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Feral Children

Article #183 • Written by Greg Bjerg

Romulus & Remus
Romulus & Remus

"Monkey boys," "wolf girls," "gazelle boys," and even an "ostrich boy;" they are all part of the lore of the feral children. Also known as "wild children," these are children who have grown up with little or no human contact, and they are therefore unaware of human social behavior or language. Some are thought to have been raised by animals, some have reportedly fended for themselves in the wild, and others are victims of abuse, having grown up in the forced isolation of cages or basements.

Being skeptical by nature, I usually find such claims too incredible to be true, but there is a considerable amount of evidence and history available about feral children. While many of the historical cases are unreliable or completely fictitious, other records of feral children defy a simple explanation and are hard to ignore.

From 1724 there are records describing a naked, brownish, black-haired boy who was found running up and down in the fields of the German town of Hamelin. The "creature" was enticed into town, and once there immediately became a subject of great interest. He behaved like a trapped wild animal, eating birds and vegetables raw, and when threatened, he sat on his haunches or on all fours looking for opportunities to escape. The boy was given the name "Peter" and was soon made the possession of King George I of England, where he lived the rest of his life. During his life Peter never learned to talk, showed a complete indifference to money or sex, and was never seen laughing. However he loved music, and he was able to learn a number of menial tasks before he died in 1785.

Another example is a boy named Victor who was discovered foraging for roots and acorns in the woods near Aveyron, France in 1799. He appeared to be about eleven or twelve years old, but he didn't speak. He was taken to Paris, where he resembled a human only in appearance. Victor behaved like an animal, he ate rotten food with pleasure, he was incapable of distinguishing hot from cold, and he spent much of his time rocking back and forth like a caged animal. He was taken into the care of the brilliant scientist Dr Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard, who dedicated himself to the education of the boy. Victor proved to be a very difficult subject. Over the years, he only learned two terms, "lait," and "oh dieu." His sense of touch seemed to be far more important than his sense of sight, and he did not demonstrate an ability to distinguish right from wrong. Like Peter before him, he was indifferent to sex, and he did learn some menial tasks, such as setting a table. Victor lived the rest of his life in the care of his housekeeper, and died in 1828 at the age of forty.

Kaspar Hauser
Kaspar Hauser

One of the more mysterious cases is that of Kaspar Hauser, who was discovered in Nuremberg, Germany in 1828. He was unsteady on his feet, held a letter for a man he had never met, and only spoke the phrase "I want to be a horseman like my father is." The letter was addressed to the captain of the 4th squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment:

Honored Captain,
I send you a lad who wishes to serve his king in the Army. He was brought to me on October 7th, 1812. I am but a poor laborer with children of my own to rear. His mother asked me to bring up the boy, and so I thought I would rear him as my own son. Since then, I have never let him go one step outside the house, so no one knows where he was reared. He, himself, does not know the name of the place or where it is.You may question him, Honoured Captain, but he will not be able to tell you where I live. I brought him out at night. He cannot find his way back. He has not a penny, for I have nothing myself. If you do not keep him, you must strike him dead or hang him.

Kaspar was about sixteen years old, but he behaved like a small child. At first, when a mirror was handed to him he would look behind it trying to find the person behind the mirror, and he burned his hand while touching a candle's flame in curiosity. Kaspar had excellent night vision and a keen sense of smell. He detested meat and alcohol, and was offended by the smell of flowers. Unlike many of the other cases described here, Kaspar did learn much over time, eventually learning to speak enough to describe the small cage in which he had been raised, and the mysterious keeper who finally released him outside of town. But about five years after appearing from nowhere, Kaspar was assassinated. The reason for his murder might be because some believed he was the missing heir to the throne of Baden. His assassin lured him away under the pretense that they would reveal who his parents were, and stabbed him fatally in the chest. The mystery of his early life and violent death has never been satisfactorily answered.

Some feral children have been discovered in more recent history. In a modern version of the Romulus and Remus legend, two young girls were said to have been discovered under the care of a she-wolf in Godamuri, India in 1920. The girls were taken to an orphanage in Midnapore (now part of Orissa). The children, Kamala, aged eight and Amala, aged eighteen months, behaved exactly like small wild animals. They slept during the day and woke by night. They remained on all fours, enjoyed raw meat, and were given to biting and attacking other children if provoked. They could smell raw meat from a distance, and they had an acute sense of sight and hearing. The youngest child, Amala, died one year later, but Kamala lived for nine years in the orphanage until she died of illness at the age of seventeen Kamala did eventually acquire a small vocabulary, but she remained very different from other children until the time of her death.

Genie immediately after rescue
Genie immediately after rescue

Perhaps the saddest example of a feral child is a girl named Genie. On November 4, 1970 she was brought into a welfare office in California by her mother, who claimed that she and her daughter were victims of abuse from the woman's husband. Genie appeared to be about six of seven years old, but when the social worker learned that Genie was actually thirteen years old, she contacted the police. It was soon revealed that Genie had been locked away in a room alone for over ten years. She had been tied to a potty-chair and left to sit alone day after day. At night, she was tied into a sleeping bag which restrained her arms, and placed in an over-sized crib with a cover made of metal screening. Often she was forgotten, and had to spend the night tied to the potty chair.

At first, people could hardly believe that Genie was thirteen years old; she weighed only 59 pounds and was 54 inches tall. While she seemed to understand a few words, the only words she could say were "stop it" and "no more." She had a strange bunny-like walk, possibly due to malformed limbs. She held her hands up in front of her like paws and moved in a halting way. She could not chew solid food and could hardly swallow. She spat and sniffed constantly. She was not toilet-trained and could not focus her eyes beyond 12 feet.

A team of scientists known as "the Genie Team" began began working with Genie in a controversial multi-year research project. Some people felt that the experiments took away any chance for Genie to have a normal life, but the researchers made efforts to give Genie positive social contact by making her part of the head researcher's family, taking her on outings, and letting her see the world. Because Genie proved incapable of learning language beyond very simple sentences, scientists at first thought she might be mentally handicapped; but she proved to be quite intelligent, scoring perfectly on an adult-level test that measured spatial abilities, and scoring the highest recorded results ever on tests that measure a person's ability to make sense out of chaos and to see patterns. Research stopped after the scientists lost their funding, and Genie was moved to a series of foster homes. Today she lives anonymously in an assisted living facility somewhere in Southern California.

Despite the controversy surrounding the study of children like Genie, such research has led to breakthroughs in the education of people with learning disabilities and alternative language skills like sign language and Braille. Feral child research has also helped in developing theories about the evolution of language. Feral children also create many insights about who we are as human beings. They bring us closer to knowing what aspects of human behavior are genetic and what parts are learned. Feral children show us the importance of both our nature and the nurturing influence of other humans. These children and their struggles bring us the fragmented and haunting story that we are viewing the savage image of ourselves.

Article written by Greg Bjerg, published on 15 May 2006. Greg was born and raised in Iowa and graduated with a degree in Journalism from Drake University. Sadly, he passed away on 20 March 2011.

Article design by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows. Story suggested by Per Madsen.
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53 Comments
warofwrath
Posted 15 May 2006 at 02:42 pm

I've read about the "Wild Boy of Aveyron" in my psych textbook, and heard of Genie, but the rest of the article was new to me.

I'm guessing that Kaspar never did get a chance to serve in the army? That story alone peaks the DI meter for this article.


Cori
Posted 15 May 2006 at 02:44 pm

I've read a lot about feral children, and find it to be terrible but interesting. I'd definitely recommend that people look into this more, it's very fascinating.


Sapient
Posted 15 May 2006 at 03:06 pm

I find it amazing the feral children develop acute senses such as touch and smell, much like the wild animals they remind us of. Doesnt this lead us to conclude modern society is dulling our "natural" senses?
This is an 8 on the DI meter for me.


The Random Avenger
Posted 15 May 2006 at 03:29 pm

Sapient said: "I find it amazing the feral children develop acute senses such as touch and smell, much like the wild animals they remind us of. Doesnt this lead us to conclude modern society is dulling our "natural" senses?

This is an 8 on the DI meter for me."

Modern Society isn't dulling our senses, it is reducing them in order to create a greater capacity for learning, language, and cognitive thought. We don't use our senses in our sheltered lives so those parts of the brain are reduced in order to expand other things.


andrew
Posted 15 May 2006 at 04:06 pm

I doubt there's any "reduction" or "expansion" in any literal meanings.. But there's certainly less mental emphasis placed on the inputs from some senses than from others.

Compare to people who lose their sight versus those blind from birth.


J. Tithonus Pednaud
Posted 15 May 2006 at 04:07 pm

Indeed, there have been a number of well documented cases of feral children. The modern occations certainly give at least some credit to even ancient account in that it is, at the very least, plausable. Though, the range of animals is quite questionable. I have heard of everything from Apes and Wolves to Bears, Rats and even other vermin.

The story of Genie was turned into quite a good film called 'Mockingbird Don't Sing' - while not completely accurate, it is a moving film.

J. Tithonus Pednaud
Purveyor of Peculiar Physical Phenomena
and Puzzling Prodigies of the Past

http://www.thehumanmarvels.com


Hayley
Posted 15 May 2006 at 04:49 pm

This is an incredible article. I've read about many feral children before, but it makes one wonder why they're all children. Obviously, adults would not adapt so well, but I wonder if the average feral child simply doesn't make it to adulthood or if they're simply not found, or all found before then. It would be very interesting to see how an adult feral person would have adapted even more so, though I don't suppose there are too many of them around.


Iscariot
Posted 15 May 2006 at 08:05 pm

It's pretty sad to think that human beings don't actually become human unless we are nurtured.


MoleOfProduction
Posted 15 May 2006 at 08:07 pm

The story of Victor is imagined with great genius by T. C. Boyle in McSweeney's 19.


ballaerina
Posted 15 May 2006 at 08:56 pm

I saw a documentary about Genie in a high school Psych class. I remember being heartbroken for her. I couldn't imagine the extreme abuse that the father must have given her. She could barely walk, even after months of physical therapy, and her vocabulary was less than 100 words.

I can understand the controversy about studying feral children, but had she been released into the real world, who would have taken care of her? And how would she fend for herself when she can barely communicate?
This is such a sad area, but so interesting.


Plank
Posted 15 May 2006 at 10:44 pm

"showed a complete indifference to money or sex"

Just goes to show how people want what they are told to want (especially by the media, but let's not go there)
Very interesting article. Any more sources? I would like to read up some more about it.


S Mirza
Posted 15 May 2006 at 11:47 pm

The first thing I thought when I finished the article was "Some of them would make good ninjas". Whats wrong with me?

Romulus and Remus are the founders of Rome, right? Just checking my history


qx
Posted 16 May 2006 at 12:59 am

It is interesting to note, or may be pertinant to expand on the mention of of 'evolution of languages'.

According to current sutdies, the human brain, up until about 6 years, is very receptive to language, syntax, symantics, etc. After the age of 6, this function is reduced dramatically, and drops off sharply toward the early teen years.

Thusly, children who never learnt the symantics and basis of word, sound, and coherent communication, or language, before this magical age seldom have the ability to learn any form of language in later life - which certainly supports the cases in the article.


HunterKiller_
Posted 16 May 2006 at 02:33 am

Sapient said: "I find it amazing the feral children develop acute senses such as touch and smell, much like the wild animals they remind us of. Doesnt this lead us to conclude modern society is dulling our "natural" senses?"

This reminded me of another point about the human mind. There was a documentary on which infants were put into a small experiment of facial recoginition. Long story short, the infants were able to distinguish between individual animal faces of the same species, while older childern and adults are unable to do so.

This proves that the human mind at birth has a great capacity for very specific tasks and can be molded.
The brains and sense of these 'feral childern' would have adjusted to the niche that they were in.

Off topic, but i've often thought about the possibilities of training childern to tap into some sort of psychic abilities that i am sure we all possess within the 90% of unused mass within our brain.


alias
Posted 16 May 2006 at 02:35 am

I've heard about Romulus and Remus being brought up by wolves, but everything else is new to me. It's horrible how people can treat children like animals and lock them up like this. Closer to my own home, the story of Kamala and Amala was also interesting. It also shows that animals like wolves and other meat eaters, who would normally kill and eat small children if desperate or injured, do actually step up to take care of these helpless children, and bring them up as their own. Good article... 9/10 on the DI meter


alias
Posted 16 May 2006 at 02:37 am

By the way do you know that that statue on the top of the page of Romulus and Remus feeding off the wolf is also the logo of AS Roma Football Club...


Reilly
Posted 16 May 2006 at 03:16 am

HunterKiller_ said: "Off topic, but i've often thought about the possibilities of training childern to tap into some sort of psychic abilities that i am sure we all possess within the 90% of unused mass within our brain."

This is a common misconception, the whole 90% of the brain thing but it just isnt true.
Do you really think humans would evolve this big, energy intensive brain that we all have if we didnt use the majority of it?


Sylph-DS
Posted 16 May 2006 at 03:47 am

I suppose it'd be possible to make super-children, I sure hope nobody ever does that though. It'll probably be hell for the kid in question.

Amazing though, about Genie, that she could see patterns and chaos and all that stuff that good, guess that's how she passed the time or something, just trying to look at patterns in the stuff in the room. Also, the fact that she couldn't see well beyond 12 feet must've meant that the wall were not much less than that away from her.

And another bit off-topic: I wonder who put that 90% of the brain thing out there..


1c3d0g
Posted 16 May 2006 at 03:51 am

Yeah, I remember a few years ago they found an 8~10 year-old boy (in Peru, IIRC) that was raised by a wild dog. There was a big fanfare around him...eventually they made him learn human things like speaking, writing etc. and he's even in school now (though obviously still in elementary). Feral children are real, whether you believe it or not.


mensadave
Posted 16 May 2006 at 04:45 am

Kaspar Hauser doesn't really belong in the feral children category-- the fact that he learned things very quickly and was able to lead a reasonably normal life indicated that his intellectual abilities weren't permanently stunted in the early developmental stages of childhood like the others' were. The most likely explanation for his condition-- postulated by Charles Fort, no less-- was that he had suffered some head trauma which led to a temporary amnesia, a circumstance that is quite rare, but does occur (it happens far more often in the movies than in real life). As for his death, there is evidence to indicate that his injuries (which later proved fatal) were self-inflicted.


Reilly
Posted 16 May 2006 at 06:22 am

Sylph-DS said: "And another bit off-topic: I wonder who put that 90% of the brain thing out there.."

Apparantly the 90% of the brain thing is "supported" by MRI or one of the other brain imaging scans. At any one time most of the brain is inactive, despite the fact that over time the whole brain gets used. That was the explaination we got at uni....


Tynan
Posted 16 May 2006 at 07:00 am

Astronauts who spend a while in a space station also temporarily lose their ability to focus their eyes past about 10 feet - the longest distance inside the station. Genie probably had a more intense version of the same problem.

Some of these childrens' lack of interest in sex and rocking behavior suggests to me at least that they suffered from some form of autism or mental illness. It seems unlikely that proto-humans would have been able to reproduce very well without a natural interest in sex. Perhaps some of them were mentally disabled and left in the wilderness by parents at a young age. A baby could never fend for itself in the wild - an abandoned 2-year old with a mental speech handicap and some luck could theoretically do much better.


Madsen
Posted 16 May 2006 at 08:17 am

Great article Greg!


noway
Posted 16 May 2006 at 09:27 am

Madsen said: "Great article Greg!"

Good article, but do these writers even read the stuff they wrote before throwing it on the sight? A paper with this many typos and grammar mistakes in college would have gotten me constant F's.


CellarDweller
Posted 16 May 2006 at 09:41 am

noway said: "Good article, but do these writers even read the stuff they wrote before throwing it on the sight? A paper with this many typos and grammar mistakes in college would have gotten me constant F's."

First of all, it's spelled "site" in this context. Secondly, to pluralize a letter like F, you're not supposed to use an apostrophe.

To bitch about imaginary grammar mistakes while your own short comment contains two obvious ones... priceless.


Stuart
Posted 16 May 2006 at 09:44 am

Reilly said: "Apparantly the 90% of the brain thing is "supported" by MRI or one of the other brain imaging scans. At any one time most of the brain is inactive, despite the fact that over time the whole brain gets used. That was the explaination we got at uni…."

This is what it says on wikipedia about the misconseption that humans only use 10% of our brains: even though some mysteries of brain function persist, every part of the brain has a known function. This misconception most likely arose from a misunderstanding (or misrepresentation in an advertisement) of neurological research in the late 1800s or early 1900s when researchers discovered that only about 10% of the neurons in the brain are firing at any given time. If all of a person's neurons began firing at once he would not become smarter, but would instead suffer a seizure. In fact, studies have shown that the brains of more intelligent people are less active than the brains of less intelligent people when working on the same problems.


sierra_club_sux
Posted 16 May 2006 at 11:06 am

Greg Bjerg said: "...was incapable of distinguishing hot from cold,..."

How is this possible?


sherashi
Posted 16 May 2006 at 11:19 am

Noway, you also had a grossly misplaced modifier. :)


MrEleganza
Posted 16 May 2006 at 12:41 pm

I think the reason that the 10% thing SPREAD and became so widely known to all of us is because someone had a point to make about human potential. That's how a lot of these urban legends start/spread...people want a clever anecdote that "proves" their gut feeling about something, and if they can't find one, they make one up or distort one to fit their point.


Starcia02
Posted 16 May 2006 at 01:55 pm

I don't understand why so many people who come to this website nitpick the grammar in all of the articles. Don't you come here to read interesting stuff and perhaps learn something new? Why spend your time reading these things if all you're going to do is look for mistakes that you can point out?

Great article, by the way.


apology
Posted 16 May 2006 at 02:40 pm

anothre good article. made an interesting read. indeed makes it worth pondering how animal we really are.

also, afaik, hot and cold are perceived in an identical way (or very similar) as stimuli in the brain, so the only way we actually distinguish hot from cold is by conciously being aware of the nature of the stimuli. for example if you were to be blindfolded and touched with an object that is very hot or very cold, you will probably have difficulty in telling which one is which.

I might be wrong though. if so please correct me.


aliceglass
Posted 16 May 2006 at 02:51 pm

Sylph-DS said: " Also, the fact that she couldn't see well beyond 12 feet must've meant that the wall were not much less than that away from her.

Precisely. One of the most amazing things I learned this past school year was that depth perception is learned. The example used in one of my books was about an African tribe who lived in the jungle, so that they never saw things from much farther away than a few meters. When they were brought onto a flat plain by researchers, they saw a herd of elephants in the distance, and as they drove closer accused the researchers of witchcraft for making the animals "grow" in size.
I don't think I've looked at the horizon in the same way ever since. I can't help but see, say, a bridge in the distance and think about crushing it under foot.


Filoviridae
Posted 16 May 2006 at 03:23 pm

Starcia02 said: "I don't understand why so many people who come to this website nitpick the grammar in all of the articles. Don't you come here to read interesting stuff and perhaps learn something new? Why spend your time reading these things if all you're going to do is look for mistakes that you can point out?

Great article, by the way."

No kidding. They're going to need a different Comment format to handle the increasing bitching.


EVERYTHINGZEN
Posted 16 May 2006 at 04:34 pm

Sapient said: "I find it amazing the feral children develop acute senses such as touch and smell, much like the wild animals they remind us of. Doesnt this lead us to conclude modern society is dulling our "natural" senses?

An amazing adaptation of the human brain allows us to decrease the space we use for certain things, such as sight or smell, to increase the size of what we do use. For example, many studies on deaf people have shown that the area of the brain used to monitor sound is much smaller than those who hear, and the part of the brain used for sight and sight recognition are much larger than the average person. The size (mass) of the occipital lobe increased, and the area in the temporal lobes used to control the primary auditory cortex shrank as the occipital lobe used more space to gain hightened sight. This phenomona is reffered to as "plasticity".

A very interesting study done on cab drivers in London showed that the part of the brain used for mapping,
the hippocampus, was much larger than those who had no extensive experience in navigating streets. The more experience the cabbie had, the larger the posterior hippocampus. It is estimated at this point, with as little as they do know about the human brain, that this plasticity remains throughout life. And the once old time notion that brain cells die and do not regenerate has been disproven time and again by the medical community. The grey matter of the brain is shed throught your 20's into your 30's as best as they can tell right now, thus cells are in fact regenerating frequently throughout time.

Long drawn out point being, those senses are dulled because there are other things deemed more important by our brains and thus the space to do those tasks is consumed from the shrinkage of unnecessary space.

Another really cool study, it's in an issue of National Geographic from March of 05 I believe, had shown after testing a group of monks, the part of the brain controlling emotion, the hypthalamus, in particular happiness, showed that these monks had some of the largest happy places inside their heads that they had ever tested before. How freakin cool is that?

So kids, the next time your parents tell you smokin all that stuff will kill your brain cells and they don't come back, assure them that they do in fact regenerate and you will be fine. Less a few memory issues.


ballaerina
Posted 16 May 2006 at 06:01 pm

CellarDweller said: "First of all, it's spelled "site" in this context. Secondly, to pluralize a letter like F, you're not supposed to use an apostrophe. "

Actually, you are supposed to put an apostrophe after the F, unless you are talking about plural "Fs". But since you're referring to grades, it should be "F's". Same with "A's" and "B's", etc. My journalism teacher drilled us on this.


cornerpocket
Posted 16 May 2006 at 08:59 pm

I'm amazed nobody so far has mentioned Edgar Rice Burrough's facination with the feral child raised by apes (TARZAN, you silly). The whole notion of nature vs nurture, etc. was of special interest back awhile ago and some of that was spurred by the phenomena of feral children. Are we a blank slate, to be written on by society and experience, or do we come with a whole package of competencies inherited from our parents and our race that will materialize, in time, no matter the world we live in? Charles Dickens pondered such matters in his literature more than once.
To enliven the discussion, once long ago I worked at a State Hospital and met a person called, at least by the other aides "Chicken Woman." She had been raised in a chicken coop by parents who were ashamed of her. My recollection is that she even had siblings who were in on the secret and never interacted with her. She, not surprisingly, acquired avian-like characteristics, including feet that would bend in a perching like manner. Long after she was found and institutionalized, she would find ways to get out of her clothing and the posey-belt she was typically tied into her rocking chair with, and climb up and 'perch' on the back of the rocking chair. She couldn't speak, ate with her hands, 'clucked' and stared off into space a lot. She was very skinny and weighed probably less than 80 pounds. Cannot speak of her demise, the consequences for her parents or such matters of interest. All I know is that there are probably lots of examples of the results of sensory deprivation, cultural deprivation, social deprivation and all manner of cruelties to humans from early childhood onward that leave such persons handicapped for life. Sorting out which of these depravities is the most important is probably an exercise in futility.


shorty
Posted 18 May 2006 at 08:18 am

i am quite certain there are modern examples of feral children that were not included in this article. check the Southern Illinois University's Anthropology Dept for these cases. i also expected in the article some kind of definition of "feral" to differentiate between mental illness or mutations, and actual cases of feral rearing.


cornerpocket
Posted 18 May 2006 at 08:14 pm

There would be a problem with 'feral' children, even the ones who are found in the wild, given that they cannot speak for themselves. It would leave interpretation of their origins to the citizenry and the foibles of myth, preferential interpretation, etc. People deprived of a 'normal' background who escape or are set free or get deposited with a letter attached will certainly be a curiosity and a source of conjecture. Man's inhumanity might not be the first inclination in various times and societies, especially ones that favor the Romulus and Remus story.


orc_jr
Posted 19 May 2006 at 10:47 am

has this been observed among other animals? for example, a dog being raised by a cat and taking on some feline characteristics?


Madsen
Posted 21 May 2006 at 11:16 am

Starcia02 said: "I don't understand why so many people who come to this website nitpick the grammar in all of the articles. Don't you come here to read interesting stuff and perhaps learn something new? Why spend your time reading these things if all you're going to do is look for mistakes that you can point out?


Great article, by the way."

It's a result of The Tall Puppy Syndrome....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tall_poppy_syndrome

...or...if you will...The Jante Law:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jante_Law


The Dankest of HSM
Posted 09 June 2006 at 05:22 pm

J. Tithonus Pednaud said: "Indeed, there have been a number of well documented cases of feral children. The modern ----->occations


The story of Genie was turned into quite a good film called 'Mockingbird Don't Sing' - while not completely accurate, it is a moving film.

J. Tithonus Pednaud
Purveyor of Peculiar Physical Phenomena
and Puzzling Prodigies of the Past

http://www.thehumanmarvels.com"

I love how you speculate so much and cant spell occasion.


white_matter
Posted 10 July 2006 at 11:03 pm

Feral Children would be an Awesome band name!!


Ayan
Posted 15 July 2006 at 07:49 am

To Orc Jr:

Actually, a man has tried experimenting before with a monkey and his own infant child. I think that, originally, he had been trying to see if the monkey would adopt some human behaviours if it was to be raised as a human with another organism that's also to be raised as a human, and is actually a human. To his horror, however, he found that while the monkey did gradually learn some human behaviours, his own child was learning how to be a monkey - specifically, by way of speech.

The monkey was removed from the child's company, in the end, and - in all probability - before the child was past six years of age, when whatever language learnt will have become a somewhat permanent fixture. It's interesting to note that the human brain is quite susceptible to a lot of things, even if those things are debatably outside of our specie's normality. Personally, I think it tilts the nature vs. nurture argument in favour of 'nurture.'

What I've said was gathered from memories of a documentary on T.V. and, therefore, might be inaccurate. I'm not sure if there's an online article about the experiment, but I don't think it's entirely unlikely that there isn't.


Emily
Posted 08 September 2006 at 09:32 am

"This is an incredible article. I've read about many feral children before, but it makes one wonder why they're all children. Obviously, adults would not adapt so well, but I wonder if the average feral child simply doesn't make it to adulthood or if they're simply not found, or all found before then. It would be very interesting to see how an adult feral person would have adapted even more so, though I don't suppose there are too many of them around."

There has been a 'feral adult' i heard about it in sociology the other day as we were discussing feral children. the woman was 38 when she was found in a loft by the council! Her parents had kept her in the loft since birth because they believed she was 'ugly'. She was not toilet trained and could speak no words as her mother was the only person she had any contact with and she didnt speak to her, when she went up to the loft. The mother only went up to the loft to take the woman food and water and to clean out the litter tray in which the woman went to the toilet in. When her mother died she was left to fend for herself (her father had died a number of years earlier) and she was found 1 week after the death of her mother when the council went into the house to clear it out; they heard moving around in the loft so went up to investigate and found the woman cowering in the corner. She couldn't speak and was naked as her parents had told everyone that she had died at birth so she had never had any clothes after the first 6/7 months because after that her parents would have looked strange buying clothes for their 'dead' child so even to this day she doesn't like anything touching her skin so shreds her clothes whenever she's given the opportunity. For the week after her mothers death she had been living on her own excretement until the council found her.


T-mizzle
Posted 16 December 2006 at 04:10 pm

---

! (.)(.)-BOOB ALERT! !


DI Doe
Posted 15 February 2007 at 08:19 pm

Old story on this site, but renewed topic given last month's discovery in Cambodia of a 'feral woman'. It is claimed that she has spent nineteen years in the jungle since disappearing at the age of eight. The story does get complicated however, with family refusing a DNA test, suspicions that the woman had been enslaved, and the fact that this is after all Cambodia, where appearing out of a jungle after many years is a little more common than in other countries.

Tynan said: "Some of these childrens' lack of interest in sex and rocking behavior suggests to me at least that they suffered from some form of autism or mental illness. It seems unlikely that proto-humans would have been able to reproduce very well without a natural interest in sex. Perhaps some of them were mentally disabled and left in the wilderness by parents at a young age. A baby could never fend for itself in the wild - an abandoned 2-year old with a mental speech handicap and some luck could theoretically do much better."

The distance we're accustomed to assuming between the mentally disabled and the 'normal' is almost certainly not applicable to the case of a human who has been isolated from their con-specifics for a long period.

An interest in sex is certainly an evolutionary requirement. But given the absence of a community of humans with which to interact, all of the important things we share with the other higher primates would fail to develop properly - being able to understand and participate in a social hierarchy, for example. The expression of sexual desire in the human animal couldn't be put entirely 'on hold' and still come out 'normally' years later once a community was entered.

You're right of course that a baby couldn't survive on its own in the wild, which is I guess why the 'raised by animals' theory is maintained when a feral child is discovered to exhibit animal behaviours.


Tink
Posted 19 June 2007 at 10:19 am

Hayley said: "This is an incredible article. I've read about many feral children before, but it makes one wonder why they're all children. Obviously, adults would not adapt so well, but I wonder if the average feral child simply doesn't make it to adulthood or if they're simply not found, or all found before then. It would be very interesting to see how an adult feral person would have adapted even more so, though I don't suppose there are too many of them around."

Ya know, after re-visiting this one, your comment made me think of Big Foot, Yeti, Sasquach etc.
Now wouldn't it be funny if those creatures were the remains of those kids,never found. I say this half in jest as I have no idea that crypto creatures actualy exist, but like all things here it is fun to speculate upon.


Jospec5Star
Posted 01 January 2009 at 02:52 pm

Wow. This is one damn interesting article. I believe this is my favorite so far.


Jospec5Star
Posted 01 January 2009 at 02:58 pm

http://i.abcnews.com/Health/story?id=4758945&page=1

Another more recent but equally horrific and saddening example.


WildMountainBoy
Posted 17 February 2009 at 05:11 pm

Tynan said: "A baby could never fend for itself in the wild - an abandoned 2-year old with a mental speech handicap and some luck could theoretically do much better."

I agree, with both Tyana and also that infants can be reared by wild animals and accepted into animal social groups such as packs and herds.

I was recently told about a boy abandoned at the age of 2 in a shopping center near Deli India.
The boy survived mostly on his own, with little help from shop keepers or shoppers. Until he was about 16 he lived in the shopping center when he was then "adopted" by a low-middle class family from the Local church, but was unable to deal with the luxury of 4 walls . So he retreated back to the familiar shopping center. Several attempts were made to "bring the boy home", but he never stayed more than a month . After this he was taken in by one of the shop keepers who lives in the slums, this being a much more comfortable environment for the boy has been his home for the past 2 years.
He is Called Kite. Because his greatest joy is... well you guessed it "flying kites". He is very Intelligent (though extremely shy), and speaks well. He has a job as a parking lot guard at the same shopping center where he was abandoned.

I know this isn't exactly a wilderness scenario. But I still find it amazing that a child abandoned at the age of 2, could grow into a reasonably healthy adult and member of society with little rearing other than the occasional kindness of strangers.

also here are some links to relating (feral children) story's.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7803699
http://argentinareporter.wordpress.com/2008/08/22/heroic-dog-adopts-baby/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gpfvkeo0KBc


siphons
Posted 26 April 2009 at 11:10 pm

I'm frankly shocked not more than one person recognized all of the symptoms of these 'feral' children are inherent in autism.


mattesx69
Posted 30 June 2012 at 01:48 am

Hayley said: "This is an incredible article. I’ve read about many feral children before, but it makes one wonder why they’re all children. Obviously, adults would not adapt so well, but I wonder if the average feral child simply doesn’t make it to adulthood or if they’re simply not found, or all found before then. It would be very interesting to see how an adult feral person would have adapted even more so, though I don’t suppose there are too many of them around."

ummm, when there found as children they never really change due to the fact that almost all human social growth and intelligence happens at a very young age, once at the age these kids are "discovered" they really cant be taught anything, some habits can be changed and a few surface cracks but no more, these kids grow into adults the exact same way as a feral child, these people never improve due to how humans learn at this young age, so these kids are the adults, they never have any kind of improvements sadly :/


TJ
Posted 05 November 2014 at 12:43 am

During a course for a Foster Parenting program we were introduced to a child that was discovered abused by her highly drug addicted parents ( dealers also). She was almost 4 yrs @ the time. Couldn't walk ,talk, was filthy dirty with her hair so matted to her head she had sores. She scooted around on her bum. She was terrified when discovered by police locked in a bedroom during a raid. When we met her 2 yrs later to the credit to all who worked with her and to her Foster Family she was a polite,outgoing,beautiful,,intelligent darling little girl. She spoke well, played hide and seek and sat nicely and colored while her foster family talked about her, their experiences ( some extremly hard and trying) and answered our questions. It is truly amazing what a little patience and a lot of love can do.


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