Genie, The Feral Child.

Welcome back, fellow humans 🙂 

Warning: This blog post contains topics that people may find distressing.

Have you heard about Susan Wiley (Genie)?

Genie endured severe child abuse reported in history. Genie was bound in a dark room with closed windows, all she received was mistreatment and indifference from her father, Clark Wiley. Can a child develop language, if he or she is raised in isolation and abuse? Is it possible to erase the traumatising childhood by offering a loving environment later in life? 

Susan Wiley (Genie)

Clark’s mother managed a brothel while only occasionally visiting him. Clark and Dorothy married on September 28, 1944. He inhibited his wife from leaving home and beat her. She was increasingly dependent on her husband because of her worsening eyesight from the neurological impairment and the outset of drastic cataracts. 


On August 19, 1948, the first child was born. Clark was sensitive to noise, so he left the infant in the garage. The infant developed pneumonia and died. On September 15, 1949, a son was born but died from genetic birth complications. On March 11, 1952, John was born. Clark told Dorothy to keep him silent. Dorothy’s mother decided to take John when he was 4 years old but was returned to his parents. 


When Genie was born, she had a hip problem which required her to wear a brace until she was one year old. At 20 months old, a doctor mentioned that Genie seemed unsound mind and at this point, her father harshly confined and abused in order to shield her. The abuse and angry towards Genie escalated after a drunk driver killed his mother in 1958. Genie was strapped to a potty, wearing a straightjacket which restricted her from moving her arms for 13 hours every day. He fed her cereal, liquids, baby food and soft-boiled eggs. He disallowed her to sob or talk and he would hit her with a bat and growl and bark at her like a dog. At night, she was placed into a sleeping bag and left in a crib.


In October 1970, John ran away from home and lived like a “dead man.” On November 4, 1970, Dorothy decided to apply for disability benefits for the blind and brought Genie with her, but she accidentally entered the general social services office. The staff assumed Genie had autism. They realised that she was unable to talk. Wiley was arrested for child abuse and he took his life in the morning before his trial. 

The world will never understand 

The National Institute of Mental Health invested funds for scientific research on Genie. Therapist David Rigler and physician James Kent were assigned to her. They discovered she had two nearly complete sets of teeth and salivated and spat. She could not chew, swallow or fully focus her eyes on objects more than 10 feet away and she enlarged callus and heavy bruising on her buttocks, deformed and undersized hips and ribcage. She was 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 meters) tall and weighed 59 pounds (27 kg). She was not able to stand up straight and had a “bunny walk” because she could not connect with her sight and touch.

Bunny Walk

At the hospital, she received love and support that had a vital impact on her. She preferred listening to classical music on the piano and loved to draw, which was her means of communication. She enjoyed spending time outside, intrigued by new sounds and moving objects. Her favourite toys were buckets or plastic container. Genie urinated and defecated when she felt stressed so she required the use of a diaper and showed no recognition of very hot or very cold temperatures which is majorly determined by life experiences. Genie developed inappropriate sexual behaviour possibly because her father subjected her to sexual abuse. 


In 1974, the National Institute of Mental Health withdrew the funds due to the limited scientific evidence. She was taken in by David Rigler and his wife. Dorothy’s eyesight was restored after the corrective cataract surgery. In 1975, her mother wanted to take her but soon realised that it was a huge responsibility. In January 1978, Dorothy prevented the research team from seeing Genie. Genie was placed in four or six foster homes between 1978 and early 1990s where she suffered physical and mental abuse. Sadly, she regressed back into silence and depression and also feared to open her mouth because she was brutally punished for vomiting in one of the homes.


Many scientists and carers loved her and probably used her for their own success. Genie’s therapeutic treatment was continuously disrupted by forcing her to learn a language. Her mother was not the best parent but it was her action that led her daughter to be rescued. Currently, Genie resides in an adult foster care home. 

Mockingbird Don’t Sing was an independent movie based on Genie’s life. Susan Wiley’s life established that there is a specific window of opportunity that states when a person is competent to be fairly fluent in a language.

Mockingbird Don’t Sing 

Thank you for reading, fellow humans 🙂 

160 thoughts on “Genie, The Feral Child.

  1. This makes everybody cry, this story will encourage and inspire parents to loved our kids whatever condition they may be. Thank you for this enlightening post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s honestly disgusting that people would treat kids this way! Such a sad story, but it’s nice to see that Genie made some progress after she was rescued.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awe, that is so sad the poor child. I imagine the doctors learned many things from their research. I was confused as to who killed themselves as John was the brother not father. This shows how abused children can be affected.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. She is not the only one but there are many other Genie’s whose stories we do not even know. Yes it made me weep. But again the world is almost full of devils. even Devil is better. We can only try to make this world a better place.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is sad and very disheartening to know that she suffered all that mistreatment. I hope that this may be a lesson to all parents that whatever the condition of our children, don’t blame it to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my gosh! I did see this movie many years ago and it still sticks in my mind. I had been trying to figure out what it was because it was so disturbing and wanted to see if it really was a true story. I don’t know how people can be born to be so cruel like her dad! How horrlble and awful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This story broke my heart its sad how generational failures can turn people into monsters. John was a coward to kill himself before trial and Genies mom, she accidentally saved her daughter but it hurt me to learn that the govt couldnt keep funding for her and she regressed due to the foster care system Horrible I hope she is getting better treatment now…my heart goes out to her.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s so hard to read about stories like hers. In the local news recently was a story about a large family with children ranging from adulthood to very young. The horrors those poor children endured included being chained to furniture and malnutrition, just to start. I know someone must not be mentally stable to subject a child to such misery, but it is hard to understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Never heard of her story before. Thanks for sharing. Such a sad one with many things that went so wrong even after it was going better. I cannot even imagine what her daily life was really like or who she could’ve been. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This story makes me feel so sick. I hate that there are people who treat kids like this when there are so many loving families who can’t have children!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I feel so sad that this girl had to go through such a horrible experience! I wish the mother had done something earlier. Maybe call the police? If my husband ever mistreated/abused our children, that would be the end of the relationship and into jail he would go.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a very sad story and shows how many times no one acts or realizes how many people need support. Not everyone is fit to be a parent, that is another thing I clearly get from these kind of stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks, I’ve just been looking for information about this subject for ages and yours is the best I’ve came upon till now. But, what concerning the conclusion? Are you sure in regards to the source?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I like this post, enjoyed this one appreciate it for putting up. “Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s