Genie is the pseudonym of a feral child who was the victim of extraordinarily severe abuse, neglect and social isolation. Genie’s father kept her locked alone in a room from the age of 20 months to 13 years, 7 months. She was almost always strapped to a child’s toilet or bound in a crib with her arms and legs completely immobilized. During this time she was never exposed to any significant amount of speech, and as a result she did not acquire a first language during childhood. Her abuse came to the attention of Los Angeles child welfare authorities on November 4, 1970.
Genie was born in 1957 in California. Her father determined that she was mentally disabled and therefore not worthy of his attention or care. He isolated her from everybody - locking her alone inside a room until she reached the age of 13. While inside this room, he kept her strapped to a toilet or enclosed in a crib. Due to her isolation, she was incapable of communicating or walking when she was finally rescued by Los Angeles child welfare authorities on 4 November, 1970. Her father would beat her with a plank wood each time she attempted to communicate with her family and would bark and growl at her like a dog to intimidate her - this instilled a severe fear of dogs which continued after she was freed. He even grew his fingernails; the sole purpose being so he could scratch at Genie is she ever “misbehaved.” After she was freed, she was often used as a case study for psychologists, linguists, and scientists. She was sent into care and while there seemed to be a series of breakthroughs in the beginning, there were also major setbacks - she was exploited and also abused by those who were supposed to be caring for her - she was sent to an extremely religious foster care home in which she retreated and in 1977, she managed to tell a children’s hospital that her foster parents had physically punished her when she had been sick. Following this, her speech never recovered and nobody knows for sure what became of her other than she was sent to an institute for the mentally undeveloped in Southern California in 2008.
Genie is the pseudonym for a feral child who spent nearly all of the first thirteen years of her life locked inside a bedroom strapped to a potty chair. She was a victim of one of the most severe cases of social isolation in American history. Genie was discovered by Los Angeles authorities on November 4, 1970.
Genie’s parents lived in Arcadia, California. She was their fourth (and second surviving) child and had an older brother who also lived in the home. Genie spent the next 12 years of her life locked in her bedroom. During the day, she was tied to a child’s potty chair in diapers; some nights, when she hadn’t been completely forgotten, she was bound in a sleeping bag and placed in an enclosed crib with a cover made of metal screening. Indications are that Genie’s father beat her with a large stick if she vocalized, and he barked and growled at her like a dog in order to keep her quiet. He also rarely allowed his wife and son to leave the house or even to speak, and he expressly forbade them to speak to Genie. By the age of 13, Genie was almost entirely mute, commanding a vocabulary of about 20 words and a few short phrases (nearly all negative, such as “stop it” and “no more”).
Genie was discovered at the age of 13 when her mother left her husband and took Genie with her. On November 4, 1970, the two entered a welfare office in Temple City, California, to seek benefits for the blind. A social worker met them and guessed that Genie was 6 or 7 years old and possibly autistic. When it was revealed that she was actually 13, the social worker immediately called her supervisor, who then notified the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Genie had developed a characteristic “bunny walk”, in which she held her hands up in front, like paws. Although she was almost entirely silent, she constantly sniffed, spat, and clawed. Many of the items she coveted were objects with which she could play. In spite of her condition, hospital staff hoped they could nurture her to normality. When interest in the case widened, Genie became the focus of an investigation to provide evidence supporting the theory that humans have a critical age threshold for language acquisition. Within a few months of therapy, she had advanced to one-word answers and had learned to dress herself. Her doctors predicted complete success. Doctors screened François Truffaut’s movie The Wild Child for ideas. Genie was initially moved out of the hospital to the home of Jean Butler, and later was moved to live with psychologist David Rigler, his wife and children, where she remained for four years.
On the afternoon of July 13, 2005, a young girl was rescued from a run-down rental home in Plant City, FL. 7-year-old Danielle was found on a dirty mattress, emaciated and wearing a diaper. Her hair was crawling with lice and she was covered in bug bites. She was surrounded by her own feces.
According to police accounts, the home smelled worse than rotting flesh. Human and animal urine and feces covered the floors and the walls, while cockroaches overtook every part of the home. Trash lined the walls, and in Danielle’s room sat a pile of dirty diapers nearly four feet high off of the floor. When asked how she could let her child live that way, Danielle’s mother cried, “I’m doing the best that I can.”
Upon being rescued, social workers quickly learned that Danielle could not speak, simply because she had lived in isolation for the first seven years of her life. She did not know how to eat solid food, didn’t react to pain or changes in temperature, and could not engage with others in any way. After spending six weeks at Tampa Bay General Hospital, Danielle was placed in a group home and enrolled in special education classes at a local elementary school where it took her first teacher nearly a year to start teaching her. Despite already being nearly 8-years-old, doctors still had hope that she would be able to learn basic language.
After less than a year in group homes and hospitals, Danielle’s social worker decided she was ready for a permanent home. On Easter weekend in 2007, Danielle was fostered by a couple who could no longer conceive children, but wanted a daughter after having four sons. By October 2007, the family officially adopted the girl that they call Dani. Since her adoption, she has worked with a speech therapist every day and has learned to understand simple commands and associate symbols with certain words.
this is the story i can’t get out of my mind. it makes me feel helpless & angry at the world, & want to help & hold & love.
genie was discovered at the age of 13, though due to extreme malnourishishment, she was originally estimated to be 6 or 7, & she could not speak. this is because spent these first 13 years of her life in near solitary confinement, locked in a room, & bound to a ‘potty chair’. her father forbade her mother & older brother to speak to her, & punished her if she herself spoke. the only words in her vocabulary of about 20 were negative (for example, “stop it”). she had a walk like that of a “bunny rabbit”, & sniffed, spat & clawed at things.
the story of genie doesn’t end well. because she had been brought up in total isolation, there was much interest in her scientifically. she would be able to tell them whether or not there really was a “critical period” in which humans learn to be humans & learn language & communication. able to learn words, some small phrases, but would suddenly prove unable to form sentences that made sense, although she was extremely good at sign language. she also developed a strong tendency to hoard. eventually, her doctors & caretakers lost funding due to a standstill in progress & lack of professional collection of data. she was passed around from foster person to foster person who rarely had her best interests in mind. one thought that having her & teaching her would make her 'famous’, another physically beat her when she vomited, which caused an extreme relapse in which genie would NEVER verbalize anything again due to an extreme fear of opening her mouth. the doctors who then took her in for foster care seemingly lost interest when the money ran out. she is now institutionalized, & who knows when we will ever hear anything about her again. the fact that she was tossed aside the moment she couldn’t perform & entertain anymore is sick, & that time & time again money & fame outshone any desire to help such a beautiful & helpless being that really only needed unconditional love & patience.
On this day in 1828, a teenage boy was found wandering around the German city of Nuremburg, mumbling incoherently. The boy wore tattered clothing and carried two letters - one from a poor labourer asking a cavalry captain to take the boy into his charge, and one from his mother stating that her son was being sent to the military. He was taken to the police station, where he wrote his name - Kaspar Hauser. After spending some time adjusting to his new life, Hauser explained that he had been held alone in a cell by an unknown captor. During his imprisonment, Hauser was provided with bread, water, and some wooden toys. Hauser was taken in by local teacher, who aided the boy with his reading, writing, and drawing. Over a year after his return, Hauser was allegedly attacked by his former captor, and was later shot by a pistol he accidentally discharged. Hauser survived both incidents, indeed, some believe he deliberately injured himself to gain symathy. However, in December 1833, by then living in Ansbach, Hauser returned home with a stab wound to his chest, claiming he was attacked by someone who passed him a mysterious note written in mirror writing. The letter said that ‘to save Hauser the effort, I want to tell you myself from where I come’, and claimed the attacker hailed from the Bavarian border and goes by the name ‘M.L.Ö.’
Hauser died three days later, but, as with earlier incidents, this wound may have been self-inflicted, and the letter may have been written by Hauser himself. His repeated lies also cast doubt on his entire story of having been imprisoned in a cell. Hauser’s strange life - which made him a celebrity in his lifetime - has led to great speculation as to his origins. One, since debunked, theory was that he was the lost prince of Baden, who died in 1812.
“Here lies Kaspar Hauser, enigma of his time. His birth was unknown, his death mysterious. 1833.”
- Hauser’s epitaph
Abandoned, perhaps, or forced into the wilds by chance. Either way, they grow up with the moss as their beds, the wolves as their teachers, and the infinite dangers of the wilderness as their enemies. Their senses are keen, their blood singing, and their eyes are ever watchful. For they have been raised among green and brown and bared teeth, and they barely know what human means.
Genie, feral child, was born 1957. She was a victim of her father. Her father kept Genie locked in a room and left her alone in this room from the age of 20 months to 13 years. She was strapped to her potty and she was bound in her crib with her arms and legs.
She didn’t acquire a language during childhood because her father forbade his other children and her wife from speaking with Genie. If Genie ever spoke, her father would hit her with a stick. (Genie had vocabulary of about 20 words and a few short phrases such as stop it and no more.)
Genie was discovered November 4, 1970 by Los Angeles child welfare authorities. She was treated for years. Psychologists, linguists and other scientists focused on Genie’s case. After some treatments, she was able to answer questions in one word. Also she learned dress herself. Her doctors predicted complete success.
She had a strange ‘bunny walk’ and she also scratched and even clawed at things.
She found out of the hospital to the home of her psychologist David Rigler for 4 years. Genie later learned to express herself through sign language. She also learned to smile.
In 1974, the Institute cut off funding for the research. In 1975, Genie went back to live with her mother. After a few months, the mother found that taking care of Genie was too difficult, and Genie was transferred to a succession of six more foster homes. In some of these homes, she was physically abused and her development regressed. After she was punished for vomiting in one of her foster homes, she developed a new fear that she didn’t want to open her mouth.
Today Genie is living in somewhere in Southern California.
and Genie (right) years later as a middle-aged patient.
In 1970 Los Angeles, the famous “feral child” Genie Wiley was found after being isolated in her room by her father for almost her entire thirteen years of life. Having had no contact with the outside world, Genie was unable to speak or carry on normal interactions with other people. In one documentary, footage of Genie moving with an awkward rabbit-like walk can be seen. Her hands in front of her like paws and a halting gait. She was said to sometimes rub her face spastically when she was angry, and she constantly spat and sniffed.
Despite her disabilities, or perhaps because of them, Genie had a strange allure that drew others to her. There were stories of doctors wishing to adopt her as their own and of complete strangers feeling compelled to give her gifts. This “feral” girl was unique and beautiful.