Okay, finally getting to the Melonheads. I've been putting off talking about these guys because I really don't like the mythology surrounding them. And you'll see why in a moment. Although some folklore purists may not like it, I've decided to create my own story behind these elusive beings, incorporating some other semi-famous pieces of "weird" New England.
First, the original lore. The stories vary somewhat, but the gist of the myths involve an old asylum for the criminally insane where the doctors carry out horrific experiments upon the patients. After years of torture, the patients escape and murder the doctors, burn down the asylum, then flee into the surrounding woods. They live out there for years, hidden from civilization, growing more and more savage. Their gigantic heads are either a pre-existing hydrocephalic condition or caused by decades of inbreeding. They attack people on lonely wooded roads, dragging them back to their lairs to devour them.
Hopefully by now you can see why I dislike this mythology. The biggest problem I have is that this story relies primarily on the lazy, hurtful stereotype of the mentally-ill as being dangerous and savage. People struggling with mental illness have enough prejudice to deal with, without being turned into cannibalistic boogeymen. Even worse are the versions of the story where the Melonheads' enlarged craniums are caused by hydrocephalism. Because having a debilitating disease naturally makes you a monster, of course.
I should mention that there's another version of the Melonhead story that portrays them as the descendants of an exiled Colonial-era family who hid in the woods and, once again, degenerated into sub-human cannibalistic monsters due to inbreeding. Still not really any better.
So, here's my version of the Melonhead origin story:
In 1852, Pastor and Spiritualist John Murray Spears began claiming he was in touch with "The Association of Electrizers", a coalition of spirits that included Benjamin Franklin, John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson and other famous persons. Their reason for contacting him, so he claimed, was to bring new technology to mankind and create an age of spiritual and social prosperity. The key to this revolution was the creation of a mechanical Messiah dubbed the "New Motive Power".
Spears gathered his followers to a shed in Lynn, Massachusetts, where they built their Messiah out of machined rods and other bits of copper, zinc and magnetic iron. To give the thing life, one of Spears' female followers even underwent a "spiritual pregnancy and labor".
Once everything was in place, Spears followed through the ritual as dictated by the Electrizers to finally bring his New Motive Power to life.
But nothing happened. The machine failed to work.
Except, it did.
For what Spears didn't know was that the beings who called themselves the Electrizers had given him instructions not for a new Messiah, but for a machine to create a gateway between two worlds. Their universe was dying and they were trying to escape into ours.
The gateway itself had actually been built centuries ago before any European had set foot in the New World. Its builders were a mystery, for none of the local First Nations had done it. Perhaps the gate was created by the same unknown people who built the tower off of Brenton Point in Rhode Island (which I'll talk about more in my Rhode Island entry). The gateway was a stone-lined well dug into a hill in what would one day be Goshen, CT. Two passageways ran off the main well. One was merely a drain to keep the well from flooding. But the other led to a vast underground chamber where the forgotten race had assembled a massive mechanical apparatus that would link the two worlds.
Why it wasn't activated centuries ago isn't clear, nor is it known why the Electrizers used a pastor in Massachusetts to create their power source instead of someone closer to the actual gateway. Perhaps time and space weren't obstacles for this ritual. Whatever the reason, when the ritual to awaken the New Motive Power was conducted, the mechanism in the well came to life. A small group of beings slid through into our world, but something went wrong. The power to the mechanism was cut off prematurely, and the resulting energy feedback caused the chamber to cave in. Some of the beings managed to escape the well before the apparatus and its chamber completely collapsed. But their connection to the old universe was cut off, buried under tons of stone.
Today the well is known as the Goshen Mystery and can be found in an old cemetery.
Though similar in appearance to humans, the Electrizer beings were actually another species of hominid that had become the dominate species in their reality. Their most obvious difference from Homo sapiens were their enlarged skulls, which developed at puberty. Knowing their appearance would make it difficult to blend in with human society, the Melonheads (as they were dubbed by the few people who saw them) hid in the woods, doing their best to eke out a living. Inevitably, they were distorted into the monstrous boogeymen of the familiar tales due to human fears of the strange and unknown. But in truth these beings are no worse nor better than any other human being. Over the years, they have made contact with a select few sympathetic humans who have helped them improve their lives and have even on occasion intermarried (or at least interbred) with them.
For this drawing, I wanted to avoid the "feral boogeyman" look that the traditional folklore depicts and instead show them as just normal people-- albeit normal people from a different dimension and species than Homo sapiens. The long dark ridge in the background is one of the basaltic dikes of the Metacomet Range which are ubiquitous throughout Central Connecticut.
(this is the Ohio version of the myth.)
To learn more about Reverend John Murray Spear, check out these pages:
And here's a site about the Goshen Mystery Tunner:
I originally heard about the Tunnel and Revered Spear from the book Curious New England, by Joseph A. Citro and Diane E. Foulds. It's got a lot of pretty cool, sometimes creepy, places and things to see in all six New England states.