We’ve all heard of Rip Van Winkle, the man who fell asleep and woke up two decades later in a classic 1819 short story. But in 1871, a real-life tale unfolded in England, where 11-year-old Ellen Sadler fell asleep and remained in slumber for nine years, becoming known as the “Sleeping Girl of Turville.”
A Mysterious Slumber
Ellen Sadler, one of 12 children, faced health issues before her prolonged sleep. After spending time in the hospital, she returned home to Turville, experiencing headaches and drowsiness. Doctors, baffled by her condition, released her after 18 weeks. One night, she laid down and fell asleep, not waking up for almost a decade.
The Sleepy Spectacle
During Ellen’s slumber, people from far and wide visited Turville to witness the mystery. Her mother, Ann, fed her fluids while she slept. As time passed, Ellen’s mouth locked shut, requiring nourishment through a teapot. Her body stopped passing solid waste, and visitors resorted to poking her with pins in futile attempts to awaken her.
The Sleepy Cottage
The Sadler family’s Turville home became known as the “Sleepy Cottage.” Doctors and reporters visited but couldn’t explain Ellen’s condition. A report described her lips and cheeks having color, but her body was thin, with ice-cold feet. Her breathing was so feeble that it was nearly impossible to detect.
Genuine or Hoax?
As the Sadler family gathered donations, suspicions of a hoax arose. Some believed her condition was fabricated for financial gain. Ann’s death in 1880 coincided with Ellen waking up, fueling speculation that her mother might have drugged her. Despite offers for examination in a London hospital, Ann declined, further deepening the mystery.
Unraveling the Mystery
Despite suspicions, modern medical experts suggest Ellen may have experienced narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder causing sudden sleep attacks. When she awoke, Ellen had no memory of the nine years, with stunted growth and vision problems. She later married, had six children, and passed away around 1911.
The story of Ellen Sadler remains an enigmatic chapter, blending the realms of medical conditions and the mysteries of prolonged slumber. As we delve into this real-life Rip Van Winkle tale, it leaves us pondering the complexity of the human mind and the mysteries that continue to captivate us through the ages.