House Crazy Sarah was well over 35 when she finally read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story The Yellow Wallpaper. She was on this Victorian women’s chick lit kick so she devoured the little book in one sitting and was left speechless.
It was then that it all made sense.
The woman in the story, left alone in an attic room of an old house due to her “temporary nervous depression,” was forbidden from doing any type of cerebral or creative work. In her prison, she rather quickly goes bonkers and begins to see women crawling around, trapped inside the yellow wallpaper of her room.
House Crazy Sarah’s long-time readers may remember that she once owned a haunted 1870’s Gothic Revival house.
In that old house, in the upstairs bedroom – House Crazy Sarah’s room, in fact – was old yellow wallpaper! Coincidence?!
Below is the listing photo from when House Crazy Sarah bought the house. Look at how the previous owners had it decorated. Kinda creepy! And behold, The Yellow Wallpaper.
The wallpaper was brittle, dusty and smelled like chalk. It was probably infused with asbestos or arsenic because House Crazy Sarah’s nose puckered shut every time she went near it. There were parts of the wallpaper that were peeling off in one corner of the room – just over the bed.
One dark evening, some primordial impulse urged House Crazy Sarah to start pulling the paper off to see what was behind it. She pulled and pulled – it was liberating – until the entire corner of the room was exposed.
To her horror, she found gobs of long hair embedded in the lath and plaster underneath!
Now, dear reader, what she found was probably – hopefully – horse hair which was a common binding agent for plaster walls before the advent of gypsum board in the 1950’s, and remember, that old house was built in the 1870’s. But the discovery was disconcerting nonetheless.
You see, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s character in her fictional short story went entirely batty and ended up stripping the wallpaper from the room to find: the trapped woman!
Back then, House Crazy Sarah was all alone in her very old house with two small children, going stir-crazy. Being a stay-at-home mom did not sit well with her and she went a little wonky during those years. House crazy, if you will. Her now ex-husband worked out of town so she was always alone talking goo-goo ga-ga to her kids, or her house.
That night when she pulled off the old yellow wallpaper to expose the long hair underneath, something more was unearthed.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, over a century before, had nailed House Crazy Sarah’s situation so lucidly, she felt as though she was struck in the heart – or the head – with a very sharp arrow all the way from 1892. Whoosht!
Everything came together at that moment. House Crazy Sarah was THAT woman trapped in the yellow wallpaper!
What became of her yellow wallpaper? House Crazy Sarah’s ex-husband simply nodded when he saw the mess she had made and said, “yep, we’ll have to fix that”.
They quietly boarded up the carnage with faux bead-board, entombing the yellow wallpaper forever, or at least until another curious, stir-crazy woman comes along and buys the house.
Below, you can see the old wallpaper disappearing under the new bead-board:
And the finished product:
Ahhhh… light and bright and no more crazy yellow wallpaper.
Nonetheless, House Crazy Sarah had been released!