Ellen was born on May 15, 1859 in a large impoverished family of farm workers and she was the tenth child of the family. There was nothing remarkable about her or her family members.Basically she was a quiet and a subdued child, sedate and thoughtful and was known to be a dreamer moving around in a listless manner which could be very disturbing.
At times due to her wandering thought and her distant expression, made her brothers and sisters to leave her alone with her own thoughts since she seemed to be less inclined in joining them with all the childish games and sports. Most of time she did not have much friend but one would always find her at her bedroom window gazing at the world.
Ellen had Reverence for Sacred Things
Ellen also had great reverence for sacred things and was always found to be obedient and good. Her mother would always worry about her, seeing her in deep thoughts as she would gaze at the flames by the fireside with her head in her hands and watch the shadows across the walls. At the age of eleven and coming from a poor family, she worked as a nursemaid for a family with two young children at Marlow. However her employment did not last for long as her fits of somnolence occurred often and she became unfit to work as a nursemaid any longer. She began suffering from drowsiness and was referred to a local hospital. She was treated for four months and ultimately her condition which did not improve was declared incurable and she was sent back home.
Deep Sleep – Almost Dead – But Breathing
A doctor by the name Hayman from nearby Stockenchurch rushed to treat her but by the time he arrived Ellen has already fallen into a deep sleep. As she lay on her bed apparently looking dead but for her breathing which indicated that she was still alive and had life in her body, she slept on for a period of nine years.
According to her mother, Ellen was kept alive by small quantity of port wine and sugar which was given through two small teapots but after a period of fifteen months, her jaw remained fixed and eventually they had to use the teapot to pour the contents through the corner of her mouth which had a small opening due to a missing tooth. At times a small portion of milk was also given to her and this was all that was given to her while she was in this state.
Incident – Tourist Attraction and Focus of many
This incident drew the attention of several medical professionals, newspaper and the public all across the world and many came to see and examine the sleeping girl. She also became a tourist attraction for that village where her family made a substantial amount of money from thedonations received from the visitors.
King Edward, thePrince of Wales also visited her and gave her the laying on of hands which were believed in those days as a cure for the afflicted person. The doctors who were attending to Ellen after a while began to realize that the people were finding this whole incident very suspicious and with the intention of getting to know the truth about the whole issue, would appear at unexpected moments to catch the family unaware.
They would very carefully hide pointed needles in their sleeves in order to prick Ellen on her legs and arms to make her react to the prick, while one even went as far as to suggest galvanism or electric therapy, though none of it worked to rouse her from her sleep.
Donation Received made Substantial Income
It was on a particular day in late May 1880, that a bad thunderstorm took place and Ellen’s mother after working in the fields returned home frightened and worried, had a heart attack and had died before the doctor could attend to her.
Speculation were on as to who would be taking care of Ellen after her mother’s death. Doctor Hayman was once again questioned about his diagnosis who informed that Ellen could be paralysed and unconscious. Some of the people present informed that they had seen Ellen walking through the grave yard at night and would be seen looking through her bedroom window when no one would be watching her.
Ellen’s Arousal from her Sleep
Eventually it was decided that Ellen would be looked after by Elizabeth Stacey, her sister and wife of a bricklayer. Five months later after the death of her mother a strange incident took place and Ellen began showing signs of arousal from her sleep.
On New Year’s Eve in 1880 news broke out that the sleeping girl of Turville had finally come out of her sleep and was conscious and speaking. Though she was twenty one years of age, she acted and spoke like a child and had no memory of those strange nine year of sleep. After getting used to the routine way of life, she stayed with her Aunt, Mrs Blackwell and earned by working with beads.
Few years later, it was said that she had married a farmer and moved out from the district and probably had five children. The mystery of her strange sleeping incident has left minds wondering on the reality of the illness and the truth is still not known till date.