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As a result of their incestuous relations, a family with a tangled history of inbreeding has been left with tragic genetic flaws, with some of them only being able to communicate through grunts and barking. Family members have physical and mental problems, and some have died as a result of their inherited illnesses. The incident emphasizes the risks of inbreeding and the significance of receiving genetic counselling.
The family was discovered by the filmmaker Mark Laita, they achieved worldwide recognition thanks to Mark Laita, who photographed them for his book Created Equal (2004). Mark also talked about the talked about them on Koncrete KLIPS Podcast about his encounter with the unique family,
We came around to this road, which turns into a country road, which turns into a dirt road, and we come to this trailer and then a little shack on the other side of the road. And there’s these people walking around and their eyes are going in different directions and they are barking at us.
And then one guy, you would look at him in the eye or say anything and he would just scream and go running away, and his pants would fall around his ankles, and he would go running off and go and kick a garbage can and this would happen over and over. It was out of control - the craziest thing I have ever seen.
The Whittaker family's situation is not unique, as inbreeding has been a long-standing issue in some isolated communities. Inbreeding can lead to genetic disorders and cognitive impairments, which can have significant impacts on the affected individuals and their families.
The Whittaker family of West Virginia, United States, had little recollection of their parents or other family members and was unaware that their genetic problems were caused by inbreeding. Some members of their family are unable to properly communicate and flee when strangers attempt to talk to them in the village of Odd, 75 miles from Charleston.
The inbreeding began with Henry and John Whittaker, identical twin brothers whose offspring married and had over a dozen children together. Henry and his wife Sally had seven children, including John Emory Whittaker in 1913, while John and his first cousin Ada Riggs had nine children, including Gracie Irene Whittaker in 1920.
John and Gracie married in 1935 and had 15 children together. They were double cousins and shared both sets of grandparents. Many of their children suffered many severe physical and mental disabilities, which are thought to be the effect of inbreeding.
Their eldest daughter, Aileen, died in June 1997 of a heart attack, and their oldest son, Emery, died a month after his birth in 1938 of pneumonia. Betty, who was born in 1952, is now the family's leader after promised her mother she would not marry in order to care for her 14 siblings.
Mark, who filmed the family's lives initially encountered them in 2004 after seeing them living in a small cabin. When he initially met the Whittaker's, he was treated with hostility, as a protective neighbor threatened him with a shotgun. It's well-known that the family's neighbors keep an eye on them and chase anyone who tries to tease them.
Mark also said that his primary objective is to bring attention to difficulties in sections of the country that are rarely seen by the general public. He also set up a GoFundMe for the family to help them live a comparatively normal life. It has garnered $58,685 till date.