Rhoda Derry. My last name is not Derry, but by marriage I am distantly related to the Derry’s of Adams County, Illinois.
My paternal grandfather’s sister, Betty, married Del Derry, and she’s one of my best friends on Facebook. In her mid-80’s, Betty not only has a Facebook page, but she also has a blog, and she travels as often as she can between her current home in Arcadia, CA to her hometown of Atlantic, IA (about both of which she has marvelous adventures and stories she writes about on her blog). She’s cute as a button with a terrific sense of fae humor, and as she says on her Facebook info page, “I now find myself the only sibling left of 13 kids…am open for adoption!” I get first dibs.
Her latest adventure is the part documentary/part feature film, “The Mysterious Rhoda Derry.”
The life of Rhoda Derry is at once fascinating and horribly tragic, heroic and distressing, real and unbelievable: a love story tangled up with a witch’s curse. All the ingredients for a fairytale — the real kind that do not end, “And they all lived happily ever after.”
Aunt Betty has written three posts as of today that contain bits of the odd, outrageous, miraculous and bittersweet history of Rhoda and her family from a book entitled “A Letter from Aunt Ethel” written by “Doc” Derry (a cousin Aunt Betty inherited through her marriage to his distant cousin, Del) that contains The Derry Family Genealogy Report which Joan Brown Derry (another cousin) helped to compile, as well as Aunt Betty’s not inconsiderable newswoman reporting abilities.
- A Woman to Love: Rhoda and her Story
- Prelude to the Prequel: The Witch in Rhoda’s Family Tree
- Working Title: THOSE BOYS…HONESTLY!: The Men Behind the Film
The five-minute video below is “a demo version of what will be a full length documentary film. This film chronicles the true story of Rhoda Derry, a severely mentally ill woman who spent 43 years of her life trapped in a box at the Adams County Alms House. Finally, in 1904, she was discovered and freed by the iconic Dr. George Zeller of the Illinois Asylum for the Incurable Insane. Her case is one of the most important cases in U.S. history and helped change the face of mental health forever. Starring: D.Doc Derry, April Cowgur, John Johnson, Patrick Thornton, Dr. Joseph Mehr, and Gary Lisman. Music By Mike Englebrecht.”
This is not Reality’s End Films first film; it will be their second when it is completed. Here is the first, “Bookbinder” (and which led them to Rhoda’s story), where “the Central Illinois Ghost legend of A. Manual Bookbinder is finally brought to life through the eyes of Dr. Zeller. Based on a true story[, t]his is the film that started it all for [them]. Starring John Johnson, Steve Kurtz, and members of womcproductions.”
What a grand adventure, Aunt Betty!