The Story of the French Socialite Who Was Locked Away For a Quarter of a Century, 1876
In Paris 1876, 25-year-old Blanche Monnier was a typical socialite scrambling to find a suitor before it was too late. She fell in love with an older, broke lawyer, who her aristocratic mother disliked, and set her heart on marrying him.
Madame Louise forbade Blanche from seeing the man. Blanche refused, at which point her mother begged her daughter to end to the affair. Blanche once more refused. Realizing that she would never persuade Blanche away from the penniless lawyer, Madame Monnier locked her up in a tiny room.
She told her daughter that the door would remain locked until Blanche agreed to break off the courtship. Madame Louise felt she had found the perfect solution to her problem. Certainly, Blanche would relent. But Blanche did not gave in.
And so, Madame Louise kept her daughter prisoner. For 25 years, Blanche only ate scraps from her mother's meals. As Blanche withered away, her lawyer lover died in 1885.
Blanche just vanished. Nobody in France saw her in public again. Her mother and brother mourned her, and went on with their daily lives. But behind the appearance, they were hiding a terrible secret.
In May 1901, the Paris Attorney General received scribbled text describing the ghoulish events of a house in Poitiers, France. According to the anonymous letter, a woman had been held captive under horrific conditions at 21 rue de la Visitation for 25 years.
The letter read:
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.
Madame Louise Monnier Demarconnay was an upstanding citizen. She lived in an affluent neighborhood along with her son, Marcel. Her late husband Emile had been the head of a local arts faculty. Marcel was a law school graduate and a former administrative official with the Puget-Théniers commune.
The police were skeptical of the letter’s allegations. Still, they recalled the public heartbreak 25 years prior, when the Monniers’ daughter Blanche vanished without a trace. Perhaps the letter was a twisted hoax — then again, what if it was true? Police decided to investigate.
The door was locked when authorities arrived at 21 rue de la Visitation. When no one answered, they forced it open — and were hit with a wretched smell. They followed the stench upstairs to the attic. When they entered the room, they found a casement window covered by heavy curtains and coated in a layer of dust. Police could not open the shutters until they removed the hinges.
And when daylight finally spilled into the musty chamber, a shocking sight came into focus.
In the back corner, covered by a filthy blanket, was a skeletal, but still living Blanche Monnier. She was completely naked and lying on a rotten straw mattress, which had been soaked through by urine, feces. She was extremely malnourished, weighing just 55 pounds.
Madame Monnier, who had won an award from the Committee of Good Works for her generous contributions to the city, was immediately arrested. She died in prison 15 days later, after confessing the abysmal abduction to police.
Blanche's brother Marcel stood trial for helping her mother in the ordeal and was initially sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was later acquitted on claims that Blanche could have left at any time, but chose not to. He walked free to the horror of the crowd in the courtroom.
Blanche Monnier, also known in France as La Séquestrée de Poitiers, died in 1913 in a sanitarium in Bois.