It's a perfect day to share the quaint legend of Melon heads - there are three regions that have legends of monsters by that name, but the Michigan variety is most relevant to this blog. Today, while searching google for items related to hydrocephalus, I found this article on "Melon heads" from plumbot.com:
The melon heads of Michigan are said to reside near the ruins of Felt Mansion in Laketown Township. According to one story, they were originally children with hydrocephalus who lived at the Junction Insane Asylum near Felt Mansion. The story explains that, after enduring physical and emotional abuse, they became feral mutants and were released into the forests surrounding the asylum. The Allegan County Historical Society asserts that the asylum never existed; however, the story has been part of the local folklore for several decades. Laketown Township Manager Al Meshkin told the Holland Sentinel that he had heard the tales as a teenager, noting that his friends referred to the beings as "wobbleheads". Some versions of the legend say that the children once lived in the mansion itself, but later retreated to a system of underground caverns.Now, to be honest, I have mixed reactions to this. Part of me, who loves movies like Hellboy, thinks this is really really cool and wonders if I can get anyone to photoshop my baby pictures so I look like a feral mutant.
There's another part of me, though, that worries about the impact of making monsters out of people with hydrocephalus. Part of that concern was validated by a short article in the book Weird Michigan.
In Encounter with a Melon Head, Kellie Topp-Bedrosian gives an account of being startled and scared by the appearance of a large-headed man on the grounds of the Felt Mansion, when she was on the grounds at night while in high school. When she told the story to her father, he told her not to return to the place and told her about the Melon heads:
Years ago the Felt family sold the mansion to a seminary and a small insane asylum was built on the grounds. It was then sold to the state of Michigan and the state turned it into a low-security prison. My father told me that the asylum specialized in patients with extra fluid in the brain, causing their heads to swell. After funding for the asylum was cut, most of the patients were "set free." Many of the Melon Heads had already developed an intense hatred for normal-looking people and chose to stay on the grounds away from society, and they built homes out of the tunnels that run under the mansion.Here's how I see the story: Proper place for kids with hydrocephalus is institution. When the state cut funds and "set them free," these same people (not kids now) shunned society, sticking to the grounds and found tunnels to live in. And would come out occasionally to prey on "normal-looking" people, who they hated. Charming - I wonder how community inclusion of people with disabilities is going in that area of Michigan.
Serious question: how would Topp-Bedrosian, or anyone else terrorized with these stories as a child, react when given the news that their own child had hydrocephalus? --Stephen