A filmmaker has shared a glimpse inside the lives of America’s most inbred family.
Mark Laita, 63, has shone a light on The Whittakers, a family who live in the befittingly named town of Odd in West Virginia.
The family are known to bark at people, communicate with each other through grunts and they tend to run away when people try to speak to them.
Laita was introduced to The Whittakers – which includes family members named Ray, Betty, Kenneth, Ray, Timmy and Lorraine – back in 2004.
Lorraine, Timmy, and Ray are siblings, with their parents being double first cousins, reports The Sun.
He took photos of them and met up with them again in 2020 to get to know them better.
In an interview on the Koncrete Podcast, the photographer shared his experiences with the Whittakers.
He described one encounter as ‘out of control’.
“There’s these people walking around and their eyes are going in different directions and they are barking at us,” Laita explained.
“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.”
Laita said that he needed to have a police escort with him when visiting the family, as their popularity had risen after he initially took pictures of them.
When he first met them in the early 2000s, he was greeted by ‘protective’ neighbours who were holding a shotgun.
Speaking about the neighbours, Laita defended their initial reaction to him by adding: “They don’t like people coming to ridicule these people.”
At the time, Laita wanted to take photos of the Whittakers for his book, ‘Created Equal’ – which explores the diverse cultures in the US and explores different people’s backgrounds.
While the filmmaker wasn’t initially welcomed, he was eventually allowed to take some pictures of the family and even gifted some to them.
One of his more recent videos shows the family living in a small, rundown house that is overcrowded and even has some uninvited animals residing there.
He noted that the family are spending more time on their porch – which has a sofa and armchair.
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Laita added that a relative informed him that they do ‘understand’ him and his questions.
He was told: “If they don’t like it, they start yelling – let you know they don’t like that idea.”
In one scene in his documentary Inbred Family -The Whittakers, Laita approaches Ray asking about his brother whom he lost, to which Ray responds by grunting and pointing in the opposite direction.
Ray and Lorraine seem to be the only non-verbal family members who need other family members to speak for them.
In another scene, Laita asks Betty, a member of the family, why she thinks they have so many abnormalities, but she says she doesn’t know.
He then asks Kenneth and also mentions why their eyes weren’t facing forward.
“Might be coal mining,” he responds.