Four girls (Helen, b. 1946; Dorothy ‘Dot’, b. 1949; Betty, b. 1951; and Rachel, b. 1954) and three boys (Rick Tenney; Austin Wiggin III; and Robert Wiggin), were isolated and abused by their father, Austin Wiggin Jr. The girls were homeschooled through “a Chicago mail-order outfit called American Home School.” It is unclear whether the boys were allowed to attend school.
Based on a prophecy made by his mother, Austin Wiggin Jr. pulled his daughters from school and forced them to form a rock band known as The Shaggs. When they were not practicing, they were forced to do calisthenics. Wiggin forbade his daughters from dating and “discouraged most other friendships.” Helen also reported that Wiggin sexually abused her on one occasion. In 1974 (when Helen was 28) she secretly married her boyfriend while continuing to live at home, fearing her father’s reaction. “On the night that she finally screwed up the courage to give him the news, he got out a shotgun and went after her husband. The police joined in and told Helen to choose one man or the other. She left with her husband, and it was months before Austin spoke to her.”
Wiggin died in 1975 and the Shaggs immediately broke up. In 1999, Helen was unable to work due to serious depression; she died in 2006. The other sisters have recently begun to make music together again.
Location: Fremont, New Hampshire
|Meet the Shaggs||09-27-1999|
|Helen Bickford Obituary||04-21-2006|
|’60s NH girl band ‘The Shaggs’ on stage again in off-Broadway musical||06-20-2011|