I have a long-standing grudge against Disney for allowing me to grow up with the false assumption that animals could speak English if you get to know them well enough. It’s probably my own, young, impressionable mind’s fault for not being able to differentiate between cartoon musicals and reality and perhaps a better health plan growing up may have provided the proper medication to better define that line, but it didn’t so here we are.
The real kicker is my current lack of back up plan. Until the realities of adulthood set in, I figured if sh*t went sour, I could always escape into the dense surrounding wilderness of Los Angeles, where I would obviously befriend a pack of wolves or Sasquatch, who’d speak perfect English to “those who knew how to listen” or whatever nonsense.
Obviously, those salad days have passed and as a totally normal, average adult I’m forced to abandon those carefree, lofty thoughts of sabotaging outlaw logger’s equipment with my band of canine eco-warriors, and acquiesce to a life of designing and constructing couch cushion forts. Once I get our cats, dogs, and guest room mattress involved, it’s basically a well-padded Jungle Book until the wife gets home from work. Still, I sometimes wonder, in what minor ways, life would be different had I been raised or at least briefly abandoned in the wild with nothing but my wits and chiseled features to guide me.
Turns out, it’s not all wise cracking bears and musical numbers. It’s cold, wet, really dirty (like, that’s where dirt comes from), and there’s more things out there that can kill you than not. Also sadly, wild animals can’t understand what you’re saying and have no interest in singing, dancing, or taking part in any woodland jamborees.
Seriously, it’s fun to play Tarzan or Mowgli till you realize there’s no memory foam or water that doesn’t contain malaria. Then where will you be? Probably back at home where there’s reception and antibiotics.
Unfortunately for these 15 kids, there wasn’t really a choice in the matter nor was there an option for hospitable or technological amenities. Their stories are the stuff of legends and not in a Disney movie plot sort of way but in more of a Pixar, “harrowing tales of survival” movie plot sort of way. Oh, wait.
15. Nadia Bloom – Stranded On A Bike Trip
In 2010, Florida resident and local 11 year old girl, Nadia Bloom asked her parents if she could go for a bike ride, alone, in one of the few places in America where the native reptiles can literally eat you whole. Not having seen Jurassic Park and the ungodly amount of horrifying news articles that begin with the three words “Local Florida Man…” her parents were keen to oblige.
For four days and nights Nadia survived the boundless Florida swamps, sleeping in a hollowed out log and avoiding the alligator and crocodile infested waters. She was eventually spotted by helicopter and brought home in good health and spirit.
When asked what she ate Nadia replied, “I tried to eat a fern but it was so gross that I spit it out, there are these plants and they have spongy insides, and you can eat them and they’re green, I ate those”
She went on to tell of the animals she encountered, lizards, a snake, an eagle, a hawk, and owls, describing them as “kinda cool.”Definitely not as cool as Nadia however, hats off to this 11-year-old MacGyver.
14. Rochom P’ngieng – A Wild Mistaken Identity
Rochom, if that is her real name, is somewhat of a mystery. She emerged from the dark jungles of Cambodia in 2007 and was identified by a police officer as his daughter, who went missing 19 years previous at the age of 8.
Upon being caught, Rochom, was vicious, spoke no language, and was covered in scars, some from the jungle, and some of which looked suspiciously like rope or shackle welts on her wrists and ankles. Many speculate that she may have been held captive and abused before escaping to the jungle for who knows how long.
Rochom refused to walk upright, would tear off her clothes, attack people, and constantly attempt to escape to the jungle. On one occasion she succeeded and was found over a hundred miles away, hiding in a septic tank, chest deep in human waste. It’s speculated that she hid there for over 11 days.
Eventually it came to light that the woman was most likely not Rochom P’ngieng, who disappeared 19 years ago, but actually a mentally ill woman named Tak who went missing after a severe meltdown only two years before being found. The father of Tak had papers and pictures all backing his claim.
13. Lyokha – Wolf Boy On The Loose
For some reason, Russia seems to produce a lot of feral children. That’s not a set up for a joke, the majority of articles I’ve read while researching this list came from the former USSR, so don’t think I’m about to start bashing the Russians, seriously best people to drink with on the planet, with the exception of Lyokha the Wolf Boy…. and maybe Stalin… and Ivan the Terrible.
Anyway Lyokha, as he was named by the police who briefly took care of him, was captured in 2007 by a group of citizens who observed him running with a pack of wolves and living in a rudimentary shelter of leaves and mud. He spoke no language, frequently ran on all fours, and his finger and toenails were grown out, sharpened into claws. By appearance he was around the age of ten but it was speculated Lyokha was much older and suffered severe growth deficiencies due to malnutrition from surviving in the wild for many years.
Upon being transferred from police custody to a clinic in Moscow, Lyokha escaped and remains at large to this day. Since his behavior mirrored that of wolves, he’s presumed dangerous and most likely carrying all kinds of viruses. So be vigilant Moscow, you’ve got a 10 (possibly older but we’ll never know)-year-old wolf boy on the loose and he’s spreading his wolf boy virus!
12. Leanne Riche – Tween vs. Wild
Leanne wasn’t exactly raised by wolves, but her story still qualifies as a harrowing tale of survival, or as I and all the other boys drinking milkshakes down at the yard like to call them, H.T.S.’s
In 2011, Leanne, age 13, lived up north in Newfoundland in the Labrador region. One day, despite her parent’s orders, she took her boat out towards friends who lived in another community about 45 miles north. The boat drifted and she became stranded on a small remote island.
Over the next week Leanne survived the below freezing temperatures constantly moving to stay warm at night and sleeping during the day. She had brought a change of clothes with her, a few items were brightly colored, and she chose to wear those on the outside so she could be clearly identified in the snow.
After surviving off berries and a small freshwater stream for seven nights, Leanne’s neon clothes were spotted by a helicopter, searching for a body, since the survival rate is slim even for the experienced outdoorsmen in those conditions.
11. Shamdeo – Living With The Wolves
Other than having a name that sounds like a 1930s Action Comics villain, very little is known about Shamdeo. He was discovered in 1972 at the age of eight, in the jungles of India, playing with a litter of wolf cubs. He spoke no language, and had sharpened teeth as well as fingernails sharpened into claws.
Much like Lyokha, Shamdeo was thought to have been much older than eight but remained stunted from years of malnutrition. He refused to eat anything but raw meat and preferred to drink blood rather than water.
Over the years he broke his diet of raw meat and fresh blood, was renamed Pascal, and learned sign language, though he couldn’t recall a time where he didn’t live in the jungle, fighting for survival on a moment by moment basis.
10. Brennan Hawkins – A Boy Scout Lost In The Woods
Back in 2005, Hawkins here, broke a cardinal Boy Scout rule: “Don’t get separated from your buddy.” Or maybe it was his buddy who yelled, “Catch up with me!” before leaving Hawkins behind who’s guilty of breaking another cardinal rule: “Don’t ditch your buddy in the woods.”
Either way, Brennan braved the wilds of Utah for four days before a rescue worker found him. Apparently, he had seen several search parties over the previous days but avoided them, due to his parents teaching him to never talk to strangers.
It’s most likely, after four days without food and very little water, a panic and hunger induced Hawkins, had to break his own cardinal rule and approach a stranger, who coincidentally, also happened to be a rescue worker, searching for Brennan. It’s a good thing too, nothing worse than almost dying after wandering the woods for days, only to get kidnapped by strangers posing as search and rescue workers.
In a CBS interview, Brennan’s parents were beyond relieved to have their son back and chalked his poor navigation skills up to being “a little slow” which I’m sure boded well for Brennan once his classmates and future love interests got wind of said interview.
9. Genie – Kept In Isolation For Years By Father
Genie as she’s pseudonymously called, was a girl who, from infancy, was completely confined and neglected until her discovery, 13 years later.
From birth, Genie’s father was convinced she was mentally ill and kept her strapped to a child’s sized toilet by day then tied into a sleeping bag and placed in a crib, he had retrofit into a cage, by night. She was never taught to speak, or allowed any interaction with any other family members other than the father.
Somehow, the father continued this and what can be assumed to be habitual abuse upon Genie’s mother for 13 years. After an especially violent fight in 1970, Genie’s mother took her and fled to Genie’s grandmother who lived nearby. It was only by chance that the grandmother, who was near blind, wandered with Genie, into a social services office, mistaking it for a senior disabilities office. It was there, a social service worker took notice of Genie’s obvious condition and within a few days arrests were being made.
Over the next forty years Genie’s ability to speak would improve and she developed her own form of sign language. She would be passed from foster care, to hospital, and back again, never fully being able to settle anywhere. For a time she lived with her mother but Genie eventually became a ward of the state and as of 2011 was noted as happy and doing well at a home for underdeveloped adults in Los Angeles.
8. Marcos Rodriguez Pantoja – Sold To A Goat Herder
In 1953, at the age of seven, Marcos was sold by his father to a goat herder in the Sierra Morena Mountains of Spain. That’s also not the set up for a joke. Not soon after, the old goat herder (and to clarify he was an old man who also herded old goats) died and Marcos was forced to fend for himself.
Eventually the old goats died off and Marcos had to rely on his hunting and trapping skills (which every seven-year-old of course has). At one point he befriended a pack of wolves and after that, pretty much gave up on using words or cooking meat.
For 12 years, Marcos lived amongst wolves, with absolutely no desire to return to the civilized world. It wasn’t until he was trapped by civil militia and brought back to the human realm did he begin to recall his former life and how to socialize with other people.
It is reported that when Marcos was reunited with his father, the father simply asked, “What happened to your coat?” …they didn’t really speak much after that.
7. Alex Mboweni – Lost In An Animal Reserve
Twelve year old Alex and his family are just a few of the tens of thousands of people each year who attempt to cross the border of Mozambique into South Africa, looking for a better life.
While attempting to make the journey in 2009 they where spotted and chased by border guards. Alex became separated from his family and found himself wandering the 7000 sq. miles of Kruger National Park, home to lions, cheetahs, leopards, hippos, rhinos, and elephants. All of whom would have no problem killing Alex, or anyone for that matter.
For eight days and seven nights Alex braved the massive animal preserve. Each night the sounds of large predators kept him awake, while the dry heat of day forced him to find water holes, often times being chased off by the local wildlife. Without food and sufficient water it’s genuinely amazing he was found alive.
Since the moment Alex’s father had reported the situation, the family and police had mounted search parties in efforts to find him. Due to the size and nature of the land, it was assumed that they were searching for a body by the time Alex heard his mother calling out his name, which he perceived as a hallucination. Lucky for him it was the real deal and Alex was reunited with his family, virtually unharmed from the terrifying ordeal.
6. Sujit Kumar – Locked In A Chicken Coop For Years
At the age of six, Sujit’s mother committed suicide and soon after his father’s body was discovered stuffed in the trunk of his own cab. Sujit’s grandfather then inherited custody over him. Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer or willing to take on the roll of guardian, the grandfather decided that his chickens were better up to task of parenting than he, and had Sujit locked in the chicken coop for the next four years.
Eventually rumors circulating around the neighborhood became too great in number to ignore and social workers were sent to investigate. They discovered Sujit, now 10, locked up with a bunch of chickens, unsurprisingly behaving like a chicken.
Sujit would make strange clicking sounds with his tongue, walk in a crouched “roosting” position, and peck at food as if he had a beak. He spoke no language and was either uninterested or was unaware of the human world around him.
The government then took custody of Sujit and moved him to an old folks home in Fiji for some reason. There, he was considered too violent and unmanageable by staff and tied down to a bed for the next 20 years.
He was eventually rescued by a group of humanitarians who have set up an online fund for him. Though he still lives at the old folks home for some reason, he’s no longer tied up, attends schools, and is regularly socialized.
5. Saturday Mthiyane – Child Spotted With Animalistic Tendencies
It was a Saturday evening in the summer of 1987 near the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal where residents noticed a filthy naked child climbing trees and exhibiting animal like behavior.
He was eventually coaxed down the tree ET/Reese’s Pieces style, with a trail of bananas and captured. The locals named him Saturday because of the day he was found and their creative juices weren’t exactly flowing that day.
He was brought to an orphanage but would walk on all fours, attack the other children, steal raw meat from the kitchen, and jump out of open windows in attempts to escape. It was also discovered that he somehow broke his leg during his time in the wild and basically walked it off though he still had a slight limp.
It’s been 30 years since Saturday was rescued, and though he now walks upright, wears clothes, and eats prepared meals, he still doesn’t talk and shares characteristics more akin to a monkey than a human.
4. Mathew Allen – Set Out For The Australian Outback
For a teenager who was diagnosed with mental illness, Mathew Allen is a real man’s man. So much so that even the Marlboro Man sits to pee in his presence. This bad ass decided to set down his phone and wander into the Australian outback with nothing but the clothes on his back.
Days went by, weeks even, and nothing was to be heard from Mathew. Search parties set off in every direction, helicopters, cadaver dogs, drone’s taking 3D thermal images and relaying information via satellite to temporary headquarters, making Quantico look like the security room at the Walmart on the 8-Mile.
Now, as we’ve learned from Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, basically everything in the Australian Outback can kill you. Like I’m fairly certain even moonlight’s deadly out there.
Anyway, Mathew didn’t get that memo or see either of the Crocodile Dundee films but that’s probably for the best since he managed to survive on his own, during a record heat wave, with no shelter, and little water. Granted, Mathew had lost a lot of weight, was suffering from gangrene, and covered in leeches. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital and reunited with his family.
3. Lobo The Wolf Girl
Lobo walks the fence between history and legend. It’s said that in 1835 an expecting couple made their home near what is today Carrizo Springs, Texas. One stormy night, as she went into labor, the husband rode to a nearby town to get help. As he and several villagers returned to the cabin, lightning struck, killing the expecting father instantly. The posse rode on but when they arrived, they found the mother laying dead outside the cabin. She had died in labor and been discovered by wolves and dragged outside, confirmed by bite marks all over the woman’s body. The infant was nowhere to be found.
Over the next ten years sightings of a young girl with long tattered hair accompanied by wolves, were reported throughout the region. Eventually a search party was formed and Lobo was cornered and captured but not before one of the cowboys shot and killed the male wolf that accompanied her.
Lobo was taken to an isolated cabin where the men attempted to feed and cloth her but she only howled and gnashed, forcing them to lock her in a small hut out back where she continued howling until the early AM hours.
Just before dawn the cabin was attacked by a huge pack of wolves, severely injuring members of the search party and freeing Lobo. She disappeared only to be seen once again in 1852 by a group of traveling 49er’s. She was accompanied by two wolf pups and fled before she could be tracked. If she truly were the same girl, she would have been 17 at the time. She was never seen again.
2. Ng Chhaidy – Feral Child Reunited With Parents
In 1974, Chhaidy and her four year old cousin were playing in a field not far from their families’ homes on the borders of India, Myanmar and their adjoining ultra dense, ultra deadly jungles. Chhaidy, also four, cousin by her side, decided to wander into said jungle and disappear.
That night a huge storm ensued and it was assumed that both had perished but when the cousin was found just barely alive, it renewed some hope.
Then 38 years went by.
In that time rumors of a wild girl would surface, people in villages throughout the area would speak of a feral child that walked on all fours, and seemed more animal than human. It wasn’t until Chhaidy’s mother was at a dinner party, where a guest would note her resemblance to a feral child she had found and adopted four years previous. The child, now a middle-aged woman was discovered nude, living in an old cemetery.
Weeks later the father set off to meet the feral (now fairly tamed) woman, with photos and medical records in hand to properly make the match. When he arrived at the caretaker’s home, the feral woman ran up to him and embraced him yelling “Ippa!” meaning father in their native language, Mara.
Now, reunited with her family after almost 40 years, Chhaidy has readjusted well to civilization. Though she only says a few words and behaves much like a preadolescent child would, Chhaidy has shown an astonishing desire to learn from and interact with people, especially crowds.
1. Karina Chikitova – Straight Out Of Disney
Okay Disney, you win. This last story is the most Disney thing that ever Disney’d. In fact, if you don’t turn this into a movie (and bring me on as a consultant/associate producer/voice talent), I’m going to lose all faith in Hollywood, which I totally have a ton of and you don’t want to start that snowball a’tumbling.
Karina Chikitova is Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Revenant, trapped in the body of a 5-year-old girl. Much like our homie, Mathew Allen, Karina set off on an adventure in 2014, without informing the proper parental guardians, in a land who’s natural splendors can kill you a dozen times over before you hit the ground. Especially when you’re five.
Thinking she would go visit her father at work, Karina and her puppy companion set off for 11 days wandering the bear soaked regions of the Siberian Taiga, a place where night temperatures drop to bellow 25 degrees Fahrenheit and even the toughest survivalists decide to take the week off at the Waldorf Astoria.
Authorities gave the grieving parents little hope for finding Karina alive and when her puppy returned to the village alone, morale sunk to a new low, the two were inseparable. It was then rescuers realized that the pup was actually attempting to lead them back to Karina, who had decided to shelter in place.
Once the pup returned with a rescue party, Karina was airlifted to a hospital where she was declared in stable condition, though covered in scratches and insect bites.
On another note I’m not sure what became of the dog but it’s a good bet he’s alive and well, living that sweet, K9/Hero life. Hopefully he’s received some kind of bork award and lifetime supplies of kibble and chew toys.