HomeThe Whitaker Family: Horrors of Inbreeding

The Whitaker Family: Horrors of Inbreeding

The thought of incest is enough to gross one out. Here, I am not talking about Game of Thrones. I am talking about reality, rather, an ugly reality. Do you know the Whitaker Family? It is considered as the most infamous inbred family from Odd, West Virginia.

The 2020 Documentary

The Whitaker family catered to international recognition because of Mark Laita, who captured them for his book Created Equally (2004). And yes, he did face threats from neighbors who had shotguns.

He again visited the Whitaker family in 2020 to record a video that gained more dislikes than likes, but it became viral with more than 25 million views. The documentary depicts the horrors of inbreeding.

The members Lorraine, Ray and Timmy suffer from an undiagnosed mental condition. They live in extremely poor conditions and barely have anything to survive. Especially Ray, he just grunts. So what’s the cause?

Mark Laita had to make four visits and give them financial gifts including money, food and clothes to make them talk. He wrote:

“The individuals in this video are brothers and sisters, except for Timmy who is a cousin. There is no way I would be able to confirm that the Whitaker parents were related, but given that this does happen in this part of the country and the Whitakers are the most extreme case I’ve seen so far, I would bet that inbreeding was at least partly responsible for the mental and physical abnormalities seen in Lorraine, Freddie, Ray, and Timmy.”

Many reports reveal that inbred offspring suffer from reduced cognitive disabilities, lung function disorders, heart diseases and are prone to other diseases. Inbred children are at a higher risk of recessive genetic disorders.

So what is the case with the Whitaker family? One can assume that inbreeding is common in parts of West Virginia and the way they are protected by their neighbors, it could be a possible cause. They show significant consequences of inbreeding.

Effects of Inbreeding

Inbreeding is the mating of organisms closely related by ancestry. The practice goes against the biological aim of mating i.e. shuffling of DNA. According to a 2011 study, Consanguineous Marriages, “the rate of near natal and childhood death increases if the child comes from a first cousin union, nearly doubling in certain countries.”

Various scientists and doctors have established that inbreeding leaves the offspring at a greater risk of congenital defects and genetic diseases. Check out this video to understand more about inbreeding:

The Whitaker family is completely inbred. All members of the family are closely biologically and genetically related to each other. That’s the cause of their cognitive disabilities.

The Mysterious Case of the Whitaker family

The Whitaker family is British by descent and lives in lives in extremely unkempt conditions. The individuals initially included Ray, Lorraine, Timmy (only cousin), Freddie and an unnamed sister. However, Freddie died of a heart attack a long time ago.

You can somewhere relate this story to the Colt Clan incest case wherein Clan assaulted his daughters to make kids. it was this 4-generation of incest “horror tale”. however, the two sisters openly shared beds with their brother. Nevertheless, reliable sources confirm that the Whitaker family is inbred.

Mark Latia personally warned everyone to stay away from the Whitaker family as they are guarded by their armed neighbors and the Raleigh County deputies. He said,  “I strongly discourage anyone attempting to look for the Whitakers as their armed neighbours and the Raleigh County deputies both make it clear that curious visitors are not welcome.”  

The Whitaker family is extremely secretive, no one knows where they come from and who their parents are. The members of this family never revealed anything about their parents too. But one thing is clear, they are inbreds.

West Virginia’s reputation for inbreeding

Stereotypes about West Virginian inbreeding practices have long been linked to the state’s poverty. In the 1930s, national newspapers ran pictures of rundown shacks and barefoot kids in rags, which left a lasting impression of the state as a backwater.

West Virginians became the prototypical “hillbillies,” and incest served as a crude “scientific” explanation for their downtrodden social condition. West Virginia now has anti-incest law but in other parts, first cousins can still tie the knot.

Conspiracy Theory

Let us start with an example. The British Royal family is known to keep its secrets under the wraps. They have been doing it for decades now. I don’t know if this makes sense but I just recalled the episode of “The Crown”.

Katherine and Nerissa were daughters of john Herbert Bowes-Lyon – the brother of the Queen Mother – and his wife, Fenella. They were born with severe learning disabilities. It means they were first cousins of Queen Elizabeth II.

In fact their cousins Idonea, Etheldreda and Rosemary were daughters of Fenella’s sister who also suffered from similar disabilities. The condition was thought to be hereditary and descended from a common maternal grandfather, Charles Trefusis.

These individuals were kept in the dark and died terribly. The royal family never revealed them to protect its reputation and genetic deformity.

So did you ever question why there is nothing available on the Whitaker family? Why they are guarded by the deputies? Why the Whitakers are left to suffer miserably?

The Whitaker family in the clip is British. Mark Laita also failed to consider the age of these individuals. They aren’t mid-aged. Every individual is old enough. So are they related to some powerful family too? We don’t know whom but that’s just a thought.

It is said that their parents died a long time ago but why don’t the remaining members reveal their identity?  They just hang around unemployed. Thankfully, Mark has created a GoFundMe campaign for them

I have a lot of questions about this estranged family. What do you think about the Whitaker Family?

I am Mallika Singh, a lawyer and writer by profession. Writing gives me a sense of freedom and independence. I am a keen observer and an ardent reader. When not at work, you can find me at the stable. Horse riding is another passion that keeps me going.


  1. The British Royal family does not own the patent on inbreeding, Johanna the mad of Spain and the Hapsburgs of Germany come to mind.
    Also you have to doubt that any family would dump their mentally impaired children in a foreign country.
    This is purely the result of horrible grinding poverty and isolation. Why isolation? It could be child abuse.
    The wealthy and powerful hide relatives like these in institutions. They make sure they are clothed and fed.
    Mental illness is in far more families than you would think due to the stigma.
    You article infers too much conspiracy
    Poverty and lack of care are the issues here. Health care is at its corporate breaking point. Why ard these people not cared for? Because some CEO can’t profit from their impoverished families

    • Hence, just a conspiracy theory and not an established fact! I don’t say anyone owns a patent. It could be anyone. What you’re saying about poverty, I have already mentioned in the article. You forgot to read about the Colt family I mentioned. I am just trying to reflect a bit on the mystery. And yea, I know such people remain deprived which is a sad part. Consider it as an example. I mean Virginia too. I mean, say, for example, period. I also wrote that poverty led to cases of inbreeding. If I have to write a research paper, I would definitely cover these social problems. I am just speaking about inbreeding and the ill effects of it. And yes, who are these Whittakers? I didn’t establish anything. Even I am asking questions. Asking questions is allowed I hope. But thanks for your comment. I agree with certain things you say. Thanks for reading the article.

  2. “So did you ever question why there is nothing available on the Whitaker family? Why they are guarded by the deputies? Why the Whitakers are left to suffer miserably?”

    I can only guess, too, but I’m thinking one of the answers to this question could be that there are so many others (most likely not in the public eye) that are in the same predicament. I’ve read about groups of Amish people, who tend to keep mostly to themselves, that occasionally send some of their young people to other Amish communities, while receiving young people from other communities, to keep inbreeding from happening (at least to a certain degree). As far as people such as the Whittaker’s, I wish there was some sort of program in place that could provide at least some of the help they need. I wonder if the reason it appears they don’t have a lot of help is perhaps from fear from them (and maybe their neighbors) of too many people they don’t know or trust getting involved. They’ve probably witnessed more people being simply curious (rather than offering help), as well as people who are very cruel and mean to do harm, than people who truly could make a welcome difference in their lives. They could also be afraid of any change in general, even what you or I would perceive as “good.” I wonder how much pressure Betty, the caretaker of her family, feels day-to-day. She said she promised her mother she would never get married but would take care of her family instead. When we see the video footage of where they live, how they live, etc., at first glance, I’m sure many (most?) people would be really put off at what they see. But, in my opinion, especially since there apparently is lots we don’t know, Betty is probably a LOT stronger (for lack of a better word) as a person than anybody will ever know. She mentioned her brother, sister, and nephew goes to church (except that people made fun of Ray, so he quit going). She might have liked to go, too, but maybe she needed a break! I don’t know how anyone living at that level of poverty could do better than she does (keeping everybody fed, attempting to do laundry, etc.). Obviously, their house has lots of clutter/dirt, Ray’s clothes especially aren’t clean on at least one episode (and he is obviously aware his pants don’t fit as he tries to hold them up in the back), and when Betty is questioned on what her favorite “anything” is, she doesn’t have a direct answer to those kinds of questions. To me, it appears that she has put the others before herself, and she can only do so much. She has actually done a lot—but there is so much more that could be done if she had help. So… the question of why there appears to be minimum help (besides what came from Mark) does remain, regardless of how many other families in the US are “like this family.” The church some of the Whittakers go to might have tried to help, and if so, were they allowed to? If not, then why not? One last thought, which is a very general statement and not assigned to just the Whittakers, I live in Mississippi, and I have known about some families who lived in extreme poverty in an area called “Sugar Ditch.” They were not known for being inbred, but as far as I know, they were living hand to mouth in horrific conditions. Something was done (I was a child or pre-teen at the time and watched tv footage, so I’m not sure who was behind what was done for these families), and these families were provided, I believe, apartments to live in with, of course, running water, toilets, etc. But within a short period of time, according to my memory of area news reports, these apartments were destroyed by the people living in them. Toilets quit working because they were trashed, etc. I don’t know exactly what happened, but my mother (who was very kind-hearted) assumed that part of the problem was these people had not grown up being taught how to take care of things… or maybe they actually didn’t want the help for whatever reasons. Anyway, there are probably all sorts of reasons for people living in poverty with problems that may or may not be caused by poverty alone to live in such secrecy. Maybe they just want to be left alone to live the way they’ve been living for generations. I’m curious to know, too. However, if I’m told to stay away, I will do that, especially if I don’t know what “horrors” might be waiting for me if I didn’t follow those wishes.

  3. I think they have enough attention that someone should step up and help them. They need a clean house and someone responsible enough to take care of them.

    • Maybe they don’t want a clean house as you know it? These people are used to living a certain way of life. Any change has to be slow and somehow involve the “buy in” of each member of the family. How would you like it if someone decided that your way of life was “wrong”, and they came by and suddenly took away everything that was all you’d ever known, and was familiar? I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be helped, I’m saying that careful thought needs to be given as to HOW they are ‘helped’.

    • “Wear” is when you wear clothes. “Where” is when you are looking are the location of a person, place or thing. “Wares” are goods e.g “he was selling his wares at the market” or they stored the new stock at the warehouse. Tupperware, glassware etc.

      • It is sad that you knew what Patricia meant when she misspelled the word wear but you choose to only comment on that instead of what she posted. Ruth you are the new “Karen” of the internet . . .

      • That is an extremely ignorant comment. I am republican, work in finance, own a home and nice vehicles. My home is clean, my children are well cared for, have everything they need and desire. I know people who are democrat, who have no jobs, are addicted to several substances and don’t care for their children. I know this for a fact because I am currently caring for one of those children. This isn’t a political party issue, it’s a human race issue.

  4. Ahhhh…. the comments I have read here. Who are we to tell someone else they need to live better? Learn your history! Just because you don’t live like them doesn’t mean they should live like you. The British came to North America and wanted to convert all the natives – and for what? Be careful of promoting your life on others, they might feel that they are living fine and don’t want to be you. I’m sure the gofundme account was set up with a guardian to help affiliate the funds.

  5. This is a sad situation but they are adults. If the sheriff is aware of their situation I’m sure the family have been offered resources. They may just refuse services, it happens frequently. Some families do not want outsiders involved.

  6. Hi,
    Interesting. Where did you practice law? Lawyers have a way of expressing themselves. They are precise and careful and give weight to every word.
    Your style seems… well, different…..
    Anyhow, it is not clear what you are implying about the British royal family. Lots of familise had incestous relationships back in the day. Why? They married first cousins because it was perfectly legal to do so for a long time until it was made illegal. So, no big conspiracy there really. Royalty married cousins abroad to keep peace between nations. Disgusting but true.
    Also, it is not a given that, if a child has a deformity it is the result of incest. Cognitive deficiencies and deformities can be a result of many situations such as medication given to pregnant mothers resulting in thalidomide babies https://www.google.com/search?q=thalidomide+babies+images&rlz=1CADSMM_enHN971&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiB15r88qj3AhUETDABHQGWCSQQ_AUoAXoECAEQAw&biw=1138&bih=489&dpr=1.2&safe=active&ssui=on. Aged women having babies ata late age increases the risk of down syndrome, chemical exposure, bad luck with gene pools etc etc. The list is endless.
    So, with this in mind, can we stop the sensationalism and think with clarity and common sense?

    • I never said deformities result only from incest. However, that’s the result of inbreeding. Check out some research papers. I did mention that is “one of the factors”. I never said it’s solely based on incest. Thanks for your comment.

      • incest is a rare thing in west virginia not common here as you said. with their lack of education i doubt a go fund me page will actually help them

  7. These people are sadly born into this situation through no fault
    Of there own ,its sad
    There still human beings
    Im glad that the locals are protective of them

  8. A little genealogy search in Ancestry.com has revealed that their parents were cousins. Their mothers name was Gracie Irene Whittaker. Their father was John Emory Whittaker. Gracie’s father was John Isom Whittaker. John Emory’s father was Henry Wade Whittaker. John Isom and Henry Wade were twins. Both born on March 1, 1882.

  9. @Geaneology Buff – wow look at you go!
    I’ve been following this family for years on the net. I find it so intriguing. I do however believe that you can’t change what they’ve only known. If they were given a brand new home etc they wouldn’t look after it unfortunately. I support people with medical and mental health problems and you’d be surprised behind closed doors that they live just like this.

  10. Collectively this family is receiving thousands of dollars a month from Social Security. They are not in need of money.


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