Episode 83: Heyoon

Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Alex Goldman was a misfit. Bored and disaffected and angry, he longed for a place to escape to. And then he found Heyoon.

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(Illustration by Emile Holmewood.)

The only way to find out about Heyoon for someone to take you there. It was like there was this secret club of kids who knew about it. Alex got initiated when he was fifteen.

To find Heyoon, you’d drive out into the middle of nowhere, deep in the country, and park alongside a dirt road. A fence ran along the property line, with signs explicitly telling passers by to keep out.
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(Illustration by Emile Holmewood.)

Once over the fence, a path behind a white farmhouse led to a thin line of trees, and then to a huge field. And there was something else there in the field. Something man-made. Something really big.

The structure made of mostly of wood, with a canopy of teflon and nylon stretched over a metal frame. From the base, there were stairs up to a platform about 10 feet off the ground, suspended over a boulder about the size of a Volkswagon Bug. At the top of the stairs there are these two pieces of glass in the floor. Etched into one of the pieces of glass was an inscription in an ornate, Gaelic font: THE HEYOON PAVILION.

Alex and his friends would sneak to Heyoon at least once a month through their teenage years. They’d drink, they’d smoke pot, they’d talk about the meaning of life.

Heyoon_trace4-021_zpsfa0ad017

(Illustration by Emile Holmewood.)

There were a number of myths about why Heyoon was there. Maybe it commemorated the owner’s dead daughter. Or maybe it was built along ley lines. Or that it was created for a wedding ceremony. Or that it was designed for paganistic rituals or for stargazing.

Part of its power was that in being a secret, it created a community of people who knew of, and snuck into, Heyoon.

Even after Alex Goldman moved away, he was fixated on trying to find out why it was there. So in 2009, he Alex got in touch with the owners of Heyoon, Rita and Peter Heydon.

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(Alex’s initial correspondence with Peter Heydon. Though Peter mentions NPR in the letter, Alex did not work for WNYC at the time—he was “just a guy in New York who fixed computers.” Parts of this letter have been blacked out to preserve the Heydons’ and Kinnebrews’ privacy).

After getting the letter back, Alex realized that he and his friends had always misread the inscription on the structure; it actually says THE HEYDON PAVILION.

The pavilion was designed by Joseph Kinnebrew, an artist and friend of Peter Heydon. The two came up with the idea to build it when, one night, they got drunk and ran around Heydon’s property and lit newspapers on fire. So in a way, Heyoon was born from the same drunken antics that Alex and his friends would get into at the same spot, decades later.

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(Illustration by Emile Holmewood.)

On The Media‘s Alex Goldman tracked down Peter Heydon and Joseph Kinnebrew to uncover the story of Heyoon. And our producer Sam Greenspan conscripted some radio players (Cameron Lock, Mooj Zadie, Pat Mesiti-Miller and Ashleyanne Krigbaum) to re-enact what a trip to Heyoon might sound like— which is to say, we did NOT break into Heyoon. Please don’t ask us how to find it. Alex didn’t tell us, either.
We weren’t allowed to distribute the only photos of Heyoon we could find, so we had the fantastic Emile Holmewood create the above illustrations. Find more of his work at The Caravan.
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29 thoughts on “Heyoon

  1. Thanks for another fantastic episode. I’m sure we all grew up with a few wonderful spots that we treated as our own little secret.

    “To share Heyoon with the world is to ruin Heyoon” – Well, took me all of 5 seconds to find that someone had forever immortalized it on Google Earth. Can you really hope to keep such a place under-wraps in an age where every youth has a smart phone with GPS? I felt the point being stressed in the episode was more about anonymity (a futile task) when it is really a subject of ownership and private property. Alex was too blasé about the issue and was far too keen to shrug off Mr. Heydon’s insistence that trespassers were completely unwelcome.

    My advice to Mr. Heydon – Want to keep Heyoon rightfully yours? Build a better fence.

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  4. You and Alex shouldn’t have told the world about this place, no matter how Alex closes the story. You made it about you, not about Heyoon.

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  6. I live in the Ann Arbor area and was able to find it on Google Earth. Fear not, I will not let the secret out or go there myself. BTW, the art theater mentioned by Alex is most likely closing in favor of office space….sad.

    Keep up the great work…..

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  8. I respect the work of the Heydons and of Kinnrbrew. I am glad that this place exists, but I will not try to visit it. There is an entire secret/private sculpture park in New Zealand, if you care to find it.

  9. Hello, my name is Espacia. I spend a lot of my time listening to podcasts and short stories. When I came across this story about Heyoon, I was incredibly inspired. I have always wanted to create something amazing and would bring joy to people. One day I hope to create something like this.I’m not entirely sure if Heyoon is still a no trespassing area, and I wouldn’t want to disrespect the Heydon family by trying to visit, if I am truly not wanted there. But I do believe seeing this “spaceship” would inspire me and allow myself to believe that I can create something amazing as well. Something that would change the world and create stories for people to share and pass on. The creator of Heyoon, Joseph Kinnebrew, says “possessing it has nothing to do with it” Heyoon is now out in the world. I would love to hear back from someone about this. Seeing this work of art would change my life.

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  12. NO. GOD. DAMN. WAY. I went out there as a little sir, although I don’t recall it being called Hayoon. Got there in just the same way- friend of mine showed me it in the middle of the night. Now, flipping through old episodes, you guys answer this question from so long ago…….just wow. Small world.

    • Thanks for the link! I spent a good five minutes googling around before I thought to check the comments. Trying to obscure the pavilion, especially after spending half an hour listening to it being described, is almost more enticement to see it than if a picture were just posted up.

      I guarantee most people wouldn’t give it a second thought if it weren’t so deliberately obfuscated.

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  14. i also was told a by a friend of a friend about this mysterious pavillion. growing up in nearby dexter nobody believed him until we scaled that very same barbed wire fence and tramped through that same itchy field only to see this banana yellow spaceship. it was awesome. we used to camp out there from time to time too.

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  16. I went looking for it on a trip to Ann Arbor recently. I was *really* close but could not find a place to see it without trespassing. And I did not want to tussle with Mr. Heydon! :)

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