The creatures, described as small humanoids with bulbous heads, occasionally emerge from their hiding places to attack people, it is said. The creatures are said to reside mainly near the ruins of Felt Mansion at Laketown Township in Allegan County, but eyewitnesses have also reported seeing the humanoids in Holland and most southern woodland areas of Ottawa County.
If they are real, where did the come from? But if they are only imagined, what started the legend?
According to one story, the beings were originally children with hydrocephalus, or “water head” syndrome, who lived at the Junction Insane Asylum near Felt Mansion. The legend goes that after enduring physical and emotional abuse, they became feral mutants and were released into the forests surrounding when the asylum closed.
Allegan County Historical Society has stated repeatedly that the “Junction” insane asylum never existed. However, the story has been part of the Ottawa County folklore for several decades.
Laketown Township Manager Al Meshkin once told the Holland Sentinel newspaper that he had “heard the tales as a teenager,” noting that his friends referred to the beings as “wobbleheads.”
One version of the legend claims children once lived in Felt Mansion itself — but later retreated to a system of underground caverns. The Dunes Correctional Facility once existed where the Junction Insane Asylum was said to be. The ruins of the old Trustee Building, which once housed up to 80 inmates, is the last remaining structure on that site today.
Some tales say the caverns the Melon Heads found refuge in run from Allegan County to southwest Ottawa County, perhaps beneath Robinson Township.
Another legend surrounding the origin of the creatures points to a man identified only as Dr. Crowe, who studied hydrocephalus after World War II. Apparently, Crowe created mutants with the idea of developing other species of humans using radiation.
A paranormal novice relayed that Crowe’s plan was to “breed monstrous creatures that hardly resembled human beings at all.” He added that his experiments came to an end when the creatures “rebelled and attacked him, ripping him apart and eating him.”
If you tend to believe the Melon Heads are of folklore only, then the legend goes back to the days of Saint Augustine Seminary.
Felt mansion and its property became the St. Augustine Seminary for boys in 1949. The carriage house was used for classrooms, the mansion for housing, behind which they built a school.
One of many who attended Saint Augustine Seminary, now an investment manager from Grand Rapids, relayed how the term “Melon Heads” originated. Some others who attended the seminary tell a similar story.
“Rumors start because of the unknown. The 'Melon Heads' were actually seminarians at Saint Augustine Seminary in the Felt Mansion,” the former student explained. “The local kids called us that because it was a private school and we were brainy.”
Apparently, public school children in the area thought students at St. Augustine to be arrogant and privileged and would mockingly call them “big-headed” or “melon heads.” There was also some community resentment toward the seminary due to conflicting religious beliefs.
“The (Catholic) priests bought the property in 1949 for a seminary (from the Felt family),” the former student said. “You could imagine how the western Michigan Christian Reformed felt about that.”
Augustine Seminary added a few buildings to the property in the 1960s, but declining enrollment in the 1970s forced it to sell the land and buildings. The State of Michigan began using the property for a State Police post and tore down the boy’s school behind the mansion and constructed the Dunes Correctional Facility.
Today Felt Mansion is now on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites.
Some still claim the Melon Heads are out there. But for doubters, the legend here can now begin to make some sense.