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Sept. 15, 2020

Ep. 1: Connecticut Legends and Lore, Pt. 1

On our very first episode and part 1 of our series, we dive into two of the most intriguing legends from the state of Connecticut—the legendary “mutants” The Melonheads, and the notoriously haunted Remington Arms Factory in Bridgeport. Carrie finds...


On our very first episode and part 1 of our series, we dive into two of the most intriguing legends from the state of Connecticut—the legendary “mutants” The Melonheads, and the notoriously haunted Remington Arms Factory in Bridgeport.

Carrie finds surprising historical backstory for the Melonheads legend, while Sean finds the Ghost Adventures lockdown in the factory laughable.
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Transcript

For our first episode we’re going to ease in a bit and start off with some home-state legends, hauntings, and weirdness. We’ve both spent the better part of our lives living in Connecticut, and as it’s part of New England, there’s a lot of crazy history here.

Connecticut was first settled by the Dutch in 1614, and then by English Puritans in 1633. Good ol’ Chuck the 2nd sent over a charter in 1662 which gathered all of the Connecticut settlements- Windsor, Hartford, Fairfield, and so on- into one colony. Connecticut has seen the Pequot War (between the American Indian natives and the colonists), the Revolutionary War, industrial revolutions, a host of changes and tragedies, and even a convicted felon getting re-elected to the mayor’s office after being found guilty on corruption charges in that same office. Yes, Connecticut has it all. 

There are a lot of stereotypes about the Nutmeg State, one being that everyone here is rich. Untrue. Sure, the top 1% are insanely wealthy- ditto California- but otherwise there’s the standard middle and lower classes that every state has as well. I mean, if we were rich, would we be recording a podcast in our basement? Maybe, maybe not. 

Another Connecticut stereotype that actually does hold water is that it’s one of the most haunted states in the country- now, Sean will probably argue with me on that point. 

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But it is! In my opinion anyway. There are two big Connecticut topics we won’t be hitting today- the Warrens, our native ghost hunters; and the witch trials, which occurred decades before the famous Salem fiasco. Those topics deserve episodes all their own. But otherwise, here’s some Constitution State legends and lore.

One of our most famous home-state myths is that of the Melonheads. What are these deliciously-domed creatures, anyway? According to the legend, they’re humanoids with bulbous-shaped heads that live in the woods and attack any unsuspecting passersby. There are variations on this legend native to Michigan and Ohio, but the Connecticut version can take a few different shapes. One version claims that Fairfield County was home to an asylum that burned down in the fall of 1960, wherein all the inmates and staff succumbed to the flames- well, except around 10 to 20 of the patients, who supposedly survived and escaped into the woods. Our melon-noggined friends allegedly descend from these escapees, who are said to have resorted to cannibalism and inbreeding to stay alive, and thus created warped little baby monsters with possible psychoses that roam the forests of the state until they want to pop out and spook some trespassers. Other accounts differ by saying it was a campground or prison or other creepy place that burned down and had a breakout. Yet another version of the story makes the Melonheads scions of a Colonial family that were banished to the woods after accusations of witchcraft...shit, sounds like The Witch. 

Two things stand true throughout the legends: these humanoids developed this appearance because of inbreeding, and these humanoids are also cannibals ready to prey on anyone who crosses their path. Where is that path? Accounts vary. It’s nicknamed “Dracula Drive” (not a real name of any Connecticut street, by the way) and could be located in Trumbull, Milford, around Lake Mohegan in Fairfield, Roosevelt Forest in Stratford, and so on. Some streets in these towns are really referred to as Dracula Drive by the locals because of this legend, which shows a unique way that myth has interacted with reality over the years.

Where did it originate? Hard to tell. Could it have stemmed from someone in the days of yore seeing a person with a disfigurement and creating a cruel legend to try and explain the misunderstood? Possibly, it’s happened before. I don’t believe any actual asylums in Connecticut burned down while operational, and certainly not in the specific year of 1960. However, there are now-defunct nearby psychiatric facilities and prisons that could account for the association with the landmarks, including Fairfield Hills State Mental Hospital in Newtown, which I’ll discuss later. Fairfield Hills is within a half hour or so of most of the mentioned “Melonhead Bases”, so it could certainly be the equivalent of that classic urban legend- where an insane escaped prisoner preys on unknowing innocents- with a cryptidish twist. 

Stories about quote “deformed country people” are a common legend. For a truly grotesque presentation of this, check out the formerly banned episode of the X Files called “Home”. You can also find variations on this trope in The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I think in this case it’s a combination of fear of the unknown and fear of the ill. Especially back in the day, people didn’t understand that you couldn’t “catch” mental illness. Those in institutions were unfortunately pariahs, and not well taken care of. It would be easy for someone in these circumstances to see someone different and make up some twisted mythology about them. Sadly, that’s how a lot of urban legends came about in the first place. 

I will add a really interesting theory that I saw on the fabulous website DamnedCT.com. Author Ray Bendici posits that the term “Melon Heads” could be a bastardization of the name “Melungeon”, which was a term traditionally applied to numerous “tri racial isolate” groups of the Southeastern US and Appalachia. Generally known as descendents of free people of color (though their ancestry and identity has been a highly controversial subject), this group tended to be outcast for their racial backgrounds and ended up keeping to themselves, for obvious reasons. It’s possible there was a group of quote “Melungeon” peoples living quietly and independently in the backwoods of Connecticut with facial characteristics that inspired racism and cruelty. As we fear what we do not understand, they may have become the “Melon Heads” of legend, with urban legends invented to fill out their backstories. 

Weirdly, there are several similar legends to this one in Connecticut alone, despite the state not exactly being known for being populated by country folk. One is about the Danbury Frog People, which have been mentioned in the book Weird New England and even in an issue of the Fairfield County Weekly back in 1998. The book Weird U.S. quotes the latter article, saying: “It is said this mysterious family lives together on a decrepit compound not far from Bethel’s center [...] Even venturing into town from time to time, we hear, for the occasional shopping trip.” These humanoids were described as having oversized lemon-shaped heads with eyeballs on the sides- almost like a frog- thin, crusty lips, wide mouths, and sunken noses with slit nostrils. Their hair is patchy and their bodies are thin and gangly. It’s said they are hermits who don’t take too kindly to outsiders on their property...but if you were mocked like that, would you blame them? 

The Faceless People of Monroe have a similar vibe. They’re a family of so-called mutants that live in a farmhouse in, you guessed it, Monroe Connecticut. It’s said they live with an old caretaker, who works in the yard and often chases away cars. Though all the windows are boarded up, the light of a kerosene lamp can occasionally be seen through the caretaker’s window. The family themselves are described as having pale skin, colorless lips, bumps for noses, holes for ears, and stretched membranes where their eyes should be. Are they aliens, or products of some horrible experiment? Do they just have a tragic malformation? Or, most likely, do they simply just…not exist? And if so, who came up with this legend? The clue well runs dry fast.

From the first stories of the Men in Black to the reported “Most Haunted House in America”, Connecticut for some reason has tons of versions of popular legends. Sean, take it away for the next one.