The melon heads live on the outskirts of town on heavily wooded country roads, known as melon head roads. Zion Hill Road, for example, is Milford’s melon head road. Saw Mill City Road is Shelton’s. The melon heads also supposedly live on the outskirts of Monroe, Stratford, Seymour, Weston, Easton, Oxford, Southbury, Fairfield, New Haven and Trumbull.
They look like small humanoids with oversized heads, and they rarely come out from hiding. They survive by eating small animals, stray cats and human flesh, usually the flesh of teenagers.
And for runaway teens or hikers who disappear, the melon heads serve as convenient explanations.
Stories about deformed country people who keep to themselves go back at least a century to Europe.
For example, a large family of melon heads supposedly once lived in Bavaria, Germany, in the mid 19th century. An inbred family of melon heads — known as weeble heads – were said to live outside Risbury, England, around 1900.
According to another theory, the term ‘melon head’ may stem from Melungeon, which describes mixed-race people in Appalachia. They had an ancestry of European outcasts, freed slaves and Native Americans, and they kept to themselves.
Melon head stories surfaced in Connecticut after World War II, a time when people moved away from cities into the suburbs. They probably reflect the New York exurbanite’s prejudice and fear of isolated rural folk.
But how did the melon heads end up in Connecticut?
One theory claims they came from a family accused of witchcraft and banished into the wilderness, where they survived and inbred. Through centuries of inbreeding they mutated into melon heads.
According to another theory, the melon heads escaped from Fairfield Hills Hospital, a now- abandoned mental institution, or Garner Correctional Institute, which specializes in inmates with mental health problems. Both are in Newtown, Conn. A variation on that theme has the melon heads escaping from an unnamed mental institution in the 1960s. The building supposedly burned, some of the inmates escaped and turned to cannibalism, which caused their heads to swell.
Similar melon head stories also surface in Ohio and Michigan. An evil Dr. Crow supposedly conducted experiments on orphans in Kirtland, Ohio (once part of Connecticut). The children escaped, burned down the orphanage and retreated into the woods.
In Michigan, the melon heads were children with hydrocephalus abused in an insane asylum in Ottawa County and eventually released into the woods.
According to legend, back in the 1980s a group of girls from Notre Dame High School in Fairfield decided to drive around after a Friday night football game. They piled into a blue Granada and ended up on Velvet Street in Trumbull, where they looked for the melon heads.
The girls parked the car, leaving the headlights on, and ventured into the woods. After they’d walked a couple hundred feet, they heard the car door slam. Then the engine started and the car headed toward them. They could see figures inside. The size of children, they had large heads, rags for clothes and an orange glow in their eyes.
Some say the melon heads still drive around in that blue Granada.
Other, less detailed, stories describe mysterious figures in the woods. Workers who paved Saw Mill City Road in Shelton claimed they heard voices in the woods. Tree experts checking the woods for fungal infestation thought they saw strange figures lurking in the underbrush.
Reader George Simpson writes that the famous Nike Missile site in the Shelton-Monroe area was alleged to be a haunt of the melon heads.
Want to look for them yourself? Below is a list of melon head roads in southwestern Connecticut:
- Edmonds Road in Oxford.
- Velvet Street in Trumbull and Monroe. (Runs between Tashua Road in Trumbull and Judd Road in Monroe near the Eastonborder.)
- Zion Hill Rd in Milford.
- The roads around Lake Mohegan in Fairfield.
- Marginal Road in New Haven.
- Jeremy Swamp Road in Southbury.
- Paths/roads in and around Roosevelt Forest in Stratford.
Images: Fairfield Hills Hospital grounds By G F – originally posted to Flickr as Fairfield State Hospital Grounds, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6333473. This story was updated in 2020.