Residence: St. Joseph, Michigan
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/13/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish
“There’s this really interesting thing about St. Joseph, MI, this thing about Bridgeman, the neighboring city. So, there’s this, uh, story about the “melonheads.” There’s this Cook Nuclear Plant between the cities, which is one of the only ones in the area. Very high restricted, obviously because there’s nuclear shit in there. Very, very high security. There’s this rumor, this old story, that way back in the 50s or something there was an acid leak from the plant and this acid leak affected a bunch of people from Bridgeman, where it demented their heads. The people became outcasts, aka the “melonheads,” they went to live amongst the woods.
So, what people do is that they go on hunts for the melonheads. It’s this fun thing that teenagers do, and I’ve never been, but I’ve been asked to go. They go to the depths of the Cook plant. You’re supposed to turn off your car with your lights on. You’re supposed to howl in the night. Apparently, the melonheads will come to your car and kill you. People swear they’ve seen the melonheads. Usually, people tell this story when they’re attempting to be “scary” or share creepy stories. It was told to me when I was hanging out with my other friends, drinking beer and hanging out outside somewhere. Everyone thought it would be great fun to hunt for them, but I didn’t want to go, so we didn’t.”
The informant would hear of this story when engaging with other teenagers, back when the informant was a teenager. Typically, this story would be shared when teenagers gathered in groups and the informant first heard of it when their friends attempted to get the informant to partake in the “hunt.”
Like most stories that teenagers tell each other, I believe something like this would be used as perhaps a sort of group “initiation,” or something to use to scare each other. It feels like a Michigan-specific Bloody Mary story, something teenagers would do when they are bored or want to see who is the bravest. I engaged in many such games when I was younger, sort of playing “chicken” with these weird stories and legends. I would also make a guess that the idea of the melonheads was created as a way to possibly ward people off from visiting the nuclear plant.