Disappointments Room

glamour_dust

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#1
I was watching a real estate show recently about finding interesting things in older homes. One family had discovered a very small hidden room, and they could not figure out what it may have been used for. Eventually a senior member of the community tactfully informed them that the room they found was a "Disappointments Room". According to the old lady, in the past such rooms were built to house members of the family who were considered "embarrassments" due to some "socially unacceptable" illness (such as mental retardation). They would be shut in the room from as young as possible, and live a secluded and unacknowledged existence.
Upon further investigation the new homeowners discovered that their house was built by a very influential and important judge. He and his family were well known, but much less known was that he had an ill daughter, who was shut in the room from infancy, and who died around the age of five. Her name was inscribed on the family tomb.
The homeowners were so disturbed and touched by this discovery that they now dedicate the room to the young girl, decorating it like a child's bedroom, complete with dolls and a crib.
I looked up Disappointments Rooms on the internet and could find no information similar to this story. Has anyone else ever heard of these before?
 

markbellis

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#2
The owners just speculated that the girl was shut in the room - and a five year old would hardly need a secure room to hold her - the fact that the floor was lined with sheet metal makes me wonder if they didn't use it for coal for the upstairs fire.

Part of episode 1713, "Homes' Histories Come to Life," concerns a mysterious attic room in the 1857 Colonial owned by Jeff and Laurie Dumas on Carpenter Street in West Warwick. The house was built by a judge named Job Carpenter and includes an upstairs room with metal sheeting on the floor and no inside doorknob. Laurie, who works at Robert H. Champlin Memorial Library in Cranston, learned from a patron that the chamber was probably a "disappointments room," where a sick or disabled child was hidden from public view. When Laurie tracked down the family gravesite in historical cemetery #66 on Washington Street in Coventry, she discovered that the Carpenters had a daughter, Ruth, who died at only five years old in 1900. While the Carpenter family were prominent enough to be in the newspapers fairly frequently, Ruth was never mentioned, leading Laurie to speculate that the little girl was probably the attic room's inmate.
http://www.quahog.org/factsfolklore/index.php?id=19

And if she died in 1900, it's hard to believe that the room was really in that same state as it was for a century - it could have been modified at any time over the years.
 

escargot

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#3
Yup, sounds like a version of the 'Monster of Glamis' story.

While the Carpenter family were prominent enough to be in the newspapers fairly frequently, Ruth was never mentioned, leading Laurie to speculate that the little girl was probably the attic room's inmate.
Italics added for emphasis: as Laurie admits, it's speculation. There's no evidence whatever that Ruth was mistreated. Many children died young back then. It would be easy to track down Ruth's death certificate and find out that she died of whooping cough or scarlet fever, but that'd make less interesting TV.

After all, this family can't defend themselves - you can libel the dead all you like. :evil:
 

Zilch5

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#4
Feaky! I remember seeing a BBC docu-drama about a child of the British Royal Family that had to be hidden away to to him being "a bit slow"...

Can't remember his name now, but it was around WWI to the late 1920s - maybe some of you Poms know more about it?
 

tilly50

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#5
I think that Zilch is referring to George V's youngest son John. He started having seizures when he was about 4 and was sent to live in Wood farm on the Sandringham estate with his own set of staff (gardeners, cook, nurse/nanny and driver) He was very well cared for by the standards of the day but was undoubtedly sequestered from the rest of the royal family. He was 14 when he died in 1919.

There are other rumours that Albert Victor, eldest son of Edward VII did not die in 1892 but was kept at Glams until well into the 20th century. He too could be said to have been an embarassment to the establishment.
 

OldTimeRadio

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#6
I've never before encountered the phrase "Disappointments Room" and the failure of your Google search suggests that it never enjoyed any wide circulation. But the concept is certainly widely-enough known. It's a plot-element in both the Berkeley Square Legend and the novel JANE EYRE.

And Escargot of course nailed it cold with her reference to Glamis.
 

stu neville

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#7
Zilch5 said:
Feaky! I remember seeing a BBC docu-drama about a child of the British Royal Family that had to be hidden away to to him being "a bit slow"...

Can't remember his name now, but it was around WWI to the late 1920s - maybe some of you Poms know more about it?
The drama was called The Lost Prince, and as Tilly says it was based on Prince John. He had epilepsy and a form of autism.

markbellis said:
...and a five year old would hardly need a secure room to hold her - the fact that the floor was lined with sheet metal makes me wonder if they didn't use it for coal for the upstairs fire.
Well quite - plus, a five year old running about on a floor of sheet metal would make far more noise than on wood.
 

Kondoru

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#8
It doesnt seem likley to me either.

If you think about it statisticaly, every house over a certain age should have one.

And the couples reaction to the news is somewhat sick. What must visitors think?
 

LordRsmacker

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#10
Zilch5 said:
Feaky! I remember seeing a BBC docu-drama about a child of the British Royal Family that had to be hidden away to to him being "a bit slow"...
Yeah, that'd be Prince Edward, after he left the Marines because they wouldn't let him have his Paddington jim-jams or something. :lol:
They let him "form a production company", and no-one really heard from him after that............ :D
 

ElishevaBarsabe

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#11
However, here in the States, my friend used to have the job of finding the shutaway children, getting them diagnosed, and sent to whatever schooling they could handle. Most of the children were in attics or barns.

We're talking the 21st century, here.
 

tilly50

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#13
50 Berkeley Square is one of the places called "Most Haunted House in England". There have been a number of sightings of an apparition on the 4th floor and some theories have been put forward that the phenomena is due to a physical monster (even one that is cryptid).

There are a number of stories about a young girl dying in the nursery on the top floor, either by kumping out of the window or being killed by a brutal nurse/nanny

A man called DuPre was alleged to have kept his insane brother locked up on the top floors. Another man, called Myers owned the property and became a recluse after being jilted, he was said to confine himself to the upper floor as he had furnished the others ready for his new wife.

During the 19th century there were a number of deaths said to occur in what was called the haunted room, a maid, a young man staying in the room as a challenge, among others.

There is a story of two sailors deciding to doss down in the house and encountering the entity, one escapes to return with a policeman to find his riend dead. The details of this particular story vary, it occuring on either Christmas Eve 1887 or during WWII in 1943. The cause of death is either falling out of the window (impaling optional) or dismembered in the basement.

People who have witnessed the entity describe a horrific slithering shapeless mass, others have seen shapes of brown mist, there is a feeling of despair and depression felt at times.

It has been an antiquarian bookshop for about 50 years or so and the haunted room is said to be used as the accounts department.
 

OldTimeRadio

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#14
Thanks, Tilly! You did a better job than I could have managed.

The whole story seems to have been one of those things which "growed considerable in the tellin'."

By the way, part of the legend was related in either 1968 or 1969 on the South African horror radio anthology series BEYOND MIDNIGHT, under the title
"The Yellow Room" or just "The Room," although the name Berkeley Square was not used. (This excellent horror series is available several places free online.)

And around a dozen years later it was re-enacted on the Canadian (CBC) series NIGHTFALL.
 

PeniG

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#15
The strange idea in the original post is the notion of a purpose-built room. Yes, it is common to add-on rooms as your family grows, and architects are a recent innovation at most levels of society, but think of the logistics here! Either you build your house with the notion that you're likely to have a defective kid you want to shut away (implying that you were syphilitic, came from a long line of inbreeders, or otherwise had known genetic defects that should have prevented you from marrying at all) OR you have a defective child and then hire workmen from among your neighbors to build a house to hide her away in. 'Cause y'know, your neighborhood workmen aren't going around to everybody else's house gossiping about the special room Judge Wilkins needs. :roll: And nobody'll gossip if you bring in strangers from the nearest big town. And nobody noticed that you had a baby and don't bring her to church anymore.

Shutaway children tend to be shut into out-of-the-way existing, normal spaces - attics, basements, closets - or into easily-constructed spaces normally reserved for pets, such as kennels. There's no reason to think this would have been any different in the past.
 

OldTimeRadio

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#16
This discussion reminds me of the report from just a few years back that a British library decided to re-open a gallery that had been sealed for a century. It was discussed here on the FTMBs but I can't bring to mind the proper keywords to find and link to it.

Post by post that period grew shorter and shorter until eventually it was revealed that a book sale had been held in that supposedly "sealed" gallery a mere 10 years earlier!
 

ignatiusII

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#17
My family once lived in a huge old house in Mexico in the mid-80s. The place was over one hundred years old, with nine bedrooms, in the closet of which my father discovered another room that had been boarded-up, and covered with wallpaper. Apart from several inches of dust, the floors were covered with newspapers dating back to the 1920s and a couple of extremely creepy stuffed animals (an elephant and a teddy bear, if memory serves).

My parents could never figure out just why someone would have sealed a room that size, and when they'd made inquiries to the owners (we were leasing the house, which had been in their family for several generations), they apparently had no knowledge of the room, however, the upshot of all this was when they informed my parents that they would now be raising the price of the lease the following year - because the house now had TEN bedrooms.
 

jouweleen

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#18
Rooms a plenty

We lived in a turn of the century farm house which had two rooms that we immediately noted as odd.

The first, we called the "Alice in Wonderland" room. It was a bed room sized room off another bedroom. The interesting feature was the tiny 3 foot door that led to this room. Also it was never insulated - so we just used it as storage.

The second was a room in the nether-regions of our basement that was constantly cold, full of bugs and smelled of sulpher. We called it "hell" because we were pretty sure that if we look around long enough - we would find a door that read "Abandon hope all who enter here." It was, of course, the coal room.

The third room wasn't discovered until we had lived there a few years. We removed a wood plank from the basement wall and discovered a full sized room that existed behind the basement stairs that had no other entrance beyond the hole in the wall. We had wondered in some former neighbor met his eternal resting place there but after some investigation, we decided that it was likely a cistern as there was a pipe running up above ground from it.
 

Alyssa1622

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#19
Yes I stayed the night in a haunted house in Texas and there was a small room upstairs that a little boy, who told paranormal investigators his name is Joshua, lived in. His mom was raped by her uncle, the pimp of the place, and he was conceived. When he was born his face was disfigured so his dad/great uncle locked him in a small room and he wasn’t allowed downstairs whatsoever. And if you ask him to play with the curtains and tell him he is beautiful and not to be shy he will put his face to it so you can see it. He is very unique. One day he tried to come downstairs and his dad/uncle caught him and beat him to death. When his mom tried to step in to stop it he shot and killed her on the stairs.
 
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