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Image of Rhoda Derry a patient in Bartonville Asylum
Rhoda Derry was born in Adams County. She was the daughter of a wealthy farmer and she was a strikingly handsome girl. While still in her teens, she was wooed by the son of a neighboring farmer. The young man’s family were apposed to the match. In order to prevent the young couple from marrying, the young man’s mother visited the girl and threatened to bewitch the girl if she didn’t release him from the engagement. The girl was so terrified by the mother’s threat that she started to display all the signs of a person possesed by an evil spirit.
One night shortly after the threat, Rhoda came home, jumped on the bed and stood on her head spinning around like a top and declared that the “Old Scratch” was after her. For a short time she was cared for by her relatives but was eventually sent to the Adams County Poor House. She remained there for 40 years.
The inhumane treatment of the poor girl at the Adams County Poor House is unparalleled. For many years she lived in a basket lined with straw and cared for by other feeble minded patients. During this time her legs drew up until her knee nearly touched her chin. Her muscles became so atrophied it was impossible for her to move her legs or her hips.
After years passed the basket was replaced with wooden box with holes for wastes to pass through in to a pan beneath the box. Mice and other vermin crawled into the box, made nests and raise their families next to the poor woman.
With her long fingernails she would scratch at her eyes until she went blind. With her fists she would beat her face until her front teeth were knocked out. She had also lost her ability to speak. When placed on the floor she would hop along like a toad. In 1904 she was taken from these surrounding and placed in the Bartonville Asylum. She was taken to the hospital for woman where she was bathed regularly and slept between clean white sheets.
A very interesting historic case, but sadly not all that extreme for the time. Worse than most, of course, but not nearly as much worse as you’d think. Why do you think the Utica cage existed?
Jean-Martin Charcot, Hystero-Epilepsie, XXXVI, aus dem Band: Iconographie Photographique de la Salpétriêre, Dritter Band, Paris, 1879-1880. (via archivelossofcontrol)
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From the 1885 work “Études Cliniques sur la Grande Hystérie ou Hystéro-Épilepsie” by Dr. Paul Richer (via Some Neato 19th Century Nuttiness | The Last Goddess)
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Anon., Portrait of a female psychiatric patient, “Melancholia” 1875-1885 (ca)
Albert Londe, Blépharospasme hystérique, 1889