NOVA's 'Secret of the Wild Child'


'Genie'
'Genie'
© Bettmann/CORBIS

Christian and I are currently preparing a podcast episode on feral children -- and it's one of the more depressing-yet-enthralling topics I've researched in my 5+ years of science podcasting. Forget tales of jungle boys and talking animals, because it's essentially all about language. Love, compassion, culture -- those are all important factors, but they too are built on the foundation of human language.

In the upcoming episode, you'll hear us discuss Susan "Genie" Wiley, a severely neglected 13-year-old Californian girl discovered in 1970. And what better pseudonym than "Genie," in reference to an emergent creature without a human childhood? Her case serves as the most notable modern example of a so-called "feral child" in abnormal childhood psychology. Hers is also a story of what happens when well-meaning professionals, caregivers and the media converge on a tragic situation.

It's a sad story, and one we'll only be able to cover in brief. So I present to you the excellent 1997 NOVA documentary "Secret of the Wild Child," narrated by actor Stacy Keich. You'll also find the official transcript right here.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.