Every haunted house in the state is inhabited by witches, ghosts, homicidal maniacs, weird baby dolls and other ghouls. But how many of them have Melon Heads?
Those bizarre creatures can be found at Legends of Fear in Shelton. Every October for the last 20 years, a Christmas tree farm in this Bridgeport-New Haven suburb has transformed into a haunted hayride and haunted trail. Legends of Fear is open this season Sept. 30 through Oct. 29.
Now about those Melon Heads. Local legend says that during the Colonial era, a family from Shelton — or maybe Trumbull — was accused of witchcraft. The family either was banished or left town voluntarily and took up residence in the woods. Generations of inbreeding caused them to develop abnormally shaped heads, which terrified people. People still talk about the spooky family in the woods, who are said to attack anyone who strays into their turf.
That's one version of the story. The other version says that the Melon Heads are descended from people who escaped a fire at an asylum for the criminally insane in 1960. Their odd-shaped heads are the result of decades of inbreeding and cannibalism: You stray into their territory and you become their lunch.
Saw Mill City Road, where the Fair View Tree Farm sits, is prime Melon Head stomping grounds. So rumor has it.
"Last year, we told [visitors] the story of the Melon Heads at the start of the trail and we told them we were unsure which of the legends were true," says Trish Wells, who runs Legends of Fear with her husband, Brad. "This year we are not planning on the storyteller retelling the legend of the Melon Heads."
So — if they're able to think while they're screaming — visitors can decide for themselves where those scary creatures are from.
This year is the 20th anniversary of Legends of Fear. It started out as a way for Fair View farm to make money off-season and has grown to become a local institution.
"Our family has grown so much now. We have well over 150 paid actors on the hayride and the trail," Wells says.
"In the beginning my girlfriends and I were witches under a great white oak tree as one of our acts. We had a giant pig roasting pot we used for our cauldron, and as the tractor drove past we cast our spells and threw green spaghetti on our captive audience.
"Yes the riders screamed and cheered and loved our simple act. Today we would never allow this to occur, but times have changed," she says
"People today have been exposed to more things. But there are always chainsaws and clowns. It seems a lot of people are afraid of clowns."
The 1-1/2-mile hayride at Legends of Fear is for ages 7 and older. "There are a variety of scenes, a slaughter house where demented men are butchering their victims, a hillbilly village, a large church and a cluster of demonic nuns, witches, scarecrows," Wells says.
The walk along the half-mile Melon Head Revenge Trail is for ages 12 and older. That's where the woodsy cannibals hang out with other demons.
"There's a creepy little girl in the dollhouse, a clown house, a church scene, witches, a mortuary inhabited by a crazed mortician, scarecrows, animals and a crazy trapper," she says. "The mortuary is a full haunted-house experience. That's a new attraction for us."
Each attraction takes about a half-hour.
Legends of Fear is a fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and for Colin's Crew, a Wallingford-based charity that helps families affected by childhood cancer.
LEGENDS OF FEAR is at 2 Saw Mill City Road in Shelton. The haunted trail and hayride opens Sept. 30. After that, the hayride will be open every Friday and Saturday night until Halloween, and the trail will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights until Halloween. The attraction is not open on Halloween. Heavy rains could extend the trail tours until the first weekend in November. Legends of fear opens at 7 p.m., and the last ticket will be sold at 10 p.m. Timed tickets can be purchased online. Admission for the trail is $25 and hayride is $24. A combination ticket is $42. Online specials are available. Tickets and details: legendsoffear.com and 203-944-9090.