Rhoda Derry was born in Madison County (Iowa) in 1834. At the age of 16 she fell in love with a boy named Charles Phenix, but this relationship did not like his mother, who kicked her out. This caused the girl a very strong disappointment that touched her so much that she started to behave strangely. She started not washing, walking around in dirty clothes and swearing against the people in the village.
The locals began to call her a “witch” , she was accused of being sent by the devil, as her grandmother also referred to as a “witch” and accused of witchcraft. Because of all this uproar, the girl began to take it out on her grandmother, who at one point decided to leave the village, leaving a curse on her granddaughter.
Immediately after this episode the girl begins to show signs of imbalance and said she heard voices and spoke with an entity that she called Old Scratch and that she saw as the devil. She was subsequently admitted to Jacksonville Mental Hospital and later to Adams County Home for Disadvantages.
Left to herself, the situation got worse, she said she saw a creature so monstrous that she needed to gouge out her eyes and this self-harm led her to go blind. The staff of the facility decided to do a truly horrible thing, that is to lock her in a wooden cage for about 40 years.
This led her to have muscle atrophy and bone fragility which eventually led to her death. She was caged from 1860 to 1904, once released she did not walk until her death.
In 1892 the journalist of the Quincy Daily Journal opened an investigation into the conditions in which the patients of the Adams County Almshouse were forced to live and in February of the same year Rhoda’s story became public. In 1904 the girl was released and transferred to the care of Dr. George A. Zeller, a famous psychiatrist.
After 40 years, the girl has a bed to sleep on, two meals a day and the possibility of washing daily. Unfortunately her sight and walking will no longer be possible for her, but after a period of rehabilitation, she allowed her to move using her arms.
Rhoda Derry died on October 9, 1906, alone and simply guilty of falling in love and not being listened to. She died in pitiful conditions due to the ignorance of others, in a period in which she was easily accused of witchcraft without any foundation whatsoever. Rhoda is buried on the school campus under the matriculation number 217.