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“Ghost Boy” Trapped Inside His Own Body for 10 Years Escapes—Now He Has a Message for the World

Martin Pistorius was once a strong, healthy boy growing up in South Africa. However, one day he came home sick from school, and as his mother puts it, “he never ever got better.”

Martin’s muscles weakened, and he soon lost the ability to walk or talk as well. Doctors diagnosed it as a neurodegenerative disease, and they said he was unaware of the world around him.

What they didn’t know is that Martin was essentially trapped in his own body. He did not have the mind of a 3-month-old infant as they assumed. He was entirely cognitively aware the whole time, but he had no means of expressing that.

For 10 years, the boy lived in torture as he grew up with everyone around him assuming he was brain-dead. People would share very private secrets in front of him, and he was also abused in his care centers because nobody thought he knew what was going on. Martin became known as the “Ghost Boy,” and he endured verbal, physical and sexual abuse for years, losing hope that anybody would ever find the boy inside.

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One day, his own mother even told him “I hope you die” straight to his face. She had no idea he could hear every word.

Over a decade into his disease, a physical therapist named Virna Van Der Walt met Martin, and she saw something that everyone else was missing. That “glimmer in his eye” said it all. There was someone in there. She was certain.

Tests revealed that Martin, in fact, could communicate. It was a miraculous turning point in his life.

As his mind slowly got stronger, Martin got to do all of the things he had hoped and dreamed of during those years as the “ghost boy” that nobody knew existed.

Kelsey Straeter
Kelsey Straeter
Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.

Stranger Takes Photo of Family at Disney—Then He Promises He’s Not “Creepy” & Makes 1 Heartbreaking Request

"Several minutes later the same man who had just taken our picture walked up to us, in tears, and asked if we had a moment. He promised he wasn't creepy and introduced himself as Scott and his wife as Sally."

Beyond ‘Sorry for Your Loss’: 14 Meaningful Ways to Express Condolences

Explore heartfelt and unique ways to say 'sorry for your loss' with our guide. Learn how to offer condolences that truly resonate, including personalized expressions of sympathy and thoughtful gestures to support those grieving.

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Step into your newly single life with confidence and joy. Our guide on how to be single offers fresh perspectives on rediscovering yourself and thriving post-long-term relationship, with tips on how to navigate this new chapter with grace and a sense of adventure.