To the world, she’s Genie; a name given to protect her true identity. Since Genie was only 20 months old, her life was filled with terror and pain. She endured the pain for years, all alone in a cold and dark room. Her story is considered to be one of the most cruel instances of social isolation in American history. Throughout history, there have been several cases of “feral children“, who have been deprived of social interaction from an early age. In the 1970’s, Genie’s shocking story came to light. Her abusive father raised her in extreme isolation and when she was finally freed, she was uncivilized, barely able to talk or walk and was still wearing diapers at the age of 14. Here’s the tragic story of Genie, a feral child who was raised by a sadistic father in complete isolation.
Born in 1957 in Arcadia, California, Genie lived the first 10 years of her life chained to a potty chair.
When Genie was only 20 months old, her father believed that she was showing signs of severe mental underdevelopment. Her father, Clark Wiley, took matters into his own hands and isolated her in a dark bedroom. She was surrounded by chicken-wire and and attached to a potty chair that had a homemade strapping contraption. The room was located at the back of the house. Her father used aluminum foil to cover the only window, limiting the amount of natural light she received during daytime.
For thirteen years, Genie spent her nights locked in a bed that was surrounded by chicken wire and her days, strapped to a potty chair.
For nearly 13 years, Genie suffered at the hands of her sadistic father. Her vicious father decided that Genie should never be spoken to, and so her mother, who was half blind with cataracts, obeyed him. He also carried a gun around the house and placed it on his lap as a form of intimidation.
Genie underwent abnormal sleeping patterns and was fed very little to no food.
Genie’s abusive father blamed everyone for the pain he had endured throughout his life. After his mother was killed in a hit and run accident, he turned his back on the world. He often fed her baby food and occasionally liquids which was insufficient for a child’s development. Whenever Clark went outside late at night, Genie’s mother took the opportunity to feed her; causing her to develop abnormal sleeping patterns.
The abuse wasn’t discovered until Genie was thirteen years old.
On November 4, 1970, Genie’s mother saw a window of opportunity to seek public assistance in Temple City, California. When a social worker met with the family, Genie’s appearance and condition unveiled a tale of sinister secrets. After the social worker saw Genie, he believed that she was only six-years-old and autistic. When he discovered her real age, he immediately understood that the family was mistreating the child and decided to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Genie’s brother described the house as a concentration camp.
When authorities searched the house, they were shocked to see the room Genie was confined in for thirteen years. Her brother explained that their abusive father enforced strict laws and forbid anyone from even making a single peep inside the house. Even the neighbors who lived next to the Wiley house for thirteen years never knew about Genie.
Genie was immediately taken into protective custody and her father was arrested for child abuse and neglect. She weighed only 59 lbs and had the physical development of an eight-year-old. Although Genie’s mother was also arrested and charged, she blamed the father and explained that she was also a victim of abuse.
Unable to face the world, Clark Wiley committed suicide; hours before he was to appear in court to face charges.
Thirteen years after being confined in a dark room, Genie was finally set free. Her father was unable to face the world for what he had done. He left a note that said,
“The world will never understand.”
and shot himself to death.
For scientists, Genie was a huge breakthrough. The government funded therapist, David Rigler, linguist, Susan Kurtis and physician, James Kent were all intrigued to learn of her case. Because she was confined in a chair all of her life, Genie’s hips were deformed and her rib cage was undersized. Her bones were also underdeveloped, causing her to walk in an abnormal way.
After being admitted to the Children’s Hospital, she started making quick progress.
For Genie, everything was a new experience. Experts used her curiosity and learning skills to debunk a hypothesis that children’s brains can only learn certain things at a certain age. Language was one of these critical periods. Although experts believed that she had missed her chance to learn how to speak, Genie proved otherwise. She wanted to learn the word for everything she saw.
Genie formed a close relationship with her teachers, therapists and linguist, Susan Kurtis.
Genie formed a close relationship with her teachers, therapists and linguist Susan Kurtis. Experts saw that her progress was steady but limited. On her 18th birthday, Genie moved back in with her mother; into the same house where she had been abused and neglected. Just a few weeks after Genie moved in, her mother Irene decided that she could not cope with her. From then on, she spent her life moving from one foster home to another.
From 1978 to early 1990’s, Genie was switched between several foster homes. At one of the foster homes, Genie was severely beaten for vomiting. She was traumatized by the experience and regressed back to silence. Her friends who were therapists, decided to take her in, since her condition was worsening due to constant physical and mental abuse. However, Genie’s mother, Irene, wasn’t happy with this decision. She believed that there was a conflict of interest and soon enough, there was a war to regain custody of the child.
Sadly, the court ruled in favor of Genie’s mother, preventing her only friends from ever seeing her again.
Irene was unhappy with the close relationship the hospital staff had with her daughter. In order to keep them away, she decided to file a lawsuit; which sadly, was ruled in her favor.
After Irene won the lawsuit, the scientists and the hospital staff were prevented from ever seeing or making contact with Genie again. Today, no one knows what really happened to Genie. According to some sources, she is still alive in an undisclosed private facility for mentally underdeveloped adults in Los Angeles, California. Although many who meant so much to her went through great lengths to find her, their search ended with no results. One person, who wishes to remain anonymous, spent 20 years looking for her and even hired a private investigator but failed to locate her.
Irene died at the age of 87 and her brother died in 2011 due to diabetic complications. Genie’s story has slowly faded into darkness… but she will never be forgotten.