Tales from the Asylum
By Sylvia Shults
Now available in one volume — 44 YEARS in DARKNESS and FRACTURED SPIRITS
44 YEARS IN DARKNESS
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 beaten 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 …
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.
During the first half of the twentieth century, the Peoria State Hospital was the premiere mental health facility of its day. Dr. George Zeller instituted the eight-hour workday for his staff, removed patient restraints, and made the asylum into a model for the care of the mentally ill. Today, there are only a few buildings of the hospital left. Some of them are still in use, others are inhabited only by ghosts. Our guide to these ghosts — and the history they represent — is Sylvia Shults. In Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, she brings a passion for paranormal investigation to her adventures at this haunted hotspot. The spirits come to life once more as Shults explores their former home. Other voices help her tell the story: this is a collection of people’s experiences at the Peoria State Hospital. Ghost hunting groups, sensitives, former nurses, and ordinary people share their stories with us, their voices resonating to create a panoramic view to rival the vista of the Illinois River. To visit the remaining buildings of the Peoria State Hospital today is to visit a small piece of history. A ghost story over a hundred years in the making, Fractured Spirits is narrative nonfiction at its finest.