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Is Orphan Based on a True Story? Where Is the Real-Life Natalia Barnett Now?


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‘Orphan’ is a psychological horror film that sends chills down your spine. This film depicts a disturbing relationship between an adopted child and her new family. It centers around the events that take place when Kate and John adopt a 9-year-old Estonian girl, Esther. It turns out that she is not who they thought she was. What’s worse, bringing her into the family turns out to be a disastrous tragedy that changes their lives forever. Since 6 out of 10 Americans have personal experience with adoption (directly or indirectly), it might make you wonder if something like this has happened to a real family. We are here to settle those doubts!

Is Orphan Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Orphan’ is not based on a true story. The statistics mentioned above prove that a large number of Americans are adopted, know someone who is adopted, or have placed a child for adoption. Apart from this fact, two shocking real-life stories resemble the events of the film to some extent, which we will discuss later. This may make you think that there is some truth to the story of this film. However, the storyline of the film is purely fictional. Alex Mace developed the original story of the film, and scriptwriter David Leslie Johnson built on it.

Johnson loves the “evil child” subgenre of horror films, and therefore, conceived the climax and “worked backward” from there. This 2009 film released almost two years after the news of Barbora Skrlová hit the headlines. In 2007, six people were charged with the violent abuse of young children in the Czech Republic. Of the three children that were rescued, it turns out that the 13-year-old “Adam” was actually a 34-year-old woman, Barbora Skrlová, pretending to be a young boy who was formally adopted by the family. She was found to be one of the abusers of her two younger “brothers,” Ondrej and Jakub.

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The boys spoke in court about how they were beaten with belts, burnt with cigarettes, and their abusers had even tried to drown them. In court, the mother of the kids – Klara Mauerova – admitted to torturing them, although she stated that Skrlová and her sister Katerina had manipulated her. The other case is that of Natalia Barnett, who was adopted in 2010 by Kristine and Michael Barnett (now divorced) from Lafayette, Indiana. They have three sons together, one of whom has Autism. When they adopted Natalia, they were told that she is a six-year-old Ukrainian girl living with a rare form of dwarfism.

They were also informed that she had been in the USA for 2 years and her previous adoptive family gave her up for “undisclosed reasons.” Not even a year had passed before Kristine started claiming that Natalia had tried poisoning her, pushing her onto an electric fence, and also threatened to stab the family in their sleep. According to Kristine, Natalia had clear physiological signs that implied that she was much older than she claimed, which she said that she got verified by the doctors. However, this is a highly controversial case since Natalia denied Kristine’s claims.

Natalia has also accused the family of abandoning and neglecting her when she was supposedly 8-years-old. This ultimately got Kristine and Michael charged by the state of Indiana. The Barnetts moved to Canada in 2013, leaving Natalia alone in an apartment in Lafayette. According to Kristine, Natalia was 22-years-old and scammed the family into taking care of her. There is a huge debate about Natalia’s age, especially because medical and health professionals’ findings have been inconsistent. Therefore, we can see why anyone would think that this film is based on real-life events.

Where Is the Real-Life Natalia Barnett Now?

In her conversation with Dr. Phil in 2019, Natalia publicly opened up about her plight with the Barnetts. She denied the accusations that Kristine made about Natalia posing a threat to the Barnett family. Natalia also said that she never threatened to stab them or harm them in any way. According to Natalia, she was eight-years-old in 2013, when the Barnett family left for Canada. She shared what life was like living alone; she ate canned food for almost a year.

Image Credit: Cynthia Mans/Facebook

Natalia added that Kristine had asked her to tell people that she was 22-years-old, in case anyone asked. She appeared on the talk show with Antwon Mans and his wife Cynthia Mans, who are her family now. It isn’t clear when the Manses took her into their care, but they applied to become her legal guardians in 2016. However, they were forced to withdraw the petition since her year of birth is legally considered to be 1989 and not 2003.

Image Credit: Cynthia Mans/Facebook

As of 2021, Natalia lives with the Manses and their five children in Indiana.According to a family friend, the Manses are doing the best they can for Natalia but are constantly faced with hurdles. The Manses have publicly stated that Natalia has never been a threat to their family.

Read More: Best Movies About Orphans

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