The Tragic Childhood Of Gypsy Rose Blanchard

Let's start out by taking score: to date, the life of Gypsy Rose Blanchard has been utilized in the creation of television documentaries, a mini-series, a Lifetime original movie, and a subplot on Netflix's "The Politician." Keeping in mind that all of these are based on events which took place before Blanchard's 30th birthday, it's clear that she's been through a lot in not much time.

One evening in June of 2015, Gypsy's internet boyfriend Nicholas Godejohn entered Gypsy's home where she lived with her mother. Gypsy handed Godejohn a knife, then hid in the bathroom while he stabbed her mom to death. Both parties later admitted as much to the authorities. What should be a cut and dry case just gets more complicated from there.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard has become the unofficial mascot for "Munchausen syndrome by proxy," also known as "factitious disorder imposed on another" or FDIA. It's a condition in which a person seeks the attention and other benefits gained through illness or injury by imposing them on someone under their care. By all accounts, Gypsy's mother Clauddine "Dee Dee" Blanchard was a FDIA poster child to the gills. Yeah, this gets pretty gross from here on.

Decades of bad

Dee Dee's behavior seems to have started early, with the HBO documentary "Mommy Dead and Dearest" recounting that she may have poisoned her stepmother with weed killer. It's also suggested that she may have killed her own mother through starvation.

Shortly after Gypsy Rose's birth in 1991, Dee Dee started taking her to various emergency rooms, claiming that her infant daughter suffered from sleep apnea, though no sign of the condition was ever recorded.

Things spiraled from there. Dee Dee claimed that Gypsy suffered from myriad but unspecified chromosomal disorders, as well as intellectual disabilities, muscular dystrophy, and ear infections, for which Gypsy was fitted with inner ear drainage devices. She was forced to use a walker or a wheelchair for most of her childhood.

Gypsy's hair was habitually shaved to maintain the appearance that she was receiving chemotherapy treatments. She was placed on anti-seizure medication, which contributed to her tooth decay and led to the loss of all of her front teeth. She was pulled out of school somewhere between kindergarten and second grade. As time passed, her mother kept changing her mind regarding how old her child was. She went so far as to alter Gypsy's birth certificate, shaving years off to keep up a story about a sick child.

No up sides

Through all of this, the only physician who seemed to take issue with the Blanchards' claims was pediatric neurologist Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein, who ran tests on Gypsy and couldn't find anything wrong with her.

Unfortunately, Flasterstein apparently felt unable to do anything. At this point, the Blanchards had garnered a certain level of celebrity. Gypsy was receiving backstage passes to concerts, television appearances, and comped flights to see specialists across the country. You don't swing at the perpetually sick king unless you know you can hit him.

Meanwhile, Dee Dee was allegedly ramping up to physical abuse, never failing to hold Gypsy's hand in public as a means of control and smashing her phone and computer at home so that she wouldn't have a way to reach the outside world. Gypsy managed to find ways around this, waiting until her mother fell asleep to use the internet. And that's how she met Nicholas Godejohn. 

Dee Dee reportedly restrained Gypsy and denied her food

When Gypsy was old enough to express interest in life outside their home, Dee Dee became more controlling. In an interview with ABC News, Gypsy said that sometimes their arguments might last for days, and as punishment, she would withhold food for as long as two days.

In an interview with Dr. Phil, Gypsy said things got worse after she tried to run away. She said it only took a few hours for Dee Dee to find her, and when they got home, she smashed her laptop with a hammer and threatened to smash her fingers with it if she tried to contact anyone. Dee Dee also chained Gypsy to her bed with handcuffs and a dog leash for two weeks after the incident. Dee Dee even put a bell on the door so she would know if Gypsy ever tried to run away again.

Gypsy wasn't allowed to speak to doctors herself

Perhaps one of the most obvious signs that something might have been wrong was the fact that Dee Dee never let Gypsy speak for herself. But apparently, no one suspected that Gypsy's life could have been as bad as it was. Gypsy told ABC News that her mother coached her to not talk during doctor visits. Indeed, every medical record included notes which said the medical history was provided by Dee Dee, indicating that Gypsy never spoke.

Who knows what she would have said had she been allowed. Gypsy told ABC News that she knew she could walk and that she did not have some of the illnesses her mother claimed she did. She explained that she was afraid of her mother. "I beat myself up about that all the time, but I have to understand my mind-frame back then. I was always so afraid of her. Afraid of the consequences after," she said.

She didn't realize her actual age for years

Among the lies Dee Dee told about her daughter, Gypsy's age was one that she kept from Gypsy for a long time. ABC News reports that at one point, Dee Dee doctored a birth certificate, changing Gypsy's year of birth from 1991 to 1995. Gypsy told ABC News that she stopped asking how old she was because it would upset her mother, adding that between 2001 and 2015, she wasn't sure of her age. She told Dr. Phil that at one point she found papers in her mother's safe that said she was born in 1991. When she asked Dee Dee about them, she claimed it was a typo.

Gypsy claimed she felt freer behind bars than she ever was while under the care of her mother when she couldn't walk, eat, go outside, or have friends. In fact, she told ABC News that she couldn't have been happier because she was able to live like a "normal woman."

Gypsy was released from prison in December 2023. Godejohn was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard.