A filmmaker who spent time with a West Virginia family believed to be one of the most inbred in the United States has described the abject poverty in which they live, several years after his film was released.
Mark Laita has created the YouTube channel, Soft White Underbelly, to report untold stories from across the country.
In April of last year, he revisited the Whittaker family, whom he met in 2004 and filmed in 2020, and spoke about it on the channel.
The family lives in a town of 800 people called Odd, 75 miles south of Charleston.
Laita recounted how the family barked at people, communicated through growling, and often ran away when people tried to talk to them.
The Whittakers are three brothers named Lorraine, Timmy, and Ray. His parents were double first cousins, Sun reported – first cousins, twice, because they share both sets of grandparents.
Genetic complications have caused a host of behavioral problems, Laita reported.
The Whittakers are America’s most inbred family that filmmaker Mark Laita brought to light in his 12-minute short film, ‘Inbred Family-The Whittakers.’ Pictured: The Whittakers
Laita in 2020 released a 12-minute film describing their encounters, saying the inbred family was like something out of the 1972 thriller Deliverance.
He met the West for the first time. Virginia family in 2004 when he took photos of them.
He decided to go back years in 2020, to get to know them better.
In an interview with the Koncrete podcast, recorded before Christmas, Laita recalled the most bizarre moments with the family.
“I was out of control,” he said.
‘There are these people walking around and their eyes go in different directions and they bark at us.
‘AND [this] a guy, you’d look him in the eye or say something and he’d just yell and run and his pants would fall off his ankles.’
Laita said the family has received a surge in interest since he first photographed and then filmed them.
Laita said she needed a police escort to visit.
Mark Laita first met the West Virginia family in 2004 when he took photos of them and returned years later to get to know them better in 2020, when he began filming.
Laita recalled building her relationship with the inbred family, particularly family members named Ray, Betty, Kenneth, Ray, Timmy, and Lorraine.
He first approached them in the early 2000s, when “protective” neighbors greeted him with a shotgun.
“They don’t like people coming to ridicule these people,” Laita said on the podcast.
At the time, Laita wanted to take photos of the Whittakers for her book ‘Created Equal’. The book told stories from various cultures in the United States.
While initially unwelcome, he was eventually allowed to take a few photos and even gave some away to the family.
One of the filmmaker’s most recent videos from 2021 showed the family’s deteriorating conditions, with the group living in a small, overcrowded house with various animals.
Laita said she returned to the house on a whim to check on the family.
He then decided to take his iPhone and take pictures of his ‘poverty level’ and living conditions.
The family seemed to spend a lot of time on the front porch where they have a sofa, easy chair and other household belongings.
He noted that the Whittakers had various health problems, and some could only communicate with grunts.
A relative told Laita: ‘They understand what you are talking about.
“If they don’t like it, they start yelling, they let you know they don’t like that idea.”
In one scene, Laita asked Betty why she thought her family had so many anomalies. She did not know
He pushed the question further with Kenneth specifically asking why his eyes weren’t looking straight ahead. He replied: ‘It could be coal mining.’
Laita previously told podcaster Joe Rogan that the inbred family line began with first cousins.
The family lives in Odd, West Virginia in impoverished conditions. Several share a house with dogs and wear worn clothes
Laita said she returned to the house on a whim to check on the family. She then decided to take her iPhone and take pictures of her ‘poverty level’ and living conditions. Pictured from left to right: Betty, Ray and Lorraine
From Laita’s video, it appeared that the family was unaware that their genetic problems occurred due to inbreeding. They also couldn’t remember much about her parents or other family members.
Videos of the Whittakers showed Laita asking them about their upbringing and upbringing. Only one seemed to have graduated from high school, Timmy.
Lorraine and Ray seemed unable to speak and only grunted. Other family members had to speak on their behalf.
According Discover the magazineinbreeding can lead to several side effects, including “decreased cognitive abilities and muscle function, reduced height and lung function, and increased risk of disease in general.”
The family was unaware that their genetic problems were due to consanguinity, the filmmaker was told.
They also couldn’t remember much about their parents or other family members.
To help improve the Whittakers’ living conditions and provide home improvements, Laita previously created a GoFundMe in 2022 that has since raised $46,433.
Despite Laita’s fundraising, many people have found the making of the film to be exploitative.
West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country.
Almost 17 percent of the 1.77 million inhabitants live in poverty, according to the census.
The US average is 11.6 percent.
Melody West and Shane Simmons, who run the Real Appalachia YouTube channel, said they had issues with the film.
They said that Laita “is apparently doing all this good work for them and raising money for them.”
But, they argue, the documentary “perpetuates the stereotype that has been around for decades” regarding consanguinity in Appalachia.
“I feel like a lot more could be done for these people,” West said.
“I think he’s trying to act like he’s doing a lot for them.”