What was the "Devil baby of Hull House?"
The "devil baby of Hull House" was a myth that grew up in association with Hull House, the settlement house founded by Jane Addams in inner-city Chicago. According to the myth, which originated in 1913, a Chicago woman gave birth to a child with scales, horns, and a pointed tail. The mother, whose husband's blasphemy had resulted in the birth of the devil, allegedly brought the child to Hull House. Addams, according to the story, locked the child in the attic, where he stayed. Always concerned with the reputation of Hull House, Addams was at first angry about the urban legend, but she eventually became interested in the ways in which local people, especially elderly immigrant women, responded to it. She actually wrote about the phenomenon more than once, most notably in a book entitled The Long Road of Women's Memory:
With an understanding quickened, perhaps, through my own acquaintance with the mysterious child, I listened to many tragic reminiscences from the visiting women; of premature births, "because he kicked me in the side"; of children maimed and burnt because "I had no one to leave them with when I went to work"; women had seen the tender flesh of growing little bodies given over to death because "he wouldn't let me send for the doctor" or because "there was no money to pay for the medicine."
These women saw in the "devil baby" a reflection of their own tragic experiences, which, Addams thought, stoked their morbid curiosity. Still others, having experienced abuse and neglect, were fascinated by the notion of divine retribution for the mythical child's father.