Henry Darger – In the Realms of the Unreal

On a snowy day in November 1972, a poor, badly crippled old man left his room on the third floor of a rooming house in Chicago for the last time. His name was Henry Darger. He had lived in this room for forty years. It was filthy, crammed with his possessions, mostly things found in the garbage. Henry never threw anything out. The room was filled, almost solid, with junk. He was now eighty years old and far too feeble to carry anything down the stairs. So he left everything behind. He had no need of his possessions. Anyway, he was going to an old folks home to die. When he left the room his life was over. His landlord asked him what he wanted done with his possessions. Henry is said to have replied, “You can have them, Mr. Leonard.” At that moment the gift had no meaning. There was nothing in the room but garbage. Everything would have to be thrown out. When Darger’s landlord, Nathan Lerner began to clean out Henry’s room they found some surprises: an eight volume autobiography, consisting of 5084 handwritten pages, entitled, The History of My Life which Henry had begun writing in 1963 after retiring. The short auto-biographical introduction to what is otherwise an enormous and utterly fantastic piece of imaginative fiction, provided some of the crucial pieces of evidence underlying the biographical reconstruction of Darger’s life that form the first chapter of this book. Then, when the old trunks were opened, they made a far more spectacular discovery: a history of another world called, In The Realms of the Unreal in fifteen volumes, 15 145 type written pages, unquestionably the longest work of fiction ever written. In time the room also yielded the three huge bound volumes of illustrations for that work, several hundred pictures, many over twelve feet long and painted on both sides. By accident, the landlord had stumbled upon a concealed and secret life work, which no one had ever seen: Darger’s alternate world.

Henry Darger

“The reason the story runs so much with the little girls are the actual heroes in the warfare is because under most circumstances women are braver than men”

Henry Darger

Henry Darger

By the time our story opens, twenty-seven years after Hanson had left Abbieannia, three of Robert’s other daughters, Daisy, Catherine, and Hettie, had been caught out in a large woods just as a terrific typhoon broke loose, sweeping a portion of the eastern coast of Angelinia. The frightful storm had lasted over two days, devastating a good many forests, and wrecking many cities and towns in its path. After the great storm, the little girls could not be found, though close searches had been made everywhere. Many days had passed, and still they had not been found. Robert had to give up the search in grief, though he, being a Catholic, did not give up prayer. He telegraphed the cities of Jennie Richee, Mic-Hollester, and Jennie-Wren-Town, and even Marcucian and Vivian Wickey, but no trace of them could be found.

Excerpt from Volume I, pp. 14-17 In the Realms of the Unreal by Henry Darger

Henry Darger

Here at The Vampire’s Wife we like to think our dresses are more than just items of clothing, but rather portals into an alternate universe of fantasy and adventure, where all things are possible! Step into our Gold Medici Night Garden Dress, say, or our Black and Red Lamé Mermaid Dress and enter the Realms of the Unreal!

Love to you all,

Susie x