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Marina Chapman credits her beloved grandad with saving her life after she was poisoned at the age of five.
But the grey-haired 'chap' she's referring to isn't a man at all – he's a monkey.
As bonkers as it might sound, Marina, from Bradford, West Yorks, claims she was raised by a family of capuchin monkeys after she was the victim of a bungled kidnapping in Colombia, the country of her birth.
She's told how at the age of four, she found herself scared and alone in the heart of the unforgiving rainforest after being snatched from her family's garden then dumped a few days later.
Marina, now 71, cannot remember anything about her biological family or her life before she was kidnapped. The day she was taken was the last time she saw them.
However, she remembers her other 'family' perfectly.
She estimates that she lived with the monkeys for around five years in the South American jungle.
After a few days, she says the colony of capuchins welcomed her into their family and helped her survive in an environment teeming with hazards such as killer snakes, blood-sucking insects, poisonous plants, and flash flooding.
Marina has vivid memories of the tree-swinging creatures teaching her how to forage for fruit and nuts, helping her find fresh water and grooming her as if she was one of their own.
Have you ever fantasised about being raised by wild animals? Tell us in the comments below!
The troop's eldest male even stepped in to save her after she was poisoned by a rotten fruit.
She recalled: “I had eaten a tamarind that was bad. It had left me dizzy and unwell.
“Grandpa monkey, a white-haired creature with no teeth, approached me and forced me towards a stream, shoving me into the water repeatedly.
“When he let go I lay on the bank coughing, and the coughing turned to vomiting. No sooner was I done than he began chivvying me toward the pool again, where I drank thirstily.
“Grandpa monkey sat at the water’s edge all the time, watching carefully.
“I’ll never know how Grandpa knew how to save me, but he did – I am convinced of it.”
After several years of living wild and sleeping in a hollowed out tree, Marina claims she was captured by hunters, taken to a nearby city and ended up being sold to a brothel, exchanged for a fistful of cash and a green parrot.
She said: “My hair, thick and tangled, had grown way past my bottom and covered much of my face and body.
“I was black – filthy black; I had not washed in years – and I no longer stood on two legs.
“Crouched there, I suspect I must have looked like a primate.”
After being cleaned up, Marina was put to work as a maid, but she escaped after hearing the Madam agreeing to sell her virginity to a rich businessman, cruelly sneering that the vulnerable 11-year-old would naively follow him to his car for a handful of crisps.
Marina bravely ignored the doubters and shared her mind-boggling life story in a book, The Girl With No Name, describing some of her most vivid memories.
In the book, she tells how she was eventually taken in by a family who moved to the UK, settling in Bradford. She married a Yorkshire man in her 20s.
But, while the monkeys who raised her are all long dead, she has proved that she is still very nimble and skilled at climbing trees, and can also make very good monkey noises.
When she first went public with her incredible life story in 2013, there was a huge interest from across the world.
Many dismissed the claims, with some questioning if it was a case of ‘false memory syndrome’ triggered by a horrific childhood.
In the US, a team from National Geographic set about proving her story once and for all – and found that it was highly likely her crazy life story was completely true.
She underwent a series of tests, including bone density scans which showed signs of ‘severe malnutrition between the ages of six and 10 which led to her growth being stunted’ – which matches the timeline of when she claims to have lived with the monkeys.
They also hooked her up to a sort of lie-detector which proved that her subconscious brain ‘registered’ images of capuchins with the same strength of feeling as pictures of her human family members.
As part of a special documentary, they even took the wiry 5ft tall nana to the depths of the Colombian jungle where she scaled trees, gnawed down palm fronds, and cracked open a coconut with her teeth.
Marina and her husband have two daughters, one of whom helped her write her book.
Vanessa is so proud of her mum sharing her story, and added that she never realised how unusual her mum’s life was until she was older.
She said: “I grew up thinking everyone’s mum told them tales about being raised in the jungle with monkeys.
“It never occurred to me until I was much older that there was something odd about our family.
“I grew up with a mother who made monkey noises and climbed trees. It seems eccentric but to me it was completely normal.”
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