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Out Of The Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson Paperback – March 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

Conventional child rearing in the wake of the Civil War could be aptly described as "spare the rod and spoil the child." Like slaves in the previous era, children were considered property, with no more rights than horses or dogs. With luck they were cared for and loved. Orphaned and raised in devastating poverty, young Mary Ellen Wilson was not so lucky. Out of the Darkness vividly details Mary Ellen's life as a captive in her Hell's Kitchen tenement. Left alone during the day to find her own playthings--a few strings and a pet spider named "Timmy"--the situation only became worse when her mother returned home to administer shockingly brutal daily beatings. More than a chronicle of one child's abuse, however, Out of the Darkness also documents her rescue--including the key role of the newly created American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. By drawing parallels between animal rights, Mary Ellen's case, and the end of slavery, Out of the Darkness illustrates how the end of the Civil War ushered in a profound shift in attitude--an acceptance that all living beings are capable of suffering and therefore deserve protection. This is a riveting read about a fascinating period. --Ginger Dzerk


"A riveting book. It is not just Mary Ellen who comes out of the darkness, but all of society. The most accurate re-telling of Mary Ellen's story I have ever read." -- Anne Reiniger, M.S.W., J.D., Executive Director, New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, NYSPCC

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Dolphin Moon Publishing (March 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0966940008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0966940008
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

When Eric started his writing career, an outsider would never have guessed he would eventually write about witches, serial killers and zombies. His first actual book release was Out of the Darkness: The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson, co-authored by Dr. Stephen Lazoritz. It is about the first successful rescue of an abused child in America. Little Mary Ellen was a 9-year-old who was rescued in 1874 by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA.

His writing career began in the late 1980s in a very low-key way; writing short horror story after short horror story with really no idea how to go about it. He had poor character development, minimal plot lines and probably every other bad habit of inexperienced authors.

After deciding he should write a book, he discovered a little blurb on Mary Ellen Wilson in a book of "Amazing But True!" stories. He knew he had to write Mary Ellen's story. Result? He was a guest at the Museum of the City of New York. He was on CSPAN-2's Book TV. Alliance Atlantis approached him about optioning the story for film. (That did not pan out.)

So ... how did he get back to what he loved? Facebook, plain and simple. After Mary Ellen came out in 1999, he wrote a book called A Reason To Kill. Serial killer stuff. After completing it, he shelved it and began a book about witches and reincarnation. That confused the hell out of him, so he eventually stopped after 53,000 words. No idea where to go or how to finish it. He did not write again for 12 years.

Enter 2011 and Facebook. Tons of zombie people began to emerge, and he kept hearing about all these zombie books and how much people loved them. Mark Tufo, Rhiannon Frater, etc. etc. He thought, "I could write a zombie novel."

And so he did. Dead Hunger was born and released in 2011. From there, you know where it went if you're a reader of the series. And while there were some hints, nobody could have guessed where the series would go. Talk about evolution! Whoa.

The Dead Hunger series will likely go anywhere from eight to ten books, including prequels Eric intends to write. In his "other" spare time, he sings and sometimes paints. He owns several cool microphones, so if you've considered a gift for him (c'mon, you know you have!) that would be a good item to put on your list. ;-)

Check him out on YouTube. Just punch in "Eric Shelman Brown Eyed Girl." That video is approaching 4,000,000 hits.

So check out his writing. Download a sample for Kindle if you like. He thinks you'll like his style, because he writes very conversationally - he's not interested in creating prose that dances around your head before dropping into your ears. He gets to the point, but does it with some skill.

Thanks for reading! Visit his web page at He'll keep you updated on his new releases! You can also email him if you want to order shirts or autographed books, at ALSO, look him up on Facebook - it's AuthorShelman there, too.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jean Middleton on March 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
"Out of the Darkness" is indeed the perfect title for the long-awaited telling of these events. For the past 50 years, only students and professionals in the child protection field have learned the profound significance of Mary Ellen's story. This, the first book entirely devoted to this landmark case, brings Mary Ellen to life along with all those who helped her survive.
The story opens in May 1864 on a battlefield in Cold Harbor, Virginia, as Thomas Wilson receives word of the birth of his little girl in New York City and dreams of returning soon to his wife, Fanny, and their child. Shortly afterward, however, he dies in battle.
Amid the hustle and bustle of New York City life, Mary Ellen's mother attempts to care for her little girl, but poverty soon forces her to abandon the child. We learn of Mary Ellen's stay in an almshouse for a time before being taken into a foster home where she is beaten, locked in a closet, burned, and permitted no contact with the outside world. She remains in this home for 6 long years.
Shelman and Lavoritz accurately and poignantly describe the New York City of the 1860s and 1870s, allowing the reader to experience the overcrowding and the sounds and smells of the infamous Hell's Kitchen area of NYC where Mary Ellen is finally found and rescued.
The story follows two threads, first told separately, and then woven skillfully together. We learn of Mary Ellen's plight, while at the same time in NYC, Henry Bergh is working to found the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). We are with Bergh as he enforces the new animal protection laws in NYC. He fights to protect them all --from turtles to horses. He is often ridiculed as he charges, "Turtle abuse!" But he persists.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Henry Berry on April 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Out of the Darkness - The Story of Mary Ellen Wilson by Eric A. Shelman and Stephen Lazoritz, M.D. Dolphin Moon Publishing, CA. 1999. 342 pp. notes; index.
Out of the Darkness is not only the story of the abused child Mary Ellen Wilson of the latter 1800s, but also the story of Fanny Connor, her mother who abandoned her after the death of her husband in the Civil War; Mary Connolly, the stepmother who cruelly abused the girl; Henry Bergh, founder of the ASPCA, who anguished by Mary Ellen's case, founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; the judge who presided over the court case of Mary Ellen, the journalist who covered it for the NY Tribune, and other individuals who were involved in the matter in various ways. The authors describe their book as dramatized history; it's based on extensive research, while employing the techniques of creative nonfiction, including scenes and dialogue, to bring Mary Ellen's story alive. Shelman's experience as a screenwriter is evident in the informative, revealing, and dramatic dialogue, pithy descriptive passages, and brisk narrative. Lazoritz is a pediatrician specializing in the care of abused and neglected children. He is also the director of the Child Protection Center at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. The collaboration began with an acquaintance over the Internet. Out of the Darkness fills in considerable historical background on the timely subject of child abuse in American society. Mary Ellen eventually went on to lead a normal life, having two daughters who became school teachers.
Henry Berry, Book Reviewer
Editor/Publisher, The Small Press Book Review
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tesa Rijfkogel on September 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a stirring book which holds a reader's attention from the first page until the last. As the true drama unravels, readers learn of the atrocities which were inflicted on an innocent little girl. Readers also learn of the birth of child protection in America as it unfolds through the efforts of a few determined and dedicated individuals. This is a "must read" for anyone with a heart for children and compassion for victims of abuse. Until now, this story was a missing piece of our history, yet it is now available for us to read about and learn from. Lazoritz and Shelman have shed light on this once overlooked part of our history, and they have indeed brought little Mary Ellen Wilson "Out of the Darkness". This is an extremely well written book, and its pages are packed with truth, spirit, and drama. Once read, it is a story you will never forget. Little Mary Ellen Wilson scampers through the pages as her story is told. Readers feel, hear, see, taste, dream, hope and live Mary Ellen's story as the authors reveal her life using words of truth filled with strokes of compassion. While growing up, little Mary Ellen Wilson had no toys to play with or books to read. Her life was a living nightmare. But now, Mary Ellen not only has a book, she has an audience. We must give this child and her book our full attention so that we learn from history's mistakes and strive to protect our children from the evil of child abuse. Lazortiz and Shelman have cause to celebrate in this masterpiece book. Mary Ellen's story will touch many lives through the pages of this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Marvin on October 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
This story, is amazing. It is so well written that I couldn't put it down. I read the entire book the day I got it. The horror that this poor child went through is unbelievable, and the lack of help available to her at that time is shameful. Thank God for the ASPCA for helping this child when no one else could or would.
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