Read 44 Years in Darkness: A True Story of Madness, Tragedy, and Shattered Love by Sylvia Shults Online

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In the later part of the nineteenth century, Rhoda Derry spent over forty years in the Adams County Poor Farm, curled in a fetal position in a box bed. She had clawed her own eyes out. She had beat her front teeth in. Her legs had atrophied to the point where she could no longer stand on her own, or even sit in a wheelchair. She had been committed there by her own family wIn the later part of the nineteenth century, Rhoda Derry spent over forty years in the Adams County Poor Farm, curled in a fetal position in a box bed. She had clawed her own eyes out. She had beat her front teeth in. Her legs had atrophied to the point where she could no longer stand on her own, or even sit in a wheelchair. She had been committed there by her own family when they could no longer care for her at home. She spent decades locked away from the world. Her crime? Falling in love. Rhoda suffered a mental breakdown after being “cursed” by the mother of the boy she was engaged to marry. Committed to the almshouse for violent insanity, she was eventually rescued by Dr. George A. Zeller. She was transferred to the Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville, Illinois, where she spent the remainder of her days in peace and comfort. Rhoda died in 1906, but her spirit seems to live on … The story of Rhoda Derry is one of the great tragedies of mental health care in Illinois, and 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 afterlife. She examines the social pressures that led to Rhoda's breakdown and her eventual insanity. And she explores the stories that continue to be told about Rhoda, and her presence on the hilltop....

Title : 44 Years in Darkness: A True Story of Madness, Tragedy, and Shattered Love
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781892523471
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 261 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

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

  • ♥ Sandi ❣
    2019-01-03 17:36

    This short story chronicles the life of Rhoda Derry. It tells of the Illinois area, and the families in the early 1800's, going up through Derrys death in 1906 at 72 years old. There are a lot of facts in this book, including facts pertinent to women, such as their employment and expected decorum in public. For over 40 years of her life Rhoda Derry was confined - locked - in a Utica crib, a coffin size wooden box, with straw covering a cage-like floor, at the Adams County Poor Farm in Illinois. Having had a curse put on her by her boyfriends mother, who wanted to end their relationship, at age 18 Rhoda sank into depression and later a more severe mental illness, never seeing her boyfriend again. When Rhoda is 26 her mother dies and her father, no longer able to care for her and her often raving episodes, puts her in the almshouse. She never sees any of her family again. Thanks to the forward thinking of Dr George Zeller, the Director of the Illinois Hospital of the Incurable, later known as The Peoria State Hospital, who took Rhoda from her captivity, she lived her last two years of life being well cared for, a favorite of the nursing staff, until she died in 1906 from tuberculosis. Rhoda was buried on the grounds of the Peoria State Hospital. The story of Rhoda, per se, was very good and it was obvious that a lot of research had been done. However there was probably more back story than was really needed. Unneeded was a full chapter on the authors own mother, used as a comparison on the difference of mental illness between 1860 and the 1960's. There seemed to be random chapters scattered throughout the book, making for a somewhat unclear time line, but all in all, the story of Rhoda Derry was captivating.

  • Sylvia Shults
    2018-12-27 22:31

    Review Rating: 5 stars! Reviewed By Melissa Tanaka for Readers’ FavoriteSylvia Shults' 44 Years in Darkness: A True Story of Madness, Tragedy, and Shattered Love tells the story of Rhoda Derry, one of the greatest tragedies of mental health care in Illinois. Rhoda was the youngest of the Derry family and was courted by Charles Phenix, the son of a prosperous farming family, for about two years. While Charles is set on marrying Rhoda, his mother interferes, forcing them to break up and placing a curse on Rhoda in the process. Although the curse itself was falsified, the effects it had on Rhoda were anything but.The novel alternates between the story of Rhoda Derry — her life, how she was driven to madness, her ensuing mistreatment, and ultimately how the people at the Peoria State Hospital were able to help her — and other relevant information about the time period, particularly in regards to how women were being affected by ideas such as spiritualism and the Industrial Revolution, as well as the crusade for mental health rights. Although these pages are dense with history of the era and the state of asylums and almshouses, Shults makes it interesting by adding an element of humanity that helps readers relate. As a lover of history and the uncanny, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and devoured it in one sitting. I had never heard of Rhoda Derry and now I don't think I will ever forget a story of such survival. The story of Rhoda Derry is equal parts heartbreaking and captivating, grabbing your attention from the first page and sending you hurtling through history to discover just how the life of an average woman was ultimately destroyed by a few words and history’s irresponsible ignorance of mental health.

  • Megan
    2019-01-14 19:39

    I received an ARC in a Goodreads giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.I have to say up front that I was skeptical when I learned that the author of this book is a paranormal investigator. I believe that dabbling in the paranormal is a dangerous and ill-advised pursuit, and I don't appreciate the way that old asylums have been turned into haunted houses and ghost-hunting playgrounds. However, I wanted to read this book because of my vested interest in mental illness and how far we've come over the years in understanding and treating it. I appreciated that the author devoted very little of her writing to stories of Rhoda Derry speaking from the grave and tugging on people's pantlegs.I was intrigued to learn that Rhoda was raised less than an hour away from the town where I live. I have passed through Lima many times on my way to Quincy. My heart breaks for this poor woman, and I wish Dr. George Zeller were alive today so I could thank him for treating Rhoda and other mentally-ill people with compassion and dignity.In that vein, I found this book to be very eye-opening and informative. Some of the information was a bit repetitive, however.Also, as much as I appreciated Ms. Shults' candid tribute to her mother's troubled life, it didn't seem to fit very well into this book. I think it really deserves its own book, rather than being sandwiched into the story of another woman with mental illness. Regardless of how the author tried to draw parallels between the lives of Rhoda and Dorothy, it just didn't work for me.All in all, "44 Years in Darkness" appears to be well researched and thorough, and was an interesting read.

  • Anne Harris
    2019-01-17 14:30

    wow. I started this book while up all night and finished it. It was wonderful. It was tragic. The story of a woman in an asylum for over four decades is made more tragic when you realize she is there because she believed in a curse made by the mother of the man she loved. It is also the story of the doctor who believed in gentler forms of curing forms of mental illness. Interwoven is the genealogical history of the woman, and how she became so affected by another womans' words.My copy was given me by Goodreads, but my opinions are my own. Buy it!! Borrow it!! But read it!!!

  • Katie
    2019-01-16 15:31

    I have heard the author speak on Rhoda before, and her passion was obvious. I was glad to see that still come plainly through in this book. Knowing the topic means a lot to the author and having it come through takes any good, interesting book and elevates it further. I also enjoyed getting more detail and background than I'd had before.

  • Dee
    2018-12-30 14:40

    Sucks you right into the pit of darkness and despair....this lady went through some drama and soul searching.

  • Susan
    2019-01-19 18:22

    a good informed but sad look at mental health and women ifound this to be two story. one of rhoda and the other the writers mother good read thanks to goodreads for the free book

  • Kathryn Dorbeck
    2018-12-21 20:47

    This was a very interesting story with a great mixture of fact and creativity (she includes imagined scenes that bring the characters to life and give the story more depth). I like the way she also weaves the story into modern times toward the end of the book. After reading this book, it also gives me a greater appreciation for the hospital in Bartonville and what Dr Zeller did for his patients.