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October-ganza 10: The Ladd School

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October 10, 2014 by Bret Kramer (aka WinstonP)

‘Students’ at the Ladd School.

Sometimes reality is far more bleak than any horror story.  Friday the 13th (part nth) might give you a fright but reading a book of letters from soldiers who died at Verdun (for example) can actually make you feel ill.  I’m a generally poor viewer of horror films – I don’t have much of a flight response and when people follow horror movie logic I want to shake them.  If the house says “get out” you get out.  If a serial killer is on the loose you don’t split up into small groups and search the abandoned slaughterhouse, etc etc.  I do, however, enjoy reading history, including some of the darker events of our past…

It was a real-world horror that inspired me to create the Gladding School for issue #1 of the Arkham Gazette.  Today’s entry (sorry for the lateness of the posting, I was tending to an ailing family member) is all about the source of my inspiration for that article – Rhode Island’s Ladd School aka the Rhode Island School for the Feeble Minded aka the Exeter School.

Here are a few quotes that reveal some of the horrors of the Ladd School:

[T]he institutions’ forefather, Dr. Walter Fernald, was a famous eugenicist whose doctrine was to remove the feeble-minded from society in an effort to cleanse the nation’s population of inferior and “defective” genes. This ideology would come to define the purpose of the school.

Because compulsory sterilization was illegal in Rhode Island, most women sentenced [under moral charges] were confined to Exeter until menopause or natural death, while a select few were sterilized nevertheless by willing surgeons who found ways to circumvent the law. In this way, until the end of World War II, the Exeter School’s foremost function was that of a eugenics-era segregation facility.

In 1955, the situation finally reached a head when a 20-year-old inmate – a lifelong state ward and court-committed defective delinquent – was implicated in the murder of a severely disabled child.

This site – http://www.theladdschool.com/history/history-of-the-ladd-school-ri.asp – is the most comprehensive. If you just want to hear about alleged ghosts at the school, try this link – http://theladdschool.blogspot.com/2014/10/hauntings-at-ladd-school.html – and for those looking for scenario fodder, a map of the facility as it appeared towards the end of the institution – http://www.theladdschool.com/map/the-ladd-school-buildings-ri.asp

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