On a rainy day, many of us like to curl up with a book or maybe play a board game. It’s a nice way to pass the time until the weather breaks. But imagine that outside forces kept you from leaving your house for longer periods of time — maybe weeks, months, or even an entire year. How would you cope?

The Angulo brothers knew this feeling all too well, even though they lived in one of the biggest metropolises on Earth. Completely cut off from the modern world, they found one genius way to stay connected to all the wonders they were missing.

At a glance, family photographs of the long-haired Angulo boys make them seem like part of a totally normal family, enjoying the typical American childhood. However, their early years were anything but typical.

Susanne Reisenbichler

The brothers — Bhagavan, Narayana, Govinda, Mukunda, Krisna, and Jagadesh — lived with their parents and sister on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. But they didn’t know the bustling streets and storefronts of their neighborhood at all.

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That’s because the children rarely left the apartment, and not by their own choice. Their father Oscar, a devotee of the controversial Hare Krishna movement, forbade his family from going outside. To keep everyone in line, he owned the only key to their front door.

Susanne Reisenbichler

The paranoid patriarch also kept his wife Susanne locked inside, where she homeschooled all seven kids. Apart from hearing their mother’s recollections of her childhood in Indiana, the Angulo children had no real reference point for the real world.

Maybe the Angulos didn’t question this arrangement much as young children, but they grew more and more curious about the outside as they reached their teens. After all, they were only allowed out on special occasions, like doctor’s appointments.

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But sometimes a whole year passed without them so much as setting foot in the apartment hallway. They couldn’t do much about it either; their father reacted to every effort to flee by upping his security. Even so, they did have one escape.

The six brothers absolutely devoured movies. Strangely enough, their parents allowed them to build up a library of thousands of films, which they watched over and over. They were like portals to the real world! Soon enough, their obsession gave them an idea.

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The Angulos loved these stories so much that they wondered if they could recreate them. After pouring many more hours into their favorites, they wrote up reverse-engineered scripts. Then, using whatever they could find around the apartment, they’d shoot their movies.

YouTube / VICE

Although they were raised to believe the outside world was filled with evil people, these performances gave the Angulos an outlet for everything they were missing. Now with an identity for the first time, they called their family filmmaking group “The Wolfpack.”

Instagram / The Wolfpack

On top of that, their homemade remakes were pretty impressive. Of course, they had to use their imaginations to recreate big action scenes within their cramped apartment, but they clearly showed promise in their acting and production chops.

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Their costumes were also surprisingly high-quality, thanks to the careful eye of Mukunda. He could, for example, make an entire Batsuit out of cereal boxes and yoga mats. His knack for props soon changed The Wolfpack’s lot forever.

YouTube / VICE

One day in 2010, Mukunda was rummaging through some Michael Myers masks he’d constructed as a tribute to the horror classic Halloween. Noticing his dad wasn’t home, he got an idea. Mukunda put on one of the masks, worked his way through the locks, and went outside.

Slate

Afraid of losing his way in the sprawling New York streets, Mukunda rounded the blocks around his building. It was like a revelation — except that he forgot he was wearing the mask of a famed movie killer. Police seized Mukunda as he browsed a nearby market.

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The authorities went so far as to toss Mukunda in an ambulance headed to a psychiatric ward. Fortunately, the teenager was able to prove he was perfectly sane. The police brought him back home, where he heroically walked back through the doorway. 

Twitter / Mukunda Angulo

From that point onward, Oscar couldn’t do a thing to contain all six of The Wolfpack. They explored more of the Big Apple, eliciting stares and smirks with their flowing hair and Reservoir Dogs sunglasses. One bystander was particularly fascinated.

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Budding filmmaker Crystal Moselle couldn’t help but feel entranced by The Wolfpack prowling around the big city. Curious to hear their story, she bonded with them over a love of movies and got them to open up about their story.

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The years of the boys being locked inside their own apartment blew Crystal away. Together, they teamed up to make a documentary about their lives called The Wolfpack. For the first time, the Angulos would be starring in a real movie.

Released in 2015, Crystal’s documentary was a smash success. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and led the film’s subjects to stardom. Suddenly, they were on the red carpet mingling with silver screen heroes like Robert DeNiro.

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Fame was nice for The Wolfpack, but their cinematic breakthrough was really about asserting their independence. They speculated that their father “always saw us as the little boys who couldn’t. But then we transformed into the boys that can.”

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It helped liberate their mother as well. Susanne curiously remained married to Oscar, but she reclaimed her maiden name of Reisenbichler. For the first time in decades, she also reconnected with the family she left behind.

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Now in charge of the family, Susanne got to introduce her kids to their grandmother. Oscar stayed behind, as he rarely leaves the New York apartment these days. The only person he has left to imprison is himself.

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The Angulos are eating up everything the outside world has to offer them, and they’re looking to take their passion for film to the next level. These movie buffs have plans to launch their own production company, appropriately called Wolfpack Pictures.

YouTube / Film Society of the Lincoln Center

It’s truly inspirational that The Wolfpack managed to make a name for themselves. Abusive parents pose unimaginable threats to their families; halfway across the country, an Ohio man was learning this same lesson when he found himself in an eerie household.

See, Carlyle Smith made his way to Norwalk, Ohio, to visit the home of Michael and Sharen Gravelle. The Gravelles, below, were in need of an extra caretaker to help care for their adopted children, and Smith felt he was perfect for the job.

Dr. Phil

As a home-care specialist, Smith was already familiar with proper home etiquette, and his years spent coaching youth sports gave him all the tools he needed to manage a house full of kids. Sure, the Gravelles had 11 of them, but after leading teams of up to 30 young athletes at a time, how hard could it really be?

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When Smith arrived at the small suburban home, he was met by Michael and Sharen, who gave him a tour of the place before introducing him to their children. The house was nothing special, but there was one peculiar aspect that Smith couldn’t get over: at the Gravelles’ behest, he was forbidden from going upstairs.

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The Gravelles brought Smith to the backyard to meet the kids, but before he could introduce himself, the job interview took a disturbing turn. To Smith’s disgust, Sharen used racially charged language to address the children. 

YouTube / Dr. Phil

The interview became even more bizarre as Michael led Smith to a run-down “chapel” in the back of the property. There, Michael revealed to Smith that he considered himself to be Moses to his children, dutifully leading them to the “promised land”.

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By this time, Smith had heard enough, but before he had a chance to leave, one of the little boys accidentally wet himself in front of the Gravelles. Sharen was furious, but she didn’t tell him to go to his room: instead, she told him to go to his cage.

Dr. Phil / YouTube

Smith wasn’t sure if he’d heard her right, but Michael quickly cleared up any doubt by remarking on the quality of the alarms rigged to the children’s cages. He also quipped about the strength of the chicken wire around their bunk beds, citing the cuts on the kids’ fingers as an indication of their escape attempts.

YouTube / Dr. Phil

The four-hour interview ended in just 30 minutes as Smith turned down the job on the spot. After putting a few miles between himself and the Gravelles, Smith pulled onto the side of the road and began sobbing. He couldn’t just leave those children in that place.

Smith took his concerns to his work supervisor, who reached out to Child Protective Services to schedule a meeting. After explaining everything he had seen and heard that day to the agent, Smith was confident that CPS would act to remove the children from the Gravelle’s care. Unfortunately, he was wrong.

According to the agent, Smith’s testimony wasn’t enough to justify an investigation of the Gravelle home, and CPS would “look into” the case in the future. Smith was distraught. What would become of the Gravelle children now? It would be nearly three years before Smith got his answer.

Toledo Blade

On a fall morning in 2006, Smith got a call from Child Protective Services and was delivered some shocking news: Michael and Sharen Gravelle had been arrested. Apparently, a CPS agent had come across Smith’s report from 2003 and finally uncovered the abuse occurring at the Gravelle home.

Toledo Blade

A lengthy trial followed the Gravelles’ arrest, and Smith, along with a number of witnesses, testified to the cruelty the 11 children had been subjected to at the hands of their adoptive parents. Though Michael and Sharen tried to justify their actions, the Ohio couple’s days of child abuse were over.

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In the end, Michael and Sharen were each given two years in prison for two-dozen counts of child endangerment and neglect. But although the Gravelle children were finally free from their abusers, their struggle to overcome years of trauma wasn’t finished just yet.

Another round of legal battles ensued between several Ohio counties and the children’s lawyers, who claimed the county adoption and child welfare services were at fault for placing the children with Michael and Sharen in the first place. After 10 years of fighting, the Gravelle children were awarded a total of $3 million to be put toward rebuilding their lives.

Norwalk Reflector

The story of the “caged kids” made national headlines, and it wasn’t long before people wondered what had become of them now that the nightmare was over. One of those people was Dr. Phil, and he was determined to provide closure for the deserving children… and give them a surprise they’d never forget.

On a 2017 episode of Dr. Phil, two of the Gravelle children, Simon and Abba, joined Dr. Phil to discuss their years of trauma and their life after the ordeal. Through it all, however, the children couldn’t help but mention the kind stranger that had saved them from a lifetime of torment.

Dr. Phil / YouTube

“If he was here right now, I would gladly give him the biggest hug ever and tell him that I love him,” Simon said of Smith, whom neither he nor Abba had seen in the almost 12 years. It was then Dr. Phil shocked everyone with just four little words: “let’s make that happen.”

Dr. Phil / YouTube

Right on cue, Smith emerged from backstage! No sooner did they see him that Simon and Abba rushed over to embrace the man that rescued them all those years ago. The tearful reunion was punctuated by sobs of “thank you,” and it was clear to everyone in the audience how much this man meant to the two teens.

Dr. Phil / YouTube

“This is a real man right here,” Simon said to the audience as the trio reflected on the events that had led them to this moment. “He saved my life. He saved her life.”

Dr. Phil / YouTube

As for Smith, seeing Simon and Abba for the first time in over a decade was definitely more worthwhile than he’d ever imagined. “It’s absolutely amazing [to see you],” Smith said as he wiped his own tears away. “I’m so proud of you guys.”

Dr. Phil / YouTube