In the later part of the 19th century, Rhoda Derry spent over 40 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.