4 People Who Spent Ages Confined to One Tiny Spot
We have four stories for you today, and all of them are horrible. They span the spectrum from “very horrible” to “the most horrible thing you’ve heard of in your life.” Any one of these stories could have been their own article, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to go into yet further detail about them because each is just so horrible.
They’re all stories about people being confined at home. “That doesn’t sound so bad,” you might say. “That’s just house arrest, right?”
Oh, we assure you, these are so much worse than that.
The Confined Woman of Poitiers
In 1876, a woman in France made the mistake of telling her family she wanted to marry a lawyer. This lawyer wasn’t very rich, you see, which made him an unsuitable match for Blanche Monnier. Some sources also say that he got her pregnant, but this is unconfirmed. The story only becomes well documented in 1901, when police received a tip that Blanche’s family had imprisoned her in her room for the past 25 years.
Police found her in a room whose shutters were nailed closed to keep her in darkness. She was naked and had apparently been so for years. She weighed 56 pounds. It’s unclear if this figure includes her hair, which weighed 4 pounds. The hair weighed so much not just because there was so much of it, but because it was thick with feces. The whole room was thick with feces, along with insects and rotting food.
All of this was shocking, of course, but the distribution of the feces pushed this to a whole other level. Mere neglect didn’t explain the way it was plastered around the room. Investigators would speculate that Blanche’s brother Marcel had arranged the stuff like that not just to torture Blanche but because he really, really liked feces. In his own home, he kept his chamber pot in his room as long as possible, and he would place his filled pot on his wife’s nightstand “so that she smelled the odor well.”
via Wiki Commons
Marcel was initially convicted for his part in Blanche’s confinement, but he won an appeal. His mother was the real guilty party, people agreed, and Marcel could not be found guilty for merely failing his “duty to rescue.” As for the mother, police arrested her, but she died two weeks after being taken into custody.
As you might expect, Blanche never quite adjusted after being freed, and she spent her last years in a psychiatric hospital. Among other conditions, she was diagnosed with exhibitionism — she never did regain a taste for clothing. She was also diagnosed with coprophilia — she always did retain a taste for feces.
Fused With a Toilet
In 2006, Pam Babcock headed into the bathroom of her Kansas trailer. She stayed in there for two years. Her boyfriend, who lived in the same trailer, brought her food and water every day and also set up a TV for her inside the tiny room. She refused to leave, and he finally went to the police to get her out of there.
The police assumed that the boyfriend, Ken, had been holding her in there against her will. For some examples of why that would seem the most reasonable explanation, look to every other story in this article. They charged him with mistreatment, but Pam would go on to say that none of this had been his idea at all. As a result, Ken avoided jail time, but a judge gave him six months’ probation, reasoning that he should have fetched help sooner. This isn’t 19th-century France, and when you live with someone, it's quite fair to say you do have a “duty to rescue.”
When the authorities found Pam, she was largely clothed but had her pants down low enough so she could sit bare-bottomed on the toilet. She had spent so much time on that seat that her butt had fused to it. She’d developed sores, whose squeezings had adhered to seat, to the point that witnesses described this as her skin growing over it. Police were unable to peel her off, so they used a crowbar to break the seat from the toilet. They left the final job of separating porcelain from flesh to medical professionals.
Ken had always realized that living in a bathroom is a poor choice, but he attributed it to a phobia of Pam’s and said he hadn’t been willing to question her decision. “After a while, you kind of get used to it,” he explained. Also, the same time he was sentenced to probation over this incident, he was sent to jail for six months for exposing himself to a teen, but that was unrelated.
The Feral Russian Girl
The subject of our next story suffered five years of mistreatment. This is less than the victims in a couple of these stories but was still a particularly long time, relatively speaking, because the girl was five years old.
Police found “Natasha” in a flat in Siberia, where her family had corralled her with a litter of cats and dogs. She didn’t speak a word of English. Actually, that’s not so surprising, as this was Siberia, but she also didn’t speak a word of Russian, or any other human language. During her time living with her parents and grandparents, Natasha’s family had made her lap food from plates on the floor, in the same way their pets did. Or as the British press put it, she “had never learned how to use cutlery.”
Welfare officers moved her to an orphanage, with hoped that she still had plenty of time to develop into a normal child.
The Austrian Bunker
In the 1980s, Josef Fritzl built a bunker beneath his home, and everyone else in the neighborhood thought this was a very normal thing to do. Nuclear war might break out at any time, so a bunker was a wise choice, even a responsible and commendable choice. The town gave him a grant to help with its construction. In 1984, he had his daughter Elisabeth carry a door down into the bunker so he could install it. Then he closed the door on her and locked her in there for 24 years.
That length of time is almost exactly how long Blanche Monnier had spent in her room, but Elisabeth Fritzl’s experience was a bit different. After the first five years, she had some company: her children. She gave birth to seven children while imprisoned in the bunker. All were fathered by her own father, Josef. Three of them, he left in the bunker to live with her, and to witness all his further interactions with her. Three more, he moved upstairs. He told neighbors that these mysterious arrivals were the children of his missing daughter Elisabeth, who’d joined some cult but had sent the kids to live with him. The seventh child died as an infant. Josef put the body in the home’s incinerator.
Elisabeth got to eventually see daylight only because one of her kids got sick, and Josef enlisted her to help him carry the child up to the surface, to an ambulance. Shortly after, she convinced him to send her to a hospital as well. She talked there to authorities, who stormed the bunker and discovered the remaining children. “Just look into the cellars of other people,” Josef would later say in an interview. “You might find other families and other girls down there.”
It was not practical to try Josef individually for each of the estimated 3,000 rapes he committed against his daughter. Instead, he simply pleaded guilty and accepted a life sentence. According to the terms of his original sentence, he was to be considered for parole two months from now.