Our members are amazing, and none more so than Rebecca Gustafson who found this article revealing a real life Flowers in the Attic Scenario.
Sharing with us this article taken from the The Victoria Advocate, July 30th 1960 we find a story so similar to the Dollangangers tale its almost uncanny
The article reports of three children having been hidden away in the attic of their home by their mother for 11 years in Tecumseh, Ontario – their ordeal only coming to an end when 15 year old Gordon Dickerson left the house on the day of Thursday, July 28 and approached his neighbour, Forest Richards, for help whilst his mother was at a dentist appointment.
Mr Richards automatically phoned the police who discovered that David had been sharing one double bed with his two sisters , Connie, 16 and Glenda, 13.
All three children were severely stunted in growth and it was suspected malnourished, though Drs later confirmed that they were not. They were clean and educated, having been given lots of toys and books as well as a tv.
Shockingly, their mother, Shirley Leach had been residing in the residence with her husband, the childrens stepfather and three other children – Donna ,22 , Carol , 20 and Donny Veronica, 12 who had been leading normal lives and sworn to silence about their siblings. It was one of the older children who had the task of educating her captive siblings.
According to Child Protection in America: Past, Present and Future by John E B Myers
The mother when questioned sobbing admitted
” When we moved from Windsor to Detroit in 1949, no one would rent to a couple with six kids…..when we bought our own home in Tecumseh in 1953, we still kept the children inside …. they were not like other children …..”
The children were taken to hospital and on Friday July 29th stated although they were happy to be free they were also sad as they would miss their mother.
A very haunting story and one I felt needed more investigation , a google search of the mothers name took me to an edition of Life magazine from August 1960 which featured some
Boarded Window is in a playroom over porch, children slept in adjoining
room in one double bed.
Mrs Donald Leach, distressedly fondles toys. She was relieved at the discovery.
Rest of family – stepfather,mother and three normal sisters outside the family home.
The story hit the headlines immediately, not just in Canada but the USA as well but despite this it has been difficult to find anything further. No mention of if the mother was tried for her crime nor if the children were taken into care.
Rebecca shared with us a further photo taken at the hospital on Tuesday, August 2nd 1960 in which Connie is celebrating her birthday with a cake having never had a birthday celebration before. The mother is seen behind her.
Mind boggling nowadays, the children had been discovered four days previously yet their mother was still allowed to have contact?
Its a heartbreaking situation , the children obviously loved their mother and she obviously was in a desperate enough situation to have committed such an act. Her comment on how she realised they were not like normal children by the time she could have let them outside is particularly heart wrenching and something that can be used when looking at Corrines motivations behind her act. The longer it went on , the longer she realised they weren’t like normal children. She was desperate and didnt know what to do , much like Mrs Leach.
Rebecca and myself spoke in length with Julianne Hannes regarding these children and what could have happened – so many unanswered questions and so little information ….
• What about the natural father ?
He is quoted in the papers making disparaging comments about his former wife , who in turn claims her children were small from birth due to him starving her whilst pregnant.
She had divorced him a year before she hid her children away , and subsequently remarried yet there is hardly a mention of the stepfather except his name – Donald Leach.
• What about the older siblings and the younger ?
The eldest daughter Donna had married and moved away by the time her siblings were found. The other two were still living and home and silent about the situation.
• Was the mother tried and did she have her children removed from her ?
There is no record at the moment found of any trial nor if she kept custody of her children.
• Did the children have a good life after their release ? What happened in particular to Gordon, Connie and Glenda ?
Rebecca amazingly managed to contact Gordon and this is what she had to tell us :
“I didn’t get to talk with him long or in much depth, but he did confirm that he was that same Gordon Dickerson. I asked him if he minded if I asked him some questions. He said he wasn’t sure because his sisters had both passed and it was very sad and not good. I told him I was very sorry to hear that and that I didn’t mean to bring up any painful feelings, which was true. I asked if they’d had good lives up until their passing, but all he said was no. So I told him I wouldn’t pry any further into that and asked him about himself and if he’d had a good life. I told him he looked happy in his Facebook pictures. He talked about how he’d volunteered with the Salvation Army for 20 years, which is very admirable. I told him that he seems like a very kind and generous person. I asked him he’d done anything else for work to which he replied “yes – more later – I’m on a weekend vacation”
A truly tragic tale for all involved and greatly disturbing to read and see, Flowers in the Attic haunted us but seeing and knowing of a real life version is just almost too much.
This article shows just how much Virginia got correct, the stunted growth , how being shut away for so long would make them different and how despite their release they never really escaped the attic.