Skip

The housewife who grew up with monkeys
June 20, 2013 12:26 PM   Subscribe


 
16 minute interview on CBC Radio's Q in April 2013
posted by 3rdparty at 12:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"For around five years (again, she's unsure – there is no reliable means of measuring) she says she lived deep in the Colombian jungle with no human company. She remembers learning to fend for herself – eating berries and roots, nabbing bananas dropped by the monkeys, sleeping in holes in trees and walking on all fours."

---

Childhood amnesia: When the offset of childhood amnesia is defined as the age of first memory, then offset occurs around 3.5 years[7] though it can range from 2 to 5 years, depending on the memory retrieval method[8] and age of the respondent.[6] However, when the offset of childhood amnesia is defined as the age at which the majority of memories are personal recollections rather than known events, then offset occurs at approximately 4.5 years old.[8] This may be due to children's development of understanding and knowledge of their own memory.[9]
posted by jaduncan at 12:41 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I was raised by wolves. Every time I go into Hardee's and they ask what size soda I want I tell them to just put it in a bowl and I'll lap it up."*
*stage banter from some long forgotten live punk album I had as a kid
posted by item at 12:50 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


For around five years (again, she's unsure – there is no reliable means of measuring) she says she lived deep in the Colombian jungle with no human company.

Occam's Razor to the rescue. Which is easier to believe? Embellished story or raised by monkeys?

Are we somehow defying incredible odds? There are not many children cast into the jungle. And of those cast into the jungle, most of them will assuredly die. But somehow, we've met not only someone that beat the odds of having a normal life, but who also beat the odds and survived being cast into the jungle and lived to her 60s where we can meet her. It's the fraction of the fraction of the fraction.

Or is someone just trying to sell a fucking book?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:07 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I'm a nonbeliever. Oh sure, the parts about the brothel, living on the street, the abuse? That part probably did happen, unfortunately for her; it's the raised-by-monkeys I doubt. I suspect that she was simply an abandoned child, or even sold to that brothel by her family, and this monkey story is what her mind came up with to cover the horrors she endured there.

She says she lived in the jungle with the monkeys for 'about five years', from age 4 or so; she lost her language skills during that time, but in a miracle unmatched by other 'feral' children she not only regained but surpassed any language she knew at that young age: highly unlikely, to be kind. When she was kidnapped by that 'black hand holding a white hanky', she 'thought she was going to die' --- aw come on: a four-year-old really doesn't have a conception of death.

Not one of the feral children I've read of ever managed to transition to a relatively normal life, as this lady claims to have done.
posted by easily confused at 1:12 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not one of the feral children I've read of ever managed to transition to a relatively normal life, as this lady claims to have done.

Word. But most of them were supposed to have been abandoned/neglected as toddlers, yes? At five-ish you've acquired language, been socialised a bit. It's not the case that you've missed the crucial early window.

I dunno what I think. Haven't read all the links yet, just the guardian's. but the Guardian one is interesting. I'm not quite ready to declare it a fake yet. I mean, yeah it'd be astonishingly rare, but there are stranger things in heaven and earth, Horatio.
posted by Diablevert at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Was Marina Chapman really brought up by monkeys?

Well, I don't know for sure but having recently found out about this guiding principle I have to say it's damn handy.
posted by $0up at 1:56 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Occam's Razor to the rescue.

Occam's Razor isn't meant to reduce complexity where legitimate complexity exists. It's meant to be used when there is lack of information and we must guess - in this case we have information - not definitive but much to be weighed. Also, Occam's Razor can be misused when discussing human affairs and culture. There is no law that says human behavior takes the most obvious course since "obvious" is subjective to the eye of the beholder, it's a problem of confirmation bias.

At five-ish you've acquired language, been socialised a bit.

Her book discusses this and said the same.
posted by stbalbach at 2:00 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


This 60-yr old is clearly trying to make a buck. I mean, if she were 80, I may have believed her.
posted by sutt at 2:03 PM on June 20, 2013


Are we somehow defying incredible odds? There are not many children cast into the jungle. And of those cast into the jungle, most of them will assuredly die. But somehow, we've met not only someone that beat the odds of having a normal life, but who also beat the odds and survived being cast into the jungle and lived to her 60s where we can meet her. It's the fraction of the fraction of the fraction.

Well, the only children cast into the jungle that you could meet are the ones that survive.
posted by grog at 2:11 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was raised by primates. Fact.
posted by grounded at 2:16 PM on June 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Occam's Razor isn't meant to reduce complexity...

My simple view of this is that you're simply not using the same definition as the rest of us.

Occam's razor ... states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. In other words, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

The "this is bullshit" hypothesis doesn't assume a magical troop of kind-hearted monkeys exists. See also Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness monster...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, the only children cast into the jungle that you could meet are the ones that survive.

You're missing the point. Not only did she survive, but we hearing about it in extreme detail. As mentioned before, in the legitimate feral children cases that are actually documented as more than folklore, they don't regain their language facilities and can't tell us stories about the kind-hearted monkeys.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Weird. The girlfriend just showed me this book and asked if it was real. I read the blurb in the back, saw the woman was from Bradford and assumed the book was some locally produced thing. Didn't realise it was in the news until I was checking in on Metafilter.

/mostboringderailever
posted by zoo at 3:29 PM on June 20, 2013


You're missing the point. Not only did she survive, but we hearing about it in extreme detail. As mentioned before, in the legitimate feral children cases that are actually documented as more than folklore, they don't regain their language facilities and can't tell us stories about the kind-hearted monkeys.

Well, if you read the Telegraph article, they sent a reporter to Colombia and independently interviewed people who had known her as a child, who confirm interesting details that match up with some of the stuff in other feral children stories --- disproportionate strength and agility, for example. Now does this prove anything for sure? No. It's possible the family could have been in contact with these old neighbours. It's certainly possible, even likely, that she was a street kid who made up this monkey story as a pleasanter explanation for the odd habits (and non-habits) she picked up as a homeless kid. On the other hand, I thought the interview with her in the guardian was interesting --- her claim is more that she started following the monkeys to steal food from them. I dunno, in a lot of the bios that have later been proved to be fakes, there's this odor of woo, things just a little more poetic than life ever is --- personally I get that more from the human bits of her story (escaped from a brothel, imprisoned by mobsters) than the jungle ones.
posted by Diablevert at 3:36 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not one of the feral children I've read of ever managed to transition to a relatively normal life, as this lady claims to have done.

Well it's good the monkeys took over, because the wolves are sick of it.
posted by The Bellman at 3:50 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Occam's Razor isn't meant to reduce complexity where legitimate complexity exists

Wikipedia:
a simpler but less correct theory should not be always preferred over a more complex but more correct one. It is this fact which gives the lie to the common misinterpretation of Occam's razor that "the simplest" one is usually the correct one. "Preferred" doesn't necessary mean "correct".
Preference for a simple theory doesn't make the simple theory correct. And also, is the monkey story actually the simple theory? A lie of this scale would be very complex to maintain, and for what, book sales? Few get rich from book sales. And why is she so good at climbing trees, walking like a monkey, making monkey calls, physical characteristics, she even has the mannerisms of a monkey - all lies? And she is like 4'6" or something, noticeable different from her peers in Colombia, she was even named for her diminutive size at one point, explainable by malnutrition during formative years. None of this is proof, but it is evidence, along with many other things.

they don't regain their language facilities

late-age abduction, and experts who looked into the case

a magical troop of kind-hearted monkeys

This was not the case, there was no "raised by", that's headline shit. The monkeys were thieves and brutes, as monkeys are, but they knew where to find food and stay safe from predators which she mimicked, as humans do in children. As for monkeys accepting humans hanging around, Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall and Birutė Galdikas would have no trouble believing that. Baboons are known to take in dogs as pets. And feral child lists 4 other cases of people living with monkeys or apes.
posted by stbalbach at 5:22 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like every other feral child story, this one is redolent of bullshit.
posted by spitbull at 6:19 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not only did she survive, but we hearing about it in extreme detail.

This is the thing that tilts me against it. She has memories of all these things that had no survival value & happened at a time when survival was such a constant pressure on her. With nobody to tell them to, no way to reinforce or correct them, she simply held them in her head & retained a high degree of accuracy of them with no training, against all the forces working to degrade or overwrite them with more useful information. Either she has a natural eidetic memory or she didn't experience those things.
posted by scalefree at 6:43 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


She has memories of all these things that had no survival value & happened at a time when survival was such a constant pressure on her. With nobody to tell them to, no way to reinforce or correct them, she simply held them in her head & retained a high degree of accuracy of them with no training, against all the forces working to degrade or overwrite them with more useful information. Either she has a natural eidetic memory or she didn't experience those things.

I literally have no idea what you mean by this. I think you're saying that if a human is in a stressful situation where their life is at risk, the only things they're remember about it are the incidents that are immediately relevant to their survival? That they won't remember other stuff that happened at the same time? And/or anything irrelevant will be "overwritten" by more relevant stuff? That seems....weird. Is there evidence of this?

Even if this theory of memory is correct, I'm not sure why the memories of the monkeys would not be survival-relevant; according to her account following them around and learning how and what to eat from them is what kept her alive.

Also, I don't think that there's any contention, really, that the memories are "highly accurate." I mean, I dunno, define accuracy. I can tell you a bunch stuff that happened to me when I was in first grade --- I had a terrifying nun that year and I have a bunch of stories about her. I think those memories are basically true and if you asked I'm sure I could render them in considerable detail. I'm not at all sure that the stuff I remember would turn out to be "highly accurate" if they could be compared to videotapes of the same incident. For any human anytime, I think, certain details stand out as remarkable, others are quickly forgotten, and only if some artifact of the past comes up and jogs the mind can they be recalled.
posted by Diablevert at 9:03 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I totally think this is bogus, and I think it started more or less harmlessly: making up a colourful story to explain odd behaviours/gaps in history or whatever, and then it kind of snowballed into this crazy, strangely detailed story. I don't buy for a second that fifty years later she hasn't quite mastered door handles.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 11:17 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to say on behalf of my kind that we do not, in general, condone the raising of human children. Exceptions out of compassion being the exception, of course.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:43 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


*stage banter from some long forgotten live punk album I had as a kid
it was Now We Are 10, a fanclub comp by the Dead Milkmen. After 12 hours of brainraking I can finally carry on my normal dully grandiose thoughts.

posted by item at 7:30 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Well, I am just a monkey man
I'm glad you are a monkey woman too"

Thanks to Mick and Keith for that one.
posted by e1c at 9:21 AM on June 21, 2013


Having now read through some of the links in more detail (I have a longstanding scholarly interest in the relationship between childhood isolation and language development), I'm back to add:

Yeah, it's the language development narrative that convinces me this is nonsense.

Even children who are raised by *humans* but are denied social and linguistic inputs for a period of years during the critical period (which is true in this case, although well into the critical period at 5 years old) almost never regain full linguistic ability, and have many other severe social and developmental problems. We see it every once in a while in horrific abuse cases where children are held in isolation. And we see it (albeit mitigated) in cases of congenital and early onset hearing loss/deafness that go undiagnosed or unaccommodated (which can still happen in the developing word especially).

You don't spend 5 years of your early childhood never hearing a human voice and wind up speaking even close to a normal version of human language. Let alone writing a memoir.

Something just plain stinks about this tale, and that reputable organizations (Guardian? National Geographic? WTF people?) are covering it breathlessly speaks poorly of science journalism. It's a book marketing campaign.

There is no freaking way this is a true story.
posted by spitbull at 6:44 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older Surrender Your Say   |   Masks of Nyarlathotep Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post