The Damned Story: Growing up in Milford, one of the local stories we all heard about was about a group of giant-headed mutants who lived on the outskirts of town, a band of inbred freaks who were ready to prey Deliverance-style on whoever was careless or unfortunate enough to wander into their midst . . . .
Of course, I’m talking about: THE MELON HEADS!
Apparently, this legend isn’t limited to Milford — recently, I was telling a work friend about them, and she didn’t believe me, so she Googled it and discovered (through the glory of Wikipedia) that in addition to being legends in other states (Ohio and Michigan), the Melonheads were also indigenious to Monroe, Seymour, Weston, Oxford, Southbury, Trumbull and my current hometown of Shelton! I also saw that like Milford, many of these towns had “Melon Head Roads” — in Milford (back when I was growing up), it was Zion Hill Road; in Trumbull, it’s Velvet Street (aka “Dracula Drive” — another legend for another day); and in Shelton, it’s Saw Mill City Road.
Now, in Connecticut, the Melon Heads are allegedly everything from a group of escaped mental patients to a lost colony of inbred mountain folk dating back to Colonial times. However, I read an article a few years back (I think in the Fortean Times) talking about a group of isolated Appalachain mountain people in the Southeastern U.S. (Tennessee, Kentucky, eastern Virginia) called the Melungeon. In short, it’s believed the Melungeon are mixed-race descendants of European outcasts, freed slaves and Native Americans — the damned of early American society, in a way — who decided to stay to themselves, and in general, away from the mainstream.
In the article, it also mentioned that the term “Melungeon” was sometimes bastardized into “Melon Head.” So, it’s possible — although I have no evidence to prove this, and I’m no anthropologist — that at one point, there was a group of people living quietly and independently in the backwoods of Connecticut who had characteristics similar to the Melungeon, and somehow got branded as such. Then, over time, that got changed to Melon Head, and since people tend to fear what they don’t know about or understand, the stories of boogie-man horror were attributed to them.
That ignorance was passed down through the years, and the rest, as they say, is legendary.
Our Damned Experience: Well, when I saw how close it was to our place of employment, I immediately dragged my non-believing friend (with some resistance) and another co-worker out on our lunch hour to take a ride down ol’ Melon Head Road. Being the middle of the day it was hardly a spooky ride, but as we drove along Saw Mill City Road, I could see why people might want to believe this could be Melon Head stomping grounds — it’s a narrow, twisting road past the Means Brook Reservoir and through isolated woods with lots of “No Trespassing” signs along the way. The roadway even becomes dirt for a short portion — while driving, I surreptitiously slipped my car into neutral, revved the gas hard and said, “Oh no, the chain fell off! We’re screwed!” which brought one of the best momentary expressions of abject horror I’ve ever had the pleasure of creating on another person’s face (my wife and kids included).
Needless to say, it was a pretty — and uneventful — drive. No banjo-playin’ mutants, no being bent over logs, no squealing like pigs, no Melon Heads. Then again, it was daytime, so who knows what happens after dark?
Update: On a spooky and misty day in December 2008, we returned to Saw Mill City Road and also paid a visit to Velvet Street, cameras in hand. We took a bunch of photos and although we were hoping to see a mailbox with a telling name on it like “M. Ellen Head,” we didn’t encounter any mutants (unless you count the lone postman sitting alone in his truck sleeping or texting someone — we couldn’t tell, and to be honest, we hope that’s all he was doing).
If You Go: As mentioned, the three “Melon Head Roads” that we know of are Zion Hill Rd. in Milford, Velvet Street in Trumbull and Saw Mill City Rd. in Shelton. All three are public thoroughfares, although through private neighborhoods. If you do drive along any of them after dark, we do recommend exercising caution as the ones we’ve been along are dark and curvy. In the event that you are abducted by Melon Heads, please try to take pictures — we’ll be happy to post them here!