, Sue, Kim, Deb, Jen and Karen were out on a joyride one Friday night. The group decided to take a ride down Dracula Drive for kicks, knowing full well about all of the dark folklore of Melonheads that orbited it. As they turned onto the secluded road none of them thought they would actually see one of the beasts, and they even parked their car to get out and explore. It would apparently be decision they would soon regret.
As they walked down the road giggling and trying to spook each other with scary stories they allegedly heard the door of their car open, after which it started up and then actually came driving towards them, the mysterious thief obscured by the dark and the blinding headlights. The car barreled towards them, forcing them to jump off into the tree line, and when they looked around they would finally see the car thieves within as the vehicle passed. They were described as child-sized humanoids dressed in ragged clothes and with humongous heads and wide eyes that glowed with an orange light. The creatures could be heard giggling maniacally as the car sped past and off into the night, never to be seen again.
Surely the bizarre notion of tribes of pale, vicious cannibals with oversized heads lurking in dark forests killing animals and humans seems like it must be pure urban legend and absurdity, and it likely is, yet this has not stopped people from continuing to report sightings of them from time to time, and indeed there are many who swear they are real. Urban legend or something else, the Melonheads are certainly one of the weirder mystery monsters out there.