This is the sad tale of Blanche Monnier (1849-1913).
Blanche was lucky enough to be born into an upper-class family living with Paris. In 1876, with Blanche at the age of 27, her family felt it was the right time for her to get married and start bearing children, and so begun putting pressure on her to find a partner.
However, because of their high-born status, Blanche’s family felt her partner needed to be of at least equal rank to their own. So when Blanche met a largely unsuccessful lawyer living nearby, they immediately disapproved and deemed him unworthy of joining their family. Blanche’s mother tried her best to persuade her daughter out of the relationship. but Blanche ignored her and carried on pursuing the romance.
And so one day Blanche simply disappeared without a trace.
Her mother and brother were questioned about her disappearance, but they claimed their innocence and even mourned the loss of their family member.
Over time the case was dropped and everyone carried on with their lives. Until one day in 1901, 25 years later, an anonymous letter arrived to the Attorney General of Paris. saying:
“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.”
Given the Monnier family’s high ranking in society everyone was shocked. Police officers were sent to the Monnier’s house to investigate. Initially they were denied entry, but after breaking the door down they discovered a dark, locked room at the top of the house. Within they found a foul-smelling, cowering figure lying on a bed covered in food and excrement – none other than the missing Blanche Monnier!
The woman had been kept prisoner in the back room by her mother and brother for 25 years. She was found extremely emaciated, and had been denied access to sunlight and other humans (except her family and the occasional housemaid dropping off food). At the time of her discovery she weighed only 55 pounds (25 Kg).
Blanche’s mother was immediately arrested and taken to prison. Unfortunately the stress of Blanche being discovered caused her to suffer a fatal heart attack within a month, although police were able to get a full confession from her before she died. As suspected, Blanche’s mother had shut her away in the upstairs room until she changed her mind about marrying the lawyer she had met. When Blanche refused, her mother had simply left her there. She was brought only small scraps of food, sharing her room with rodents that gradually appeared. A witness at the time of her discovery said the following:
“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.”
Blanche’s brother, Marcel, was initially found guilty for his actions and sentenced to 15 months in prison. However, he was later acquitted after arguing that he never physically stopped his sister from leaving, and that Blanche could have left any time if she’d wanted. Amazingly he won the appeal and served no punishment for his part in the barbaric treatment of his sister.
When Blanche arrived at the hospital, nurses reported how pleasant she was, and how she enjoyed being washed and spoke about her delight at seeing the sun again. Sadly, things took a downturn from there as Blanche was unable to recover from her ordeal and was admitted to a pyschiatric hospital where she died in 1913.
This was an absolutely horrific case, and I’m glad that Blanche is now at peace.