1. Victor of Aveyron
It was the winter of 1800 when a naked boy emerged from the woods of Aveyron, scarred, shivering, and nameless. Estimated at twelve years old by the townfolk, the boy — nicknamed “Victor” by a young French physician — was an enigma, either deaf, mute, and socially stunted, or a wild child shaped by the forest and his own primal instincts. Debate still rages if Victor was a genuine feral child, but he remains one of the subject’s most famous historic cases.
2. Oxana Malaya
Like far too many feral children, Oxana Malaya was neglected from an incredibly young age. Robbed of a childhood, the girl was cast outdoors by hateful parents and made to survive on bloody scraps and raw meat. She spent five long years under the care of a pack of dogs, and by the time she was rescued at age eight, young Oxana was a shadow of the canines that nurtured her, walking on all fours, baring her teeth, and lapping feverishly from water bowls. Oxana was, however, able to obtain a fundamental mastery of the English language under the tutelage of speech therapists and child psychologists, and now lives a quiet life on the Ukrainian countryside.
3. Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja
By definition, a “feral child” must have its roots in tragedy, and Marcos Pantoja, his youth spent alone in the Spanish wilderness, is no exception. Sold by his family to an ailing goatherder at seven years old, Marcos cared for the old man’s animals in isolation. Following the goatherder’s sudden death, the boy lived without any human contact for twelve long years, the mountain’s fauna his only companions, teachers, and family. At age nineteen he was rescued by Spain’s Guardia Civil and returned to civilization, where he’s since lived in relative peace.
4. Ng Chhaidy
At four years old, Ng Chhaidy and her cousin ventured into the harsh forests that hemmed her tiny village. Five days later, her cousin returned. 38 years later, so did she. Having spent most of her life in the wild, Chhaidy could only speak a handful of phrases retained from her childhood, but unlike most feral children reintroduced into society, she wasn’t the least bit shy, and remained in generally jovial spirits, despite her lifetime spent in isolation.
5. Genie Wiley
A name that’s since become synonymous with the study of feral children, Genie spent the first thirteen years of her life locked in a dank, lightless basement, the subject of unspeakable abuse at the hands of her family. By the time she first saw daylight, Genie could barely communicate and was only able to walk with an awkward, rabbit-like gait. She’d develop notable nonverbal communication skills in the following years, but as the public lost interest in her case, so did the foster families that struggled to care for her.
Few concrete facts are known about Russia’s “Werewolf Boy,” a wild child that was roughly ten years old when he was rescued from the wilderness and admitted to a Moscow medical clinic. Found living with a pack of wolves in the Russian hinterland, toenails overgrown and teeth razor sharp, the boy was taken in only to escape back into the woods the very next day. He hasn’t been seen since.
7. Marie-Angélique Memmie Le Blanc
Marie-Angélique was barely ten years old when the Great Plague hit Marseille. The girl fled for the forests of Champagne, leaving the devastating haze of sickness behind her, and lived as a creature of the wild until her capture ten years later. Unlike most feral children, Marie-Angélique saw a complete intellectual rehabilitation, learning to read and write later in life. According to posthumous records, the “Wild Child of Champagne” died a wealthy woman at the age of 63.
8. Natasha Mikhailova
The only affection that Natasha Mikhailova knew came from the dogs and cats that shared the squalid, disgusting flat she was confined to. Never taught to talk or walk, and not once allowed outside, the girl’s instincts and behavior were indelibly shaped by the animals that looked after her. Neighbors told the press that her father regularly took the family dogs on walks. His daughter didn’t see the light of day until well after her fifth birthday.
The reality of children growing up in the wild, without human love and interaction, can have devastating and irreversible consequences.
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