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Helen Stoner and her late sister, Julia, lived on an estate with their stepfather following their mother's death. According to Helen, the men of their stepfather's line had a long history of mania bordering on hysterics, and she believed that the amount of time he had spent in India had aggravated this condition; working in the tropics had a reputation of creating or worsening medical ailments. Helen's stepfather would stir up trouble with anyone and everyone, and began acting eccentrically and irrationally, to the point that he imported a cheetah and a baboon from India. These animals were free to roam the grounds, and it was only with the bedroom door locked that Helen and Julia felt safe from them.
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