Is Butterbox Babies Based On A True Story? Or Is It Inspired By A Novel?

The recipient of two Gemini Awards, Butterbox Babies is a nerve-wracking and goosebump-inducing emotional drama film. It chronicles the tale of a maternity home that becomes the primary spot for crime and cathartism. The film delves deep into the psychological thriller genre and treads the fine line between atrocity and inhumanity. It stars Susan Clark and Peter MacNeill in the lead roles as Lila and William Young, a couple who put humanity to shame in the 1930s.

It is due to the highly realistic and gripping plot of the film that it is perceived as a true story by fanatics. With Clark and MacNeill’s exceptional performances, the question becomes even more prominent. If you, too, are wondering whether Butterbox Babies is based on a true story, fasten your seatbelts and dive in!

Is Butterbox Babies Based On A True Story?

Is Butterbox Babies Based On A True Story?

Don McBreaty adapted Raymond Storey’s script in the early 1990s and conjured what could be easily termed a tale of greed and heinous activities. The film is produced by Trudy Grant and Kevin Sullivan and is backed by Sullivan Entertainment. This Canadian film debuted internationally in 1995 and has been nominated for several accolades including Banff Television Festival. It won the Silver Award at the Worldfest Houston Festival and left a trail of heartache and tears in its wake. The film conjures a vivid image of barbarity and portrays a tale of the illegal smuggling of infants. Due to its storyline, viewers have perceived the film to be a byproduct of Raymond and Don’s partnership.

However, it is not a psychological film manifested by Storey’s creative imagination. Rather, Butterbox Babies is based on a true story and portrays a real maternity home that dealt with the smuggling of infants in the Second World War era. The film has its roots sprawled across the true crime genre and is based on the eponymous novel that has garnered mostly positive reviews.

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Is Butterbox Babies Inspired By A Novel?

Yes, the film is inspired by Beette L. Cahill’s eponymous novel, Butterbox Babies, which is based on a real-life story. The author has artistically captured the case of illegal adoption and human trafficking that’s fueled by misconception and greed. It revolves around a young couple, who claim themselves to be devout Christians. The novel unravels the mystery of illegitimate crimes that once flooded Nova Scotia and left the readers reeling in disgust.

In the early 1990s, McBrearty and Storey came across Cahill’s novel and were instantly enamoured by the tale. They then decided to adapt the novel into a cinematic delight. But instead of making the film biographical or motivational, they wrapped it in a sheathe of horror and instilled some thriller moments into it. It remains, to this date, one of the most horrifying tales Nova Scotia and the world witnessed.

Who Were William and Lila Young?

Butterbox Babies revolves around a seemingly charitable couple, Lila and William Young, portrayed in the film by Susan Clark and Peter MacNeill. While William was an ordained Seventh-day Adventist minister and a renowned chiropractor, Lila was a midwife and an obstetrician. The couple operated a maternity home and birthing centre, the Ideal Maternity Home, and supposedly helped unwed mothers provide a better life for their children. They claimed themselves to be doing “God’s work” while camouflaging their true intentions beneath fake smiles.

The Home welcomed both, married and unmarried women, but preferred the latter albeit secretly. These women were provided all the necessary facilities at a high price since the Youngs did nothing for free. They offered these young mothers a chance to put up their children for adoption despite the law forbidding such practice at that time. If the mother chose to put up her child for adoption, she had to pay an additional amount and didn’t get to ask the Youngs a single question.

Those who couldn’t afford the abortion, birthing or adoption facilities had to work at the Home to clear off their debt. Moreover, these women were forbidden from defaming or even speaking about the facility to anybody. The Youngs didn’t only handle the administrative and the medical aspects but also were the ones to deal with the adoption process entirely, which made them millions of dollars.

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The Inspiration Behind The Film’s Name

With the onslaught of the Second World War, the trade system was entirely corroded in both the countries, Canada and the United States. The Youngs took advantage of the situation and engaged in the illegal smuggling of the children that were put up for adoption. They soon gauged the American couples’ desperation and catered to the community, all the while claiming to be helping these couples. While the Ideal Maternity Home proved to be the only resort for unwed and pregnant women, it was soon revealed that the institution was nothing more than a torture chamber.

In 1934, after Dr. Frank Davis became the minister of Public Welfare, he began suspecting the Young couple. They were embellished with expensive jewellery, owned multiple luxury cars and invested heavily in real estate. Despite the same, the couple seemed to have millions of cash to spare. He then embarked on a mission to deduce the true intentions of the couple and the reality of their birthing centre.

It was later revealed that William and Lila sold the babies at high prices and made at least ten thousand dollars per baby they smuggled. But the Youngs didn’t sell every baby, only the ones with Caucasian ethnicity. If the baby was a European and was healthy enough, the couple would proceed with the adoption process of simply starving him/her to death. After the babies lost the battle with life, the Youngs would put them in boxes used to store dairy products and bury them. Both the film and the novel derive inspiration from these boxes and are thus entitled Butterbox Babies.

What Happened To William And Lila Young?

Some infants were provided a proper burial while others were either scorched or drowned. The Youngs only prioritized their wealth and continued to sell more than six hundred babies. They slaughtered an equal–or even more–children, who they deemed “unfit” and “unmarketable”.

After Davis picked up on their case, he insisted the Youngs employ a “registered nurse” who would assist them manoeuvre thousands of pregnant women who took refuge in the Home. In 1936, after the nurse reported the alleged death of a woman and her newborn, David went berserk on the Youngs. Though he wasn’t able to prove William and Lila’s involvement in the death of the two, Frank questioned their license and prompted the government to dwell on the case. He later succeeded in having the Ideal Maternity Home thoroughly investigated.

Upon the investigation, the Youngs were charged with manslaughter, fraud and illegal smuggling. However, due to a lack of concrete evidence, William and Lila managed to get away with the lawsuit. But soon, David and his team acquired the evidence and proved that the Youngs dealt with the illegal smuggling of infants. 

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Is The Ideal Maternity Home Still Open?

William and Lila then went on to fight for their independence and tried to salvage the Ideal Maternity Home. They applied for a license as well in 1940 but the government denied them any chance to get away with committing such a heinous crime. Even if they managed to keep the iron cuffs at bay for a while, they didn’t succeed in keeping the birthing centre ongoing. In 1945, the government sealed the Ideal Maternity Home. 

The couple were involved in a trial for almost a decade and struggled to prove their innocence–which the world knew didn’t exist. William passed away due to cancer a while later and Lila lived on with leukemia until she surpassed her seventieth birthday. After the Youngs’ death, nobody tried to revive the birthing centre, which remains closed to date.

As Butterbox Babies portrays, close to seven hundred children were tormented by the Youngs. Moreover, the Michael Melski directorial, The Child Remains, chronicles the tale of these children and leaves a lasting imprint on the minds of its audience.

Is Butterbox Babies Based On A True Story?–FAQs

1. What Is The Butterbox Babies Film About?

It chronicles the tale of William and Lila Young who operated a birthing center and engaged in heinous activities such as illegal adoption and manslaughter.

2. Who Is The Creator Of The Butterbox Babies?

The film is directed by Don McBrearty while the screenplay is managed by Raymond Storey.

3. Is Butterbox Babies Based On A True Story?

Yes, Butterbox Babies is based on a true story.

4. Is Butterbox Babies Adapted By A Novel?

Yes, it is inspired by Bette L. Cahill’s eponymous novel, which portrays a heart-wrenching tale of greed and oppression.

5. Who Were William And Lila Young?

While William was a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, his wife, Lila was a midwife.

6. Where To Watch The Butterbox Babies Film?

You can rent the film from Google Play.

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