From the outside, Grouse Lane Manor looks like every other modest development along the Fox River Valley. Located one hour west of Chicago, the ranch style residence appears tranquil and inviting. But beyond the gently sloping front lawn, easy-open doors and slip-resistant entry ramp, another scene was unfolding.
“Oh, it was a nightmare!” said current Activities Director Verna Andersen. “We had a group of ringleaders who took over and turned things upside down. They were nothing but a gang of senior thugs. It was elder abuse, alright. Abuse by the elders themselves!”
Janitor Henry Puce added, “The things I saw I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy! I had to replace all my broom handles and mops.”
Andersen recalls that the trouble began when 84 year-old resident Joseph “Big C” Carlstadt began complaining about things.
“First it was desserts he didn’t like. Next he said he wasn’t getting a fair shake about choosing television shows,” said Andersen. “Then he thought the front lawn was his front lawn. He started yelling at everyone to get off of it. Things went downhill fast.”
‘Big C’ managed to persuade a number of residents to stage a revolt. “He was tricky, that guy,” recalls janitor Puce. “He got some of the good ones to go bad and once that got started, we didn’t stand a chance. We were outnumbered.”
Puce revealed several bruises on his arms and legs, injuries received while he was the brunt of the residents’ rage.
“One lady, Mrs. Talley, she spread some pills down right outside my utility closet, and when I went to sweep them up, she hit me with her walking stick until I promised to mop the floors ‘til she said they was clean enough to eat off of. I never could get them clean enough for her, and she kept on hitting me with that stick…Then she made me eat off of the floor anyway.”
The emergency alert system and all phones were hacked by retired electronics technician Gene Sampson. “We were trapped,” said Andersen. “The worst of it was one day when I was setting up our social night, which we called ‘Carbon Dating.’ While I was distracted, all the emergency buttons were rewired and the phones were too.”
Order was restored after Puce was able to crawl through a heating and ventilation duct and break through a wall. “I ran for my life to the nearest house and finally got ahold of the police. I’m just lucky to be alive,” he said. “And extremely thankful.”
An Illinois Department of Health investigation is ongoing. Residents who participated in the abuse have been separated and moved to other facilities.