Paranormal Phenomenon Omnibus

Wild Men (and Feral Children in History)

Article by Joe McBrayer

The fascination with, and study of Feral Human’s has been long standing. In some cultures, these notions include the Centuries old belief in some remote regions of central and Southern China, concerning rumors of strange human like creatures called Yeren, or “Wildmen, Mountain Monsters, or Man Bears”. This interest in China was so active in the 1940s and the 50s, that an official inquiry was launched in 1961 by the Chinese government. The existence of wild people in the forest and wastelands was commonly recognized in the middle ages, whom were called “woodwoses.” In the 1700s, such Feral humans were classified as Homo Sapien Ferus. The X-Files episode, The Jersey Devil dealt with a family of feral humans in the forests of New Jersey. The episode ended with a feral child who survives after police, out of self defense, kill the parents.

A 'feral', or wild child is a human child who has allegedly been brought up in the wild, separate from society and isolated from contact with other people. Well documented and seemingly trustworthy accounts of feral children are rare, but they do exist. Many researchers dismiss them as folklore, with no basis in fact. There are various causes for the phenomenon - it may be the result of the child being abandoned by parents, or being intentionally isolated from society, perhaps in a locked room or the child may even have been stolen by wild animals. Some cases, like the strange story of Memmis LeBlanc - the 'Wild Girl of Champagne', remain completely unexplained.

Children brought up by animals in the wild can be nurtured by a perplexing variety of creatures including bears, dogs, monkeys, goats, sheep, panthers and even gazelles. Two children, Kamala, aged eight and Amala, aged 18 months, behaved exactly like little wild animals. They slept during the day, only waking after the rising of the moon. They walked on all-fours, ate raw meat, and even bit and attacked other children if they felt threatened. The youngest child, Amala, died within a year, but Kamala lived for nine years in an orphanage, gradually losing her animal nature until she died of illness at the age of 17.

In 1724, a 'naked, brownish, black-haired creature' was caught in the woods near the German town of Hamelin. The 'creature' was found to be a feral boy of about twelve, who at first behaved like a wild animal eating birds and vegetables raw, before becoming more docile. Given the name Peter, the boy was made the possession of King George I of England where he was later taken. In England he spent most of his time either lying by the fire or roaming through the countryside. Peter never learned to talk and lived the rest of his life in England until his death in 1785. It was later discovered that Peter had only been living wild for about a year before his discovery and had actually left home because of physical abuse by his father. It has been suggested that autism may explain his behaviour.

A boy of about 12 years of age, who later became known as Victor, was found foraging for food in the woods near Aveyron, southwestern France in 1799. It was soon obvious that Victor's was a boy only in appearance - he ate raw and rotten food, sat rocking back and forth for hours, and could not distinguish between hot and cold. Despite intensive study by noted French Physician Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard, Victor only ever learned two words -, lait (milk) and Oh Dieu (oh God), and died in 1828 at the age of 40.

The case of Victor demonstrates that feral children have long been of particular interest to the scientific, medical and educational community. Study of such children can cast light on the differences and similarities between human and animal natures, the process of how language is acquired, and whether certain human characteristics are learned or genetic. Unfortunately we know practically nothing of any feral child's life in the wild before their capture. There are also no cases on record of a successful attempt to integrate a feral child back into society if he or she has lived in the wild from a very young age. Due to this lack of ability to adapt to civilization most feral children die at a relatively young age.

Within mythological terms the idea of human children being raised by animals is a very prevalent and potent theme, the earliest famous example is Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, whom it is believed were suckled as infants by a wolf. Rudyard Kipling explored the theme as fable in ‘The Jungle Book’. Edgar Rice Burroughs iconic character, Tarzan, was founded on this theme. The idea of the existence of feral children and adults, captivates most people because it continues to play with our notions about the relationships between humans, nature, and animals. It also uncomfortably acknowledges for some, that we as human beings, are really nothing more or less than socialized, and civilized animals.

"Savage Boys and Girls: A History of Feral Children" by M. Newton, © 2002 Faber and Faber
"Feral Children and Clever Animals: Reflections on human Nature" by D. K. Candland, © 1996 Oxford University Press Inc, USA

Additional Material: Matt Allair
Page Editor: Ericka

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