After visiting the Whittaker family, one of America’s most inbred families in West Virginia, a videographer gave an insight into their lives.
The Whittakers, who reside in the appropriately named community of Odd, 75 miles south of Charleston, are known to bark at passing strangers, communicate with grunts, and frequently flee when approached.
In an effort to cover unseen stories from throughout the nation, producer Mark Laita brought attention to the family by posting a brief 12-minute film on his YouTube channel Soft White Underbelly.
He compared the inbred family to something from the 1972 suspense film Deliverance.
He went back to the Whittaker family, whom he initially met in 2004 and shot in 2020, in April of last year and talked about it on the channel.
Three siblings with the names of Lorraine, Timmy, and Ray make up the Whittakers. According to The Sun, their parents are double first cousins, or first cousins twice, as they have both sets of grandparents in common.
According to Laita, genetic complications have led to a variety of behavioral problems.
Laita originally met the West Virginia family in 2004 when he photographed them; he made the decision to visit them again in 2020 to get to know them better.
Before Christmas, Laita spoke with the Koncrete podcast and recalled the strangest times she had with the family.
He declared, “It was out of control.”
“There are these people walking around barking at us while their eyes are moving in different directions.
“And [this] one guy, you’d look him in the eye or say anything and he’d just scream and run away with his trousers falling around his ankles,” the author continued.
According to Laita, interest in them has increased since he first photographed and subsequently recorded the family. He claimed he required police protection when visiting.
Laita described how his bond with the inbred family developed, especially with Ray, Betty, Kenneth, Ray, Timmy, and Lorraine’s family.
He first approached them in the early 2000s but was confronted with ‘protective’ neighbors brandishing shotguns.
According to Laita on the podcast, “They don’t like people coming to make fun of these people.”
Laita intended to photograph the Whittakers for his book, “Created Equal,” at the time. The book featured narratives from several American cultures.
Even though he wasn’t at first welcomed, he was later permitted to take a few pictures and even gave some of them to the Whittaker family.
The family was depicted in one of the filmmaker’s most recent videos from 2021 as living in cramped, compact quarters with numerous animals.
Laita claimed that he unexpectedly went back to the house to check on the family.
He then made the decision to grab his iPhone and record some video of their “level of poverty” and living circumstances.
The family had a couch, an armchair, and other furniture on their front porch, where they looked to spend a lot of time.
Laita was told by a relative that “they get what you’re talking about.”
They’ll let you know they don’t like the idea by yelling if they don’t like it.
In one scenario, Laita questioned Betty about the reasons she believed her family was so weird. She stated that she was unsure.
Kenneth pressed the issue further, specifically inquiring as to the reason for their eyes’ lack of forward gaze. “Maybe coal mining,” he retorted.
Laita previously revealed to podcaster Joe Rogan that first cousins were the beginning of the inbred familial line.
Laita was seen in the Whittakers’ movies enquiring about their education and schools. Only Timmy seemed to have completed high school.
Lorraine and Ray seemed unable to speak, uttering only grunts. They had to be represented in speaking by other family members.
Inbreeding can have a number of negative impacts, including “decreased cognitive abilities and muscular function, reduced height and lung function, and are at greater risk from diseases in general,” according to Discover Magazine.
According to what they informed the filmmaker, the family was unaware that inbreeding was the cause of their genetic problems.
Additionally, they had little to no memory of their parents or other relatives.
In 2022, Laita started a GoFundMe to help the Whittaker family make home upgrades and better their living conditions. Since then, the campaign has raised $46,433.
Despite Laila’s fundraising efforts, many have criticized the film’s production for being exploitative.
One of the poorest states in the union is West Virginia. Just 800 people are living in the Odd village where Laita went to photograph the family.
The Whittakers Family Tree
According to the Census, 1.77 million people in West Virginia—nearly 17 percent—live in poverty.
The national average is 11.6%. Only Arkansas, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Louisiana were worse.
The Real Appalachia YouTube channel owners Melody West and Shane Simmons expressed their dissatisfaction with the movie.
Laita “ostensibly is doing all this good work for them and raising money for them,” they claimed.
However, they contend that the film “perpetuates the stereotype that has been around for decades” regarding Appalachian inbreeding.
‘I just feel like a lot more could be done for these people,’ said West.
‘I think he’s trying to act like he’s doing a lot for them.’