How far can a person’s insanity go? Louise Monnier kept her daughter, Blanche, confined in her bedroom for a staggering 25 years. Blanche Monnier, a once beautiful French socialite from a respected Bourgeoisie family in Poitiers, was renowned for her stunning beauty and had numerous suitors vying for her hand in marriage.

Blanche Monnier's Family Locked her for 25 years in her bedroom
Blanche Monnier, shortly after being discovered in her locked room in 1901.

Neighbors described Blanche as “gentle and kind-hearted.” However, she suddenly vanished from society at the height of her popularity, and her disappearance went unnoticed by those around her for nearly a quarter of a century. The Monnier family carried on with their lives as if nothing had ever happened.

Blanche Monnier lived under hideous conditions

Louise Monnier’s confinement of her daughter was far from normal. She locked Blanche in a dark room with no outside contact except for her mother, brother, and the occasional servant. The windows were sealed, leaving Blanche with no source of light or fresh air.

This once-celebrated member of high society was not allowed to leave her bed and was denied basic necessities for personal hygiene. For 25 years, Blanche was confined to her bed, where she had to eat, sleep, urinate, and defecate all in one place. The disregard for her well-being by her own family was a shocking display of cruelty.

The Letter To Attorney General

On May 23rd, 1901, the Paris attorney general received an anonymous letter that raised suspicions about a well-known family in the city hiding something behind closed doors. To this day, the identity of the letter’s author remains unknown.

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.

Blanche Monnier Discovered

The letter prompted an investigation into the Monnier household. Despite the community’s high regard for the family as pillars of virtue and service, the police decided to conduct a search of the estate. Initially, they found nothing unusual or incriminating during their routine search.

French Newspaper recounts the tragic story of Blanche Monnier
A French newspaper recounts the tragic story of Blanche Monnier.

Until they noticed a rotting smell coming from one of the upstairs rooms. Upon further investigation, they realized that the door had been padlocked shut for years. The police smashed the lock and broke into the room. One policeman described the horror as:

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 unbreathable, the odor given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation.

Blanche Monnier was rescued by police in a shocking condition, she was covered in old food and feces, with bugs all over the bed, and weighing only 25 Kilograms (55 lb).

The room was so dark that the policemen did not notice the food and litter on the floor. It was only after they managed to crack the window down, they were able to see how the Monniers had kept Blanche locked in for 25 years. The stench was so overwhelming that they found it difficult to breathe.

When the policeman cracked the window, it was the first time Blanche had seen the sunlight in 25 years. Blanche had been kept completely naked and chained to her bed since the time of her disappearance.

Her condition was so bad that she couldn’t even stand by herself and only weighed 25 kilograms. Blanche was covered in her own filth and was surrounded by her own feces and rotting scraps.

Police covered the naked and frightened Blanche and transported her to a hospital. The hospital staff reported that Blanche was awfully malnourished. She was quite lucid and remarked “how lovely it is” to breathe fresh air again.

Imprisoned for Love

The New York Time published on June 9 read: “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 up on the floor.  Not a ray of light penetrated her dungeon, and what she suffered can only be surmised.”

Blanche Monnier's Newspaper

Turned out that when she was 25 years old she expressed her desire to marry the man of her dreams. Her mother, Louise disapproved and argued that her daughter could not marry a “penniless lawyer.” Louise looked her in a tiny darkroom in the attic of her home.

The years came and went, but Blanche Monnier had hope that someday she will see the sun again. Even after her lover died, she was kept locked in her cell, with only rats and lice to give her company. For more than two decades neither her brother tried to help her nor any of the family servant tried to help her.

Although it was never revealed who wrote the letter, one rumor suggests a servant told her boyfriend, who was frightened, and sent a letter to the attorney general.

What Happened to Blanche Monnier’s Mother?

Blanche’s mother was arrested and was in fine condition but died 15 days later after seeing an angry mob in front of her house.

Blanche’s brother, Marcel Monnier appeared in the court, and in his own defense, Marcel Monnier claimed that it was his mother who was in charge of the family not him. Although the court had difficulty in finding him guilty, he received a 15-year month sentence in prison for his role in Blanche’s imprisonment and mistreatment.

Marcel himself was a lawyer, so he appealed the decision by the court and stated that he never behaved the same as his mother and was not violent in any way to his sister. He won the appeal and the court dropped all the charges as France did not recognize it as a crime to not free someone whom you did not imprison yourself.

Life wasn’t easy for Blanche Monnier after she was released from the room, she continued to suffer from mental health problems. She was diagnosed with various orders including anorexia nervosa,  schizophrenia, exhibitionism, and coprophilia. All the disorders led to her admission in a psychiatric hospital in Blois France, where she died in 1913 in apparent obscurity.

The news of Blanche Monnier’s captivity was covered all over France, and as a result, Marcel’s family, which was once the most prestigious family, had to go into hiding to escape the anger of the mob.

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