44 Years in Darkness: A True Story of Madness, Tragedy and Shattered Love - Softcover

By Sylvia Shults

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44 Years in Darkness: A True Story of Madness, Tragedy and Shattered Love - Softcover
Product Details
Lost in the shadows of Illinois asylums in the nineteenth century is the strange story of Rhoda Derry. Left at the Adams County Poor Farm when her family could no longer care for her, she spent the next 40 years confined in a wooden box. Abandoned, ignored, and traumatized, she had clawed out her own eyes, pulled her own teeth, and her legs were atrophied to the point that she could not stand on her own, or even sit in a wheelchair. She spent four decades locked away from the world. Her crime? Falling in love.

Rhoda suffered a mental breakdown after being "cursed" by the mother of a boy to whom she was engaged to marry. Committed to the poor farm because of her violent insanity, she was eventually rescued by pioneering alienist Dr. George A. Zeller. She was taken to the Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville, Illinois, where she spent the remainder of her days in comfort. Rhoda died in 1906, but her spirit lives on at the former asylum where she found peace.

The chilling story of Rhoda Derry is one of the great tragedies of mental health care in Illinois, but one of the great success stories of the Peoria State Hospital. Sylvia Shults, author of Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, returns to the hilltop to tell the story of Rhoda's life -- and her mysterious afterlife. With exhaustive historical research and analysis, as well as laying bare secrets of her own, the author provides twists, turns, and surprises in this compelling tale of history, horror, and a lingering spirit of the old hospital.

Editorial Review

This story will leave readers torn between rushing to the next page and pausing to savor the author's distinct descriptions and vivid imagery. As a historian, author Sylvia Shults knows how to set the scene, and as an accomplished author, she executes this tale with shocking accuracy and true-to-life realism. This is a fantastic book. Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross 44 Years in Darkness is a look back at Rhoda Derry's life, one of the patients at the Peoria State Hospital in Illinois. This book is intended to give the reader a look into the life of one ordinary woman, and how society affected that one life. The author does a brilliant job in detailing the past history of the facility, faculty and history of the times. Shults does a caring and detailed historical job in unearthing the true story of one woman's struggle in a day and age where mental illness was misunderstood and treated. A must read for those interested in history, mental illness and the paranormal as the story continues from beyond the grave."" Alexandra Holzer Masterful ...I've never read anything that magnetic. The research is top notch. I loved it! (The) writing just flows! Jerry Ayres, co-host of The Calling Central Illinois folklorist and author Sylvia Shults has achieved something quite rare in her gripping new historical narrative, 44 YEARS IN DARKNESS -- a terrifying true story rendered with all the heartbreaking emotion of a novel but also steeped in fascinating historical minutiae. The tragic figure of Rhoda Derry is destined to take her place beside all the great mythic martyrs from Lizzy Borden to Joan of Arc. Highly recommended! Jay Bonansinga "What a wonderful book! A riveting account of a young woman's descent in to heart-breaking madness that confined her to almshouse hell. Does Rhoda Derry's ghost still drift around her former grounds? Sylvia Shults provides exhaustive historical research and analysis woven into deft storytelling, and lays bare some of her own family secrets as well. There are twists, turns, and surprises in this story from beginning to end. Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Publisher: Whitechapel Productions (September 27, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1892523477
ISBN-13: 978-1892523471
Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.2 inches