Everything is Not as it Seems
By Khalidha Naushad Ceylon Today Features
If you know me, you know my obsession with horror and thriller movies. So naturally I was intrigued by the film Orphan based solely on its title, and reassured by the movie’s reviews that indeed it would be a great watch.
Orphan is one of the most popular horror movies from the 2000s and in fact swept billboards around the world for its amazing yet disturbing plot.
Following the loss of their unborn child, Kate and Jon are bereft. Worst of all, they had a troubled marriage before deciding to adopt a child they can raise together as a way to mend it. They encounter Esther in an orphanage and are captivated by her innocence. Soon after, the couple welcome their new daughter into their home and introduce her to their children, Danny and Max (who is deaf). When Esther greets Max via sign language, he immediately likes her, although Danny is irritated by the way she is dressed.
As the movie unfolds in a series of dangerous incidents, Kate begins to think that something sinister lurks beneath the child’s innocent exterior. They finally discover that Esther is not a minor but a 33-year-old woman with mental disorders and a disease called hypopituitarism that made her look like a little innocent girl.
What is hypopituitarism?
According to Mayo Clinic, hypopituitarism is a rare disorder in which your pituitary gland fails to produce one or more hormones, or doesn’t produce enough hormones. It can also be caused by certain inflammatory disorders. Symptoms of hypopituitarism depend on what hormone is deficient and may include short height, infertility, intolerance to cold, fatigue, and an inability to produce breast milk. Simply put, this disease makes one look younger (more like a child) than their actual age.
Based on a true story
Kristine and Michael Barnett were a couple from Indiana who shared two sons together. Kristine was a motivational speaker who had expertise in raising children with special needs. Kristine’s son, Jake was diagnosed with autism when he was two.
In 2010, the couple adopted Natalia Grace, who was a Ukrainian. She had a form of dwarfism which complicated her walking. Her last adoptive family had given her up for undisclosed reasons. Over time, Natalia began behaving strangely which prompted the Barnetts to take her to a physician who would examine her age. She was identified as an eight-year-old child. By 2012, she was examined again by the hospital and declared 11 years old. But what made the Barnetts look into her age over and over again?
According to USA Today, the couple were targeted by Natalia on several different occasions. In an interview with The Mail, Kristine said Natalia began to terrorise the family and her. She would stand over them when they were sleeping, she started jumping out of moving cars and many other instances where she seemed to be an adult and not a child.
She had even poured house cleaner into Kristine’s coffee and when she was questioned about it, she simply answered, “I’m trying to kill you”. It gets worse, Kristine shared that Natalia once dragged her towards an electric fence.
Kristine was convinced that Natalia wasn’t a disturbed child or a child at all and that she was a sociopathic adult posing to be a child. She said in the interview that Natalia had adult teeth and even menstruated which she tried to hide by throwing away her bloody clothing.
Michael Barnett in an interview claimed that she had even told medical staff about how she wanted to kill her new parents. Adding to the story, she also had intended to kill their sons as well.
In just two years of adoption, the family legally changed Natalia’s year of birth from 2003 to 1989, her age changing from ninne years to 22. According to Michael Barnett, the change was made so that she could be legally admitted to a psychiatric ward. Luckily at this point, one of the sons had also been accepted to an institute in Ontario which prompted the Barnetts to leave to Canada without Natalia in the year 2013. But the family rented her an apartment.
The story gets complicated from here. According to NBC News, in the year 2014, Natalia told police that she had been left by her family which made the police to start looking for the Barnetts. It is said that they were later charged due to legal technicalities but they can still be charged over neglecting her and her disabilities.
Natalia however was evicted from the apartment and ended up living with another family in Indiana, not long after whose guardianship hearing was held and even the judge declared Natalia was an adult.