'America's most inbred family': Photographer captures rural Whittaker siblings who 'bark at people and live in squalor'

3 April 2023, 13:42

Mark Laita filmed the Whittaker family
Mark Laita filmed the Whittaker family. Picture: Mark Laita/YouTube

By Kit Heren

A photographer has shared a fascinating and poignant insight into the world of a family dubbed 'America's most inbred', who communicate largely in grunts and live in squalor in rural West Virginia.

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Mark Laita, who runs the Soft White Underbelly YouTube account, said the Whittaker family would bark at visitors, make animal noises at each other in lieu of conversation, and would often flee from people who came to see them.

Mr Laita first met the family at their home in the village of Odd in 2004, and later came back to film them in 2020.

The family is made up of three siblings called Lorraine, Timmy and Ray, whose parents were first cousins.

The genetic mix has caused serious health problems for the siblings.

The Laita siblings live in rural West Virginia
The Laita siblings live in rural West Virginia. Picture: YouTube/Soft White Underbelly

He said on the Konkrete podcast: "It was out of control. There's these people walking around and their eyes are going in different directions and they are barking at us. 

"And [this] one guy, you'd look at him in the eye or say anything and he would just scream and go running away and his pants would fall around his ankles."

They have received a huge amount of interest since Mr Laita filmed his interview, he said.

But the local people are very protective of the Whittakers, he warned - a challenge he had to overcome himself when he came to film them.

The Whittaker family
The Whittaker family. Picture: YouTube/Soft White Underbelly
The Whittaker family
The Whittaker family. Picture: YouTube/Soft White Underbelly

The first time he approached them in 2004, he was met by "protective" neighbours wielding a shotgun.

"They don't like people coming to ridicule these people," Laita said on the podcast.

He was allowed to take a few photos, but only filmed his interview when he came back on a whim in 2020.

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The family spent a lot of time on their front porch and communicate largely in grunts. But one relative told Mr Laita: "They understand what you talking about.

"If they don't like it, they start yelling - let you know they don't like that idea."