Genie Of The Lamp: The Feral Child Who Spent 14 Years Locked In A Room

May 17, 2019 13:55

We have all seen such cinematic masterpieces as The Jungle Book and Tarzan. These are incredible films about people whose lives have become a phenomenon of science and society. Surprisingly, this was exactly the same experience that happened to Genie – the psuedonym for the nameless girl, associated with a genie being released from a lamp. She spent almost 14 years in a locked room, in absolute isolation from any contact with people. However, this time, she was caged there not by animals, but by her own father.

UCLA Library [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Genie’s parents Irene Oglesby and Clark Wiley had four children, two of which died due to unexplained circumstances. At 14 months, the girl was diagnosed with acute pneumonia, and her father locked her in a small room without furniture and toys.

By the way, Clark Wiley was a tyrant for everyone in his house – both his wife and son John could only whisper because he didn’t like noise. John did go to school, but his father regularly beat him, so he soon ran away from home.

Genie was fed with infant formula for her entire life, played with empty bobbins in a dark closet, and was punished for trying to speak. Therefore, in 1970, when the girl’s mother, Irene, left her husband and daughter and turned to the Department of Social Services, doctors found a teenager in a savage condition.

© Secret of the Wild Child (1994) / WGBH-TV

Genie scratched, drooled, and walked like a rabbit. The 13-year-old girl didn’t speak at all and weighed 60 lb, being only 4 feet 6 inch tall.

© WGBH Boston [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The court charged Genie’s parents with child abuse. Clark Wiley shot himself shortly before the trial, and the girl's life turned into a regular exchange of guardians who wanted to become popular with her help. Soon, linguistics professor Susan Curtiss started working with Genie. She “charmed the girl with her beauty,” taught her to speak, and helped her with further development. A few years after the release, she could already link separate words.

Psychiatrists’ subsequent studies showed that the girl's function of speech and communication were performed only by the right hemisphere instead of both. This means that coherent speech, which should have been instilled in childhood, was severely atrophied. Luckily, nobody considered her mentally retarded.

In 1974, the funding for Genie’s phenomenon ceased. In 1979, offended at assessing her daughter as a “wild” child, Irene filed a lawsuit against doctors for divulging personal information about Genie and won the case. The lawyer estimated the damage caused to the family at $500K.

Now Genie is 62, and she lives in an adult hospital. In 2008, brother John Wiley shared his memories of the nightmare childhood and said their mother and Genie were almost blind and mentally ill.

The birth certificate of Genie's paternal grandmother Pearl Martin, who ran a brothel and was eventually hit by a car while walking with John, instigating Clark Wiley's delusional rage.

Unknown Author [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

50 years ago, there are numerous statements claiming that careful attention in a favorable environment, could have restored Genie to a normal life. Multiple tests, studies, and experiments didn’t lead to any results.

Abuse victims are often afraid to contact law enforcement agencies and guardianship services because of the fear of persecution. They also expect their abuser to change for the better. However, this shouldn’t be like this. Both victims and witnesses of ill-treatment should report the situation to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. Did Genie’s story leave an impression on you? Share your thoughts in the comments.