venerdì 23 maggio 2014

Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier

Blanche Monnier was a French girl who was kept captive for 24 years in a padlocked, shuttered room where she was forced to live amidst pests, rats, human excrement, and filth.  Her discovery occurred on May 23, 1901 after the Paris Attorney General received an anonymous letter indicating a woman was being held captive in a home located on a “21 rue de la Visitation” street in a wealthy neighborhood of Poiters, France. The anonymous letter read in part:
“Monsieur Attorney General: I have the honor to inform you of an exceptionally serious occurrence. I speak of a spinster who is locked up in Madame Monnier’s house, half starved, and living on a putrid litter for the past twenty-five years – in a word, in her own filth.”
Police arrived at the home, forced open the door, and found an emaciated Blanche Monnier lying in a pool of feces and food debris on a bed in an upstairs room.  Her head hidden under the covers, the 49-year-old woman, who now weighed a mere 55 pounds, was naked, scared and deranged.  She hadn’t seen the sun in 24 years.  A witness to the event described how Blanche was discovered:
“We immediately gave the order to open the casement window.  This was done with great difficulty, for the old dark-colored curtains fell down in a heavy shower of dust.  To open the shutters, it was necessary to remove them from their right hinges.  As soon as light entered the room, we noticed, in the back, lying on a bed, her head and body covered by a repulsively filthy blanket, a woman identified as Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier.  The unfortunate woman was lying completely naked on a rotten straw mattress.  All around her was formed a sort of crust made from excrement, fragments of meat, vegetables, fish, and rotten bread.  We also saw oyster shells and bugs running across Mademoiselle Monnier’s bed.  The air was so unbreathable, the odor given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation.”
The terrified woman was quickly wrapped in a blanket and rushed to the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Paris where doctors initially thought that she would die. At the hospital, workers noted that Blanche took great pleasure at being washed and able to breathe clean air.  She exclaimed, “How lovely it is.”  They noted that she had a great aversion to light, according to her instincts, she couldn’t stand it.  Despite claims by Blanche’s brother that she was “foul, angry, overly excited, and full of rage”, doctors noted that Blanche was calm, never wavering for a moment into fits of anger or excitement.

Although Blanche Monnier did put on some weight over time, she never regained her sanity.  She died in a Blois psychiatric hospital in 1913, 12 years after she was discovered captive in her room.

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