Every so often, I get to do an interview with a writer who I hugely admire and I get totes excited. Today is one of those days. Hunter freaking SHEA!!! I have loved urban legends and crypo conspiracies my entire life, so chatting with him about Big Foot and Melon Heads was awesome!
Welcome, the amazing Hunter …
Q1 Your latest book for Flame Tree Press features Melon Heads. When did you first discover this legend/conspiracy?
When I was a kid growing up in Westchester, NY, we used to hear all kinds of tales about the Melon Heads who lived in the woods and in big abandoned buildings. I look back now and realize what we were chattering about was a mix of urban legends, but in our young minds, the Melon Heads were absolutely real. They were like a tribe of deformed, crazy, territorial people who would attack anyone who came near their so-called settlements. Some people said they were albino dwarves wielding machetes that would run after you, slashing the air behind you until you skedaddled out of their home. We “knew” where they lived and were too terrified to sneak a visit. One of the places was Buckout Road, an area of Westchester that is host to about two dozen urban legends, including burning witches and white lady ghosts. People still talk about that place in hushed voices and a movie was recently made about it. In Yonkers, there was a crumbling old building that we were told by the bigger kids was the kind of convent for the Sisters of St. Francis. The Melon Heads had moved right in when the sisters moved out and would chop off anyone’s head who dared venture near it. I had to wait until I was about 17 before my friends and I dared go to the place at night. We were ready for anything. What we found was an abandoned building filled with spray paint, beer cans, broken bottles and used condoms. Not a Melon Head in sight, though we kept looking over our backs.
Q2 Which crypto is your personal favourite?
Definitely Bigfoot. There’s just something about the big hairy fella that gets me. There are Bigfoot legends all across the world. It makes me wonder if some of them are true. Are our cousins out there, living in the wilds? It is another species of great ape? An inter-dimension visitor? A pet aboard a UFO that’s let out to stretch its legs from time to time? There are so many theories assigned to Bigfoot’s existence, you could write volumes. I used to think there were too many legends and sightings for Bigfoot not to be a real creature hiding in our deep, dense woods. With so many people looking for them, I think if they were actually living here, we would have found more definitive proof. What I’ve come to think is that they are glimpsed through time slips. Some people at the right place and the right time are seeing snippets of creatures from our past. Time isn’t played out on a straight line as we believe, and quantum physics goes a long way to shed some light on what we call the paranormal. And if it’s not a slip in time, maybe it’s a rip in the fabric of the multiverse, where we’re seeing what constitutes life on another Earth. All fascinating stuff. It’s the kind of thinking that keeps you young and curious. 🙂
Q3 Have you ever witnessed something unexplained yourself?
I’ve been lucky enough to see a UFO and a ghost. Back in the late eighties, I was in a car with my mother and girlfriend (who is now my wife) waiting for my sister to get out of work at around 9:00 at night. The New York State Thruway was right behind us while we waited at the top of a parking garage. Suddenly, I see cars pulling over on the highway and people getting up to look into the sky. Naturally, I get out and wow, on a clear night, an object blacker than night is traversing the sky. On the ends are blinking lights. It flew low and didn’t make a sound. It was massive. Not the length of a football field, but the size of an entire stadium. It slowly made its way down near the Hudson River and then lit up and went straight into the sky and disappeared. The police were flooded with calls. Thousands witnessed it and I’m glad I was one of them. As for the ghost, I’ve written an entire book about the young boy who lived in our apartment (it’s called The Waiting and is currently out of print). At first, we could see him as a flesh and blood boy. Over the years, we learned he was tied to my wife. She’d been critically ill, and he would spend time with her on her sick bed. I would see him throughout the house. Eventually she got better and he faded away. But when illness popped up again, he would return. We moved from that place last year after being there for 26 years and the owner in passing mentioned the friend of her son who died near the house. He impaled himself on a pole. When she described him, my wife and I looked at each other with our eyes popping out of our heads. That was him all along!
Q4 Why do you think crypto’s are so popular?
I think it’s fun to believe they are real and life will always need mystery. What’s more exciting than sea creatures and hairy hominids? They serve a practical purpose as well. In a place like the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, tales of the Jersey Devil keep kids from venturing too far. I’ve been to the Pine Barrens. You can get lost or seriously hurt out there. Then you get something way off the strange-o-meter like the Mothman and you just think, what the hell went on there? Was there a flying beast with red eyes that was tied to Men in Black, UFOs, ghosts and everything under the paranormal sun? Did the Mothman come to warn folks of the collapse of the Silver Bridge (a capper to the year long story that I feel is a stretch)? Or was it some kind of mass delusion, which is almost as intriguing. These tales bring us out of ourselves and make us contemplate a world beyond our cell phones, big box stores and mundane daily concerns.
Q5 Do you watch shows like Hellier and if so, do you believe?
I saw the first season. I thought production-wise, it was very well done. Just like there are some good ghost shows and many, many bad. Look, I believe that people believe there are strange things out there. That belief is enough to make it a thing. Can we all wish something into existence without our conscious mind being aware of it? Or are these all part of the time slip/inter-dimension rip? Whenever you dive into these subjects, you end up with more questions than answers. Why? Because no one has definitive proof. What we have is belief in our perceptions and sometimes the perceptions of others. I’m coming to the point where I think it’s all related – UFOs, cryptids, and ghosts. They are wisps of something beyond us, but maybe also constantly around us. Anyone that explores these phenomena with an open mind and not leaning one way or the other is bound to be in for some big surprises.
Q6 What is next for you?
Thanks to the quarantine, I was able to write the first draft of my next book for Flame Tree Press in record time. It’s called Faithless and centers around an Episcopal priest who was on the phone with his wife and listened to her and their young children get slaughtered. Things for the poor man spiral downhill from there. I don’t want to give too much away at this point, but it will be out next year. I’m also working on some non-horror proposals and we’ll see how that goes. After writing three or four books a year for eight years, I’m taking time to really dig into some new ideas.
Until then, everyone can come along for the ride and follow my website, newsletter, Patreon or podcasts – Monster Men and Final Guys. I try to be as interactive and available as humanly possible with my readers and the whole horror community.
Thank you so much Hunter. Suffice to say, I absolutely loved MISFITS and highly recommend pre-ordering it for the 8 Sept 2020 release.
Make sure you go follow him on everything and check out the great podcasts/youtube stuff. You won’t be sorry. And, as always, sleep well …