Kaspar Hauser (April 30, 1812 – December 17, 1833) was a German youth who claimed to have grown up in the total isolation of a darkened cell.
Hauser’s claims, and his subsequent death by stabbing, sparked much debate and controversy. Theories propounded at the time linked him with the grand ducal House of Baden. These have long since been rejected by historians.
A feral child (also called wild child) is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has little or no experience of human care, behavior, or, crucially, of human language. Some feral children have been confined by people (usually their own parents), and in some cases this child abandonment was due to the parents’ rejection of a child’s severe intellectual or physical impairment. Feral children may have experienced severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away. Feral children are sometimes the subjects of folklore and legends, typically portrayed as having been raised by animals.
Feral children lack the basic social skills that are normally learned in the process of enculturation. For example, they may be unable to learn to use a toilet, have trouble learning to walk upright after walking on fours all their life, and display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them. They often seem mentally impaired and have almost insurmountable trouble learning a human language. The impaired ability to learn a natural language after having been isolated for so many years is often attributed to the existence of a critical period for language learning, and taken as evidence in favor of the critical period hypothesis.
There is little scientific knowledge about feral children. One of the best-known examples, the “detailed diaries” of Reverend Singh, who claimed to have discovered Amala and Kamala (two girls who had been “brought up from birth by wolves”) in a forest in India, has been proven a fraud to obtain funds for his orphanage. Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim states that Amala and Kamala were born mentally and physically disabled.