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Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier: May 23, 1901, a police commissioner forced the door of a house from Poitiers and discovered in a dark room with shutters locked a woman lying on a bed in the midst of filth. Immediately a rumor through the city: the unfortunate Blanche Monnier, was kidnapped by his family for twenty-five years, following a thwarted love. The national press got hold of the news, and L'Illustration does not hesitate to publish a monstrous picture, which shows a gaunt creature, with abundant black hair hiding her nakedness.

Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier: May 23, 1901, a police commissioner forced the door of a house from Poitiers and discovered in a dark room with shutters locked a woman lying on a bed in the midst of filth. Immediately a rumour through the city: the unfortunate Blanche Monnier, was kidnapped by her family for twenty-five years, following a thwarted love. The national press got hold of the news, and L’Illustration did not hesitate to publish a monstrous picture, which shows a gaunt creature, with abundant black hair hiding her nakedness.

The Miserable Incarceration of Blanche Monnier

A Truly Sad, Despicable, Wretched Story about a Poor Young Woman

Do you ever feel a little bit claustrophobic from sitting the office a bit too long?

Now, imagine you were confined to a room smaller than your cubicle for 25 years. There is no light, no central heating or air conditioning. The only food you eat are scraps from someone else’s table and your only friends, the rats who scavenge what little crumbs that fall to the stony floor. Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier experienced this for a quarter of a century. The most shocking thing about this? It was Blanche’s mother who imprisoned her.

While it looks like something from an old horror movie, the above is a real photo taken in 1901 of Blanche Monnier, a French woman who was imprisoned in a padlocked room for 25 years prior to being discovered. Monnier was initially imprisoned by her mother and brother because they didn’t approve of her marrying an attorney she was in love with. Years later, even after the object of her affection had died, the mother and brother still refused to free her.

May 23, 1901, following a denunciation by an anonymous letter, the Attorney General of Poitiers ordered a search of Louise Monnier, widow of a former dean of the Faculty of Letters. On the second floor of a mansion from the city center, the central Commissioner discovered a skeletal woman, completely naked, lying on a rotten bench amid his excrement. This is White’s daughter, Mrs. Monnier. It would be sequestered by his family for twenty five years…

This discovery ignited the city. How, indeed, imagine that a mother can have the barbarity of locking his daughter to abandon the hunger and suffering? How imagine that such torture can last a quarter century without anyone cares? What crime had committed the unfortunate to suffer such a punishment?

The press immediately seized of the news. While different organs Republicans and monarchists take the opportunity to settle accounts, a journalist from the local press overcomes their quarrels to conduct its own investigation.

Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier, was born in 1849, and was a typical socialite scrambling to find a suitor before it was too late. was a very pretty young woman. People who knew her called her ‘joyous’ and remarked often on her ‘bounty of beautiful locks’ and the ‘brilliance’ of her eyes.

She lived at 21 rue de la Visitation Street in a wealthy neighbourhood of Poiters, France with her brother, Marcel Monnier, who was a law-school graduate, and her parents, the highly regarded Emile Monnier, the head of a local arts facility and Madame Louise Monnier – Demarconnay. The Monnier’s were a local, upper middle-class family that was well known and well liked in the community and were of such kind that they had even earned the ‘Committee of Good Works’ award that was given to citizens who ‘displayed the highest of virtues.’

To say that Blanche lived ‘the good life’ would be understating the fact. And to make things even better, Blanche was in love. At twenty five, Blanche fell head over heals for a lawyer who lived in the area and happily made it known that she intended on marrying him, much to the chagrin of her mother.

The lawyer, it turns out, was much older than Blanche and worse yet, he was penny-less! Neither fact sat well with the high society sitting mother and a battle was soon raging between the two women. When simply ‘demanding’, that her daughter part ways with the man, didn’t work and pleading and begging were getting her nowhere, Madame Louise took another avenue to ensure that her daughter never marry a good-for-nothing and tarnish their family’s good name.

One evening, with the help of her son, Madame Louise, determined to stop the wedding, tricked Blanche into an upper attic room and then pad locked her in, promising only to release her when she swore to end the relationship.

Blanche was apparently determined, at least at first, not to cave to her mother’s will, and so remained in that pad locked, shuttered and sunless room quietly. But, after a while, neighbours will recall hearing Blanche beg to be released, stating her imprisonment was unfair punishment, pleading for mercy. But, because she would not swear to give up her one true love, Louise would not open the door. And she would not open it for the next 25 years! Even after the lawyer had died in 1885, Madame Louise kept her daughter trapped in the attic that had become her prison.

That is until May 23rd of 1901. On that day, an anonymous letter arrived at the Paris Attorney General’s office.

The anonymous letter read in part:

 “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.”

The letter surprised the police as they knew that 75-year-old widower, Madame Louise Monnier Demarconnay and her son Marcel Monnier, a law-school graduate and previous sub-prefect of Puget Théniers, lived at the address noted in the letter. The Monnier family were an upper-middle class family who hailed from the aristocratic Poitiers family and were honoured in the region (the Paris suburb of Poitiers was named after).  Madame Louise’s husband, Emile Monnier, who had been the head of a local arts faculty, died in 1879, many years earlier. The family had even earned the prestigious Committee of Good Works award, a prize-honouring citizen who displayed the highest of virtues. On the other hand, police recalled that 25 years prior, without drawing any suspicion from the authorities, their daughter, Blanche Monnier, a “joyous and playful” woman with a “wealth of beautiful hair and big, brilliant eyes,” disappeared without a trace when she was 25 years old.

Authorities were skeptical of the letter’s allegations. Still, they recalled the public heartbreak of 25 years prior, when the Monniers’ daughter Blanche vanished without a trace. Blanche was known as a “joyous and playful” woman with a “wealth of beautiful hair and big, brilliant eyes.” Perhaps the letter was a twisted hoax—then again, what if it was true? Police decided to investigate.

The authorities had not ever been notified of her disappearance and it soon came to be a subject of the distant past. The attorney general’s office instructed the police to investigate the allegations.

The neighbours still remembered her as-a pretty brunette, always in good humor and of gentle manners. Soon after the death of her father she disappeared all of a sudden, and no one ever found out what had became of her. There was a rumour that the girl had become insane and had been sent away to an asylum. and later on It was said that Mime. Monnier had brought her daughter back home with her, but that the girl was not cured and had to be kept under strict . The neighbours sympathized with Mme. Monnier and tactfully respected the sad mystery which surrounded the fate of Blanche. Nobody in France ever saw her again. Her mother, Madame Monnier Demarconnay, and brother, Marcel, mourned her, and went on with their daily lives as if nothing happened.

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The anonymous letter sent to the Paris Attorney General’s office.

Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier was held captive in a padlocked, tiny room for 25 years by her mother. She had suddenly vanished after falling in love with a broke lawyer.

Photo: An excerpt from L’Illustration depicting the Blanche Monnier case. Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier was held captive in a padlocked, tiny room for 25 years by her mother. She had suddenly vanished after falling in love with a broke lawyer.

The Chief of Police of Poitiers. M. Bucheton personally made a thorough Investigation. He entered the house of Mine. Monnier and compelled her to open the door of the room In which her daughter was Imprisoned and found an emaciated Blanche Monnier lying in a pool of faeces and food debris on a bed in an upstairs room. Her head hidden under the covers, the 49-year-old woman, who now weighed a mere 55 pounds, was naked, scared, and deranged. She hadn’t seen the Sun in 24 years. A witness to the event described how Blanche was discovered:

“We immediately gave the order to open the casement window.  This was done with great difficulty, for the old dark-coloured curtains fell down in a heavy shower of dust. To open the shutters, it was necessary to remove them from their right hinges. As soon as light entered the room, we noticed, in the back, lying on a bed, her head and body covered by a repulsively filthy blanket, a woman identified as Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier. 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 un-breathable; the odour given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation.”

As the officers stared on at the poor soul before them, the figure, terrified and obviously deranged, having not seen the sunlight for 25 years, buried her face in a disgusting blanket and pulled her 55-pound body into a tight ball.

The terrified woman was quickly wrapped in a blanket and rushed to the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Paris where doctors initially thought that she would die.  Blanche’s mother, 75-year-old Madame Monnier, was found sitting calmly in the living room garbed in a dressing gown decorated with little black and white squares.

Police searched the home and questioned both the mother and brother.nyt1901_blanche-monnier

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At the hospital, workers noted that Blanche took great pleasure at being washed and able to breathe clean air.  She exclaimed, “How lovely it is.”  They noted that she had a great aversion to light, according to her instincts, she couldn’t stand it.  Despite claims by Blanche’s brother that she was “foul, angry, overly excited, and full of rage”, doctors noted that Blanche was calm, never wavering for a moment into fits of anger or excitement.

During the subsequent investigation, the truth began to trickle forth (although many questions remain unanswered to this day).  Around her twenty-fifth year, Blanch Monnier fell in love with an older attorney who lived nearby, possibly even bearing a child from the liaison.  Her mother forbade the relationship, first arguing, and then pleading, and when Blanche refused to not marry the “penniless lawyer”, Louise plotted with her son to develop a plan to stop the marriage.  One night Blanche was locked in an upper room of the house until she agreed to abandon the relationship.  The mother thought at the time that the girl would relent and agree to her demands.

A June 9, 1901 New York Times article explained what happened next:

“Time passed and Blanche was no longer young.  The attorney she so loved died in 1885.  During all that time the girl was confined in the lonely room, fed with scraps from the mother’s table – when she received any food at all.  Her only companions were the rats that gathered to eat the hard crusts that she threw upon the floor.  Not a ray of light penetrated her dungeon, and what she suffered can only be surmised.”

Blanche’s mother, Madame Monnier Demarconnay, was arrested and imprisoned at around six o’clock in the next evening. Then Madame Monnier Demarconnay was immediately placed in the infirmary (she suffered from heart disease) where she unexpectedly died 15 days later. It was said that her last words were spoken to the doctors who entered the room just moments before she died. They recalled that she cried out, “Ah, my poor Blanche!”

Blanche Monnier

Blanche Monnier

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Marcel, who was being accused of being his mother’s accomplice in the cruel act of his sister’s imprisonment, would now have to stand trial alone.

After Marcel was arrested the case of “The sequestered Poitiers” began. It created a stir in France in the early twentieth century, as Blanche Monnier was the daughter of a former dean of the Faculty of Arts of the old provincial city and the sister of a clerical notable and well-meaning, but was sub-prefect at the time of the moral order.
People were inspired by this incident to denounce the stifling atmosphere of middle class families. But the question remained unanswered for unfortunate Blanche, had she really been kidnapped? The case proved more complicated during her brother’s trial.

The brother of Blanche accordingly appeared alone before Poitiers\ Correctional Tribunal, charged with having been guilty of cruelty, or of being an accomplice in acts of cruelty towards his sister. His wife was present, accompanied by the Comte de ClißSon, a relative of the Monnier family. Blanche Monnier had not been taken to the court, as she is still an invalid, nursed by nuns. Among the articles were the blinds of the room in which the woman had been imprisoned, and the chains and padlock attached to them. The wretched wooden bed, mattress, and other objects from the living tomb were also visible. It was announced that about 100 witnesses would be called.

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The trial before the criminal court of Poitiers opened October 7, 1901. Parisian journalists descended on the city. Every day there were demonstrations against the accused and they occurred near the entrance of the prison or on the way to court. Police officers had great difficulty in preventing the brawlers to bar the way and despite police precautions, surging crowds gathered on their way with cries of hatred and revenge…

Blanche’s sibling, Marcel,  claimed that Blanche was absolutely crazy, and never tried to escape the bolted and covered room. However, witnesses frequently heard Blanche shouting and arguing, begging to be let out. Marcel stated that Blanche had lost her mind and at no point could she have not escaped that room. He, likewise, had done nothing to stop her escape.

She (Blanche), he had stated, chose to remain trapped of her own accord. Be that as it may, he was found guilty and sentenced to 15 months in prison. The judgment on October 11 raised applause in the courtroom and outside on the Palace Square, the crowd showed their approval, screaming and shouting hostile threats at the convicted man.

He immediately appealed the verdict and, on November 20th, was found by the court of appeal ‘to have exercised no violence on or toward the woman (Blanche) and was thereby acquitted and released from jail.

At the hospital, Blanche was washed and dressed and given a room. Over a period of time, she did gain weight and the ability to sit in a room with the window drapes drawn open, but she never did lay claim to her sanity again. She died in a psychiatric hospital in 1913, 12 years after her rescue.

The identity of the person who penned the letter, that ultimately freed Blanche from her prison, has never come to light. Some have theorized that it was her brother, Marcel, who sent the letter to the authorities and not for the perfectly right reasons either. Marcel, knowing that their mother was growing frail and would not live long, realized that he would be left with the dirty little secret in the attic and thereby transforming him into his sister’s caregiver and, more correctly, her jailer! He decided, it is suggested, to get the family secret out in the open somehow, before it all came laying at his doorstep and honestly then making him a willing accomplice to what had obviously, over the years, turned into a very real crime. By exposing the truth under his mother’s watch, he would be able to claim his innocence in the whole mess and live out his life with neither being a further burden on him. And that is exactly what happened.

Less cynical souls believe that a household servant leaked it to a new boyfriend, who could have cared less about the high and mighty Monnier’s, and he wrote the letter, sent it to the authorities and let the chips land where they may.

Whatever the case, the remainder of Blanche Monnier’s life wasn’t pleasant. She was driven mad by her captivity and, unable to re-integrate with the world, was institutionalized…

The sequestered of Poitiers – France 3 Aquitaine – 01/21/2016

The sequestered of Poitiers

Twenty Years in Illegal Confinement.,Ohinemuri Gazette, Volume X, Issue 889, 2 December 1901

The Haunting True Story of A Woman Trapped For 25 Years – Scared …

French socialite Blanche Monnier who vanished for 25 years locked in …

Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier – the girl who who was locked in a …

Blanche Monnier: The Woman Who was Locked Away for 25 Years …

The Miserable Imprisonment of Blanche Monnier – CraveOnline

The Story Of Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier, Who Was Locked In Her …

French Woman Imprisoned for 25 Years, Starved … – Chicago Tribune

The Real Child In the Attic – Mademoiselle Blanche Monnier – Wickedwe


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