44 Years in Darkness PDF Print E-mail

In the later part of the nineteenth century, Rhoda Derry spent over forty years at the Adams County Poor Farm, curled in a fetal position in a Utica crib. 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, where she spent her remaining days in peace and comfort. Rhoda died in 1906, but her spirit seems to live on ...

The story of Rhoda Derry is one of the great tragedies of mental health care in the state of Illinois, and one of the great success stories of the Peoria State Hospital.


"Central Illinois folklorist and author Sylvia Shults has achieved something quite rare in her gripping new historical narrative, 44 YEARS IN DARKNESS -- a terrifying true story rendered with all the heartbreaking emotion of a novel but also steeped in fascinating historical minutiae.  The tragic figure of Rhoda Derry is destined to take her place beside all the great mythic martyrs from Lizzy Borden to Joan of Arc.  Highly recommended!"  -- Jay Bonansinga, the New York Times bestselling author of THE WALKING DEAD: SEARCH AND DESTROY and SELF STORAGE.

"Masterful ...I've never read anything that magnetic. The research is top notch. I loved it! (The) writing just flows!" -- Jerry Ayres, co-host of The Calling, Minnesota's premiere paranormal radio show

"This story will leave readers torn between rushing to the next page and pausing to savor the author’s distinct descriptions and vivid imagery. As a historian, author Sylvia Shults knows how to set the scene, and as an accomplished author, she executes this tale with shocking accuracy and true-to-life realism. This is a fantastic book."   -- Tamara Thorne & Alistair Cross, authors of MOTHER and THE GHOSTS OF RAVENCREST




44 Years CoverReader's Choice 5 Star Review

Hunting Demons PDF Print E-mail

Hunting Demons: A True Story of the Dark Side of the Supernatural

From author Sylvia Shults comes a terrifying tale of demonic attachment. Linda K., a paranormal investigator, devoted her life to helping those suffering from unwanted spirit activity. She never knew that her desire to help would lead to a run-in with three evil entities.


Here's what people are saying about Hunting Demons:

"A terrifying tapestry of demonic folklore, history, and first-person reportage, HUNTING DEMONS is Sylvia Shults's masterpiece.  Woven with the eye of an anthropologist, the openness of a true believer, and the heart of a storyteller, HUNTING DEMONS should be an indispensable addition to the bookshelves of all aficionados of the paranormal."
-- Jay Bonansinga, the New York Times bestselling author of LUCID and THE WALKING DEAD: INVASION

"Seriously, Sylvia Shults is the best teller of of paranormal tales I've ever read. She brings the stories to full life with her impeccable historical research. She is perfection!" -- Tamara Thorne, author of The Cliffhouse Haunting

"This book is an eye opener to good and evil, right and wrong, living and dead and the others, the minions of evil's dominion. Great read on oppression and the obstacle filled road to where freedom lies. Every spiritual, paranormal or non sensitive individual will get something out of this documented work of truth that will change you for a lifetime. Great job Sylvia in finding the literary truth of the root of the matter and outline of steps to take for a paranormal investigations freedom. We'll be referencing your book to our new and past clients. Excellent read and brutally honest in the subject of demonic oppression and the spirit world around us. Thank you!  Be blessed."

Daniel Beck Mewhinney
(founder of SOCALPRS, the dangers of the paranormal project at, radio host at, public speaker, TV talent and sensitive investigator and spiritual advocate for life. We are never alone...)
Find Hunting Demons at Whitechapel Press --
And listen to the special Lights Out episode featuring Linda K. telling of her experiences:
Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital PDF Print E-mail


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.

Ghosts Of the Illinois River PDF Print E-mail

Buy Ghosts of the Illinois River at

"From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, the Good lord deliver us." There are all kinds of bumps in the night to be found along the Illinois River. The river has seen centuries of history come and go, and has witnessed its share of mystery and dark deeds. Sylvia Shults is your guide on a trip down the longest river in Illinois. Come and meet the GHOSTS OF THE ILLINOIS RIVER.

Buy Ghosts of the Illinois River at


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