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Encyclopedia > Genie (feral child)

Genie displaying her characteristic "bunny walk" shortly after she was rescued at the age of 13.
Born April 18, 1957
Arcadia, California
Known for Feral child

Genie is a feral child who spent nearly all of the first thirteen years of her life locked inside a room. She was discovered by authorities on November 4, 1970. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... is the 108th day of the year (109th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ... Arcadia is a U.S. city in Los Angeles County, California that is located about 13 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley, at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains. ... This article is about the feral child. ... This article is about the feral child. ... is the 308th day of the year (309th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1970 (MCMLXX) was a common year starting on Thursday (link shows full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Early life

Genie is the fourth (and second surviving) child of unstable parents, Irene and Clark. An elder brother also lived in the home.[1] Irene was partially blind due to cataracts and a detached retina, and Clark (who was 20 years his wife's senior) was mentally unbalanced. His condition seems to have worsened after his mother's death in a hit-and-run accident. Cataract is also used to mean a waterfall or where the flow of a river changes dramatically. ... Retinal detachment is a disorder of the eye in which the retina peels away from its underlying layer of support tissue. ... Hit-and-run is the crime of colliding with a person, their personal property (including their motor vehicle), or a fixture, and failing to stop and identify oneself afterwards. ...

When Genie was between 14 and 20 months of age and was just beginning to learn speech, a doctor told her family that she seemed to be developmentally delayed and possibly mildly retarded. Her father took the opinion to extremes, decided that she was profoundly retarded, and subjected her to severe confinement and ritual ill-treatment in an attempt to "protect" her. Half-wit redirects here. ...

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; at night, she was bound in a sleeping bag and placed in an enclosed crib with a cover made of metal screening. Her father beat her every time 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". [2][3] Baby cloth diaper filled with extra cloth. ... A sleeping bag is a protective bag for a person to sleep in, essentially a blanket that can be closed with a zipper or similar means, and functions as a bed in situations where it is impractical to carry around a full bed. ... A baby lying on an elevated mattress in an infant bed An infant bed (commonly referred to as a cot in British English and a crib, cradle or stock) is a small bed specifically for infants, generally up to three years old. ...


Genie was discovered at the age of 13, when her mother ran away from her husband and took her daughter 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.[4] Temple Station Deputies responded, the parents were charged with child abuse, and Genie was taken to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Genie's mother, weak and almost blind, claimed she was herself a victim of abuse by Genie's father. The father committed suicide by shooting himself on the day both parents were to be arraigned on child abuse charges. Charges against the mother went forward in municipal court, but the judge refused to forward the charges to superior court stating "No judge or jury would ever convict this woman".[citation needed] is the 308th day of the year (309th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1970 (MCMLXX) was a common year starting on Thursday (link shows full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... This article is about financial assistance paid by government organizations. ... Location of Temple City in Los Angeles County, California Coordinates: , Country State County Los Angeles Incorporated (city) 1960-05-25 [2] Government  - Mayor Judy S. Wong [1]  - City Manager Charles R. Martin Area  - City  4. ... This article is about the visual condition. ... A boy with autism and his mother Autism refers to a spectrum of disorders, and lies somewhere under the umbrella of a greater encompassing spectrum, that of pervasive developmental disorders that involve the functioning of the brain. ... This article is about the Los Angeles County Sherriffs Department, not to be confused with the smaller Los Angeles County Police Memorial to fallen deputies. ... Child abuse is the physical, psychological or sexual abuse or neglect of children. ... Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (founded 1901) is a private, non-profit teaching hospital in Los Angeles. ...

Genie had a strange "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.[5] 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 discover whether there might be 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. They even screened Fran├žois Truffaut's movie The Wild Child for ideas. Psychologist James Kent became her surrogate parent. For other uses, see Rabbit (disambiguation). ... For the academic journal, see Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics. ... François Roland Truffaut (French IPA: ) (February 6, 1932 – October 21, 1984) was one of the founders of the French New Wave in filmmaking, and remains an icon of the French film industry. ... The Wild Child (title of the film in the United States; it was released in the United Kingdom as The Wild Boy; originally released in France as LEnfant sauvage) was a film by the French director François Truffaut, which was released in 1970. ...

First foster home

Jean Butler was Genie's teacher at Children's Hospital. Butler became Genie's foster parent by accident or by, what members of the Genie team suspected, a scheme that Butler concocted to allow Genie to stay with her. Butler claimed that she herself had had a rash that was likely measles, and thus when Genie had visited her home, Genie may have contracted it. Genie was moved to Butler's home with the initial intent of a temporary quarantine, but the stay became prolonged when Butler petitioned to make it permanent. Butler became very protective of Genie and resisted visits by other members of the Genie team including Susan Curtiss and James Kent.

Butler's personal journal recorded concern that Genie was taxed too greatly by the Genie team and experiments; however (according to Susan Curtiss in the Nova transcript), Butler didn't hide that she hoped Genie would make her famous. According to Curtiss, Butler frequently stated that she was "going to be the next Annie Sullivan." Her true intentions may never be known, but many members of the Genie team claimed genuine affection for Genie and an overwhelming desire to "rescue" her. Anne Sullivan in 1887 Anne Sullivan, Annie Sullivan, or Johanna Mansfield Sullivan Macy, (April 14, 1866 – October 20, 1936) was a teacher best known as the tutor of Helen Keller. ...

Butler did, however, continue the essential practice of observing and documenting Genie's behavior while in her home. One such behavior Butler documented was Genie's practice of hoarding, a behavior typical of children who have been moved from abusive homes. When Butler applied to be Genie's legal foster parent, she was rejected.[4] Compulsive hoarding (or pathological hoarding) is a term which is used to describe extreme hoarding behaviour in humans. ...

Second foster home

Genie returned to the hospital and was handed over to a new foster parent, therapist David Rigler. His wife Marilyn became Genie's new teacher. Marilyn found the need to teach Genie unconventional lessons, for example in anger management. Genie would go into a fit of rage and act out against herself, so Marilyn taught Genie to "rage" through jumping, slamming doors, stomping her feet and generally "having a fit." Marilyn noted that Genie had a stronger command of vocabulary than most children acquiring language. During this period Genie was even able to discuss her years of abuse:[4]

Marilyn Rigler: Where did you stay when you lived at home? Where did you live? Where did you sleep?
Genie: Potty chair.
Marilyn Rigler: You slept in the potty chair?
Genie: Mmm-hmm. Potty chair.

She stayed with the Rigler family for the next four years. During that period she began to learn some language, and the Riglers arranged for her to learn sign language. She also learned to smile. If she could not express herself in language, she would try to communicate by drawing a picture.[4] Two sign language Intepreters working as a team for a school. ... For other uses, see Smile (disambiguation). ...

Loss of funds and interest

Despite Genie's relative success, the National Institute of Mental Health, which had funded the project, grew concerned about the lack of scientific research data generated. In 1974, the Institute cut off funding. The following year the Riglers decided to discontinue their foster parenting. Genie had not yet learned full grammatical English and only went so far as phrases like "Applesauce buy store".[4] The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is part of the federal government of the United States and the largest research organization in the world specializing in mental illness. ...

Later childhood

Genie's mother had been charged with child abuse, but the charges were later dropped after a trial in municipal court. In 1975, Genie was returned to the custody of her mother, who wished to care for her daughter. 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 the homes she was physically abused and harassed, and her development regressed severely, returning to her coping mechanism of silence and the addition of a new fear of opening her mouth. This new fear developed after being severely punished for vomiting in one of her foster homes; she didn't want to open her mouth, even to speak, for fear of vomiting and facing punishment again.[4] A coping skill is a behavioral tool which may be used by individuals to offset or overcome adversity, disadvantage, or disability without correcting or eliminating the underlying condition. ...

The original research team heard nothing more about Genie until her mother sued them for excessive and outrageous testing and claimed the researchers gave testing priority over Genie's welfare, pushing her beyond the limits of her endurance. The suit was settled in 1984.[6]

Present condition

Genie now lives in a sheltered accommodation in an undisclosed location in Southern California; it is at least her sixth adult foster home. Her mother died in 2003.[1] Year 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

An independent film entitled Mockingbird Don't Sing is based on Genie's life. Mockingbird Dont Sing DVD cover Mockingbird Dont Sing is an American independent film which is based on the true story of Genie, a modern-day feral child. ...


  1. ^ a b "Raised by a Tyrant, Suffering a Sibling's Abuse", ABCnews 19 May 2008, by Susan Donaldson James
  2. ^ Genie, a modern-day Wild Child at FeralChildren.com
  3. ^ The Civilizing of Genie by Maya Pines
  4. ^ a b c d e f Secret of the Wild Child - NOVA document transcript, PBS.com
  5. ^ Curtiss, Genie: Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-day "Wild Child".
  6. ^ Susan Donaldson James (2008-05-07). "Wild Child Speechless After Tortured Life".

2008 (MMVIII) is the current year, a leap year that started on Tuesday of the Common Era (or Anno Domini), in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 127th day of the year (128th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...


  • Curtiss, Susan (Ed.). Genie: Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-day "Wild Child". London: Academic Press Inc., 1977. ISBN 0-12-196350-0.
  • Rymer, Russ, "The Silent Childhood," Parts I and II, The New Yorker, April 13 and April 20, 1992.
  • Rymer, Russ. Genie: a Scientific Tragedy. London: HarperPerennial, 1994. ISBN 0-06-092465-9.

Russ Rymer is a book author and freelance journalist with articles on the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, and others. ... For other uses, see New Yorker. ... Russ Rymer is a book author and freelance journalist with articles on the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, and others. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
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Reference.com/Encyclopedia/Genie (feral child) (1254 words)
Genie is the name used for a feral child discovered by California authorities on November 4, 1970 in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia.
During the day, she was tied to a child's potty chair in diapers; and most nights, she was then bound in a sleeping bag and placed in an enclosed crib with a metal lid to keep her shut inside.
Genie was not discovered until the age of 13, when her mother ran away from her husband and took Genie with her.
  More results at FactBites »



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