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Genie Wiley: Story of The Feral Child

Genie Wiley: ‘Feral Child’

Genie Wiley is a name generally used amongst scientists researching abnormal child psychology due to her dreadful upbringing and the harmful effect it had on her ability to communicate and perceive the world around her.

Genie was raised by a mentally weak dad who, when she was twenty months old decided that she was mentally retarded and locked her away in a pitch-black room at the back of the home; she was strapped to a potty chair almost twenty-four hours a day and was locked in a wired and lidded chicken coop the rest of the time. Her dad refused to speak to her and would bark and growl at her to punish and further frighten her.

If she made any noise, she would be whipped with a wooden spoon; he prohibited his six-year-old son and partially blind wife from speaking to her or touching her. When Genie was thirteen, her mum eventually decided enough was enough and fled the house with Genie in tow. When she was brought into a state facility building hunched over and walking with her hands in front of her like a bunny rabbit due to malnourishment, her mum and dad were imprisoned on child abuse charges.

Despite being a teenager, she was so malnourished that she was the size of a six-year-old and could only make growling and barking noises.

The Young Girl

Genie (feral child) - Wikipedia
Pic: Wikipedia

The young girl that fled the clasps of her dad amazed the world with the amount of suffering and isolation she was urged to endure for her short life. Genie was incapable to communicate or voice what was going on within her psyche and shortly became the subject of several scientists’ fascination. Unfortunately, this fascination they had with her mind had destructive consequences.

Genie’s dad, Clark Wiley was her abuser: Every day, he would go into the back room of the home where he kept his frail and innocent daughter locked up in a wire pen as if she was an animal. Then, he would take her out and strap her to a potty chair while he force-fed her milk and pablum while whipping her if she made any noise.

Clark was the reason for his first child’s death when he put her outside in the garage during winter because she was making too much noise. Irene Wiley, Clark’s wife was dependent on her husband due to neurological trauma and partial blindness due to a head injury she received when she was a child. After Clark’s mum passed away in a hit-and-run accident, his mental health declined and he started whipping Irene more often as well as increasing the harshness of the abuse.


Irene met Clark when she escaped the dust bowl in Southern California. She was from a sheltered farming family and was twenty years younger than Clark; when inquired why she never halted the abuse of Genie, she contended he told her it was for Genie’s good and he was helping her. On the day Clark was presumed to stand trial in court, he shot himself to death after leaving a note that read “No one will ever understand.”

When Genie was first brought into the maintenance of the state, she came to be the focus of numerous scientists’ attention. There has been a long-standing assertion within the medical community that hypothesizes humans cannot formulate the ability to communicate completely if they do not learn it by puberty. Genie, being thirteen and uncommunicative appeared like the perfect subject to prove this theory wrong.

The government appointed a team of scientists and linguists to study her. She worked most nearly with child psychologist James Kent and linguist Susan Curtiss. Genie shortly started to learn word after word and started showing deep attention in those around her as well as the world around her.

She bounced from foster home to foster home, a few of these being the homes of the doctors and scientists that were researching her. She appeared to be amazed by even the simplest things: A natural waterfall established by a pool of rainwater pouring over a drain, the way the leaves fell from the trees in the autumn and came back healthier than ever in the spring… nonetheless, this wasn’t sufficient. The unfathomable damage she endured always haunted her; she would turn in on herself and not speak a word for periods.

With new developments in brain scans, we can now eventually understand why humans can only formulate speech at specific periods of their lives. Genies brain, shows a left cortex, the side of the brain responsible for language processing as shrunken, and greatly deformed. Due to her being separated as an infant and no one ever talking to her, the part of her brain responsible for understanding these things started to shrink and finally be permanently malformed. Without proper stimulation of this part of the brain, it will ultimately quit functioning.


On Genie’s 18th birthday her mum regained supervision of her and shifted her back into the house she suffered so many years of abuse in. Genie’s health started to decline and Irene acknowledged she was not eligible to care for her on her own. She put Genie into state care and proceeded to visit her regularly.

When Irene felt that the interactions with the therapists were starting to “overwhelm” Genie she prohibited any of them from seeing her, even those she was closely bonded to. After being taken away from the adults she was nearest to, she halted speaking. Susan Curtiss, the linguist who worked closely with her still has not seen her but swears she “fell in love with her” and felt “like a mum or a sister” to her.

The precise placement of Genie is unknown but there are rumors that she is living in a state home in Los Angeles, California. She is currently 62 years old.

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