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The Woman Locked In The Attic: Blanche Monnier

How could something so cruel go undetected for 25 years by authorities?

Socialite Blanche Monnier

Socialite Blanche Monnier

Blanche Monnier and Her Early Life

A sad and tragic story of a young, beautiful woman whose only fault was loving a man her mother disapproved of. Blanche Monnier was born in March 1849 to Emile and Louise Monnier in Poitiers, France.

Emile and his wife were upper middle class in Poitiers, winning awards for community service with their charitable works. Blanche grew to be a beautiful woman with many suitors, but she fell in love with an older gentleman who was a lawyer but penniless. She was twenty-five years old and determined to marry her sweetheart.

Blanche's mother was adamant that her daughter would not marry a penniless older lawyer and refused to let her see him again. Finally, one evening her mother tricked Blanche into the attic, slammed the door shut, and locked it. She told Blanche when she agreed to give him up, she would be released—still, Blanch refused and pleaded with her mother to let her out.

And so, the days and years went by with Blanche locked away. In 1885, the man Blanche wanted to marry died suddenly, unaware of what had happened to her. Locked away, Blanche never knew of his death.

Neighbors Heard Screams

It seems reasonable that Blanche would yell and scream for help, and neighbors were concerned. But Louise and her son Marcel explained that Blanche was insane, and at the time, it was standard procedure to keep the mentally ill under lock and key. Hence, the neighbors and authorities accepted their explanation.

On May 23, 1901, authorities received an anonymous letter about the Monnier house at 21 Rue de la Visitation. The letter read as follows:

  • "Monsieur Attorney General, I have the honor to inform you of a serious occurrence at the home. I speak of a spinster locked up in Madame Monnier's house, half-starved and living in appalling conditions for the past twenty-five years."

The authorities were skeptical as the Monniers were respected people, and they were reluctant to accuse them of such an atrocity. The police did send men to the home to investigate the accusations.

Rescue of Blanche Monnier

Rescue of Blanche Monnier

The Police Investigation

The police asked for admittance to the home, and after searching, they complained of a putrid odor coming from the locked attic door. They broke the door, removed the shutters and heavy drapes, and turned to see a naked woman, almost like a skeleton lying on a matted bed of straw. She was covered in feces, rotting bread, and rats and bugs crawling.

A policeman described the scene, saying:

"The unfortunate woman was lying in filth with the smell so nauseous it was impossible to stay in the room for any length of time."

They put a blanket around the woman and immediately took her to the hospital. All the while, Louise was sitting calmly in the parlor. The police arrested both Louise and her son Marcel. Leading them out of the house, a vast crowd surrounded them.

Louise seemed to be suffering from heart problems, and she too went to a hospital and died 15 days later from her condition. Because of her death, Louise avoids charges of the deplorable suffering she caused her daughter Blanche.

Marcel, however, was charged and sentenced to 15 months in prison, but upon his appeal he was released and acquitted. The judge issued the Order citing "a duty to rescue did not exist in the penal code at this time."

After The Rescue of Blanche Monnier

At the hospital, Blanche was bathed and treated and found to weigh only 55 pounds for a woman age 53. So it is no wonder doctors found her to have mental issues of schizophrenia after years of isolation, never having seen the sun in all those years.

Blanche was placed in a psychiatric hospital and died in 1913. She is buried in Cimetiere Cemetery, Poitiers, France.

The Attic of Captivity

The Attic of Captivity

Blanche Monnier at Hospital

Blanche Monnier at Hospital

Sources Used