If you were a kid in the early 70s, this was the book everybody's mom had on her nightstand. I recall being especially disturbed by one of the paperback covers as a child, because I thought it literally depicted the events of the book, and I thought having your head sliced into sixteen pieces would be very painful.I post this just to point out the low standards of the whole psychiatric and psychological profession. A complete quack and phony can generate huge amounts of publicity, and fellow professionals do not expose the hoax.
"Sybil" was the supposedly true story of a girl whose horribly traumatic childhood caused her to manifest sixteen different personalities. Interviews with her were like demonic exorcisms, except the psychologist was taking on sixteen different demons at once, or maybe one demon with really potent multi-tasking capabilities.
Her "real-life" drama, filled with lurid details of abuse, fit neatly into the nightmare-child vibe that illuminated so much of the decade's pop fiction. A lot of unholy, unhinged, and undead little girls leered from paperback shelves in those days.
In Sunday's New York Post, Kyle Smith reviewed a "darkly absurd" new book called "Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case," which reveals the whole story was cooked up by a somewhat disturbed young woman named Shirley Mason, an enterprising psychiatrist with a well-stocked medicine cabinet, and a trashy journalist:
As a student in New York City in the 1950s, [Shirley] met a Park Avenue therapist named Cornelia "Connie" Wilbur. The two women adored each other even as Connie gradually got Shirley hooked on a series of "therapeutic" drugs, many of them new and seemingly wondrous, including Seconal, Demerol, Edrisal and Daprisal. (The last two were so addictive that they were soon banned.)
Connie also strongly believed in giving patients Pentathol, which invariably got them blabbing, sometimes about fantasies that could not possibly have occurred. Still, the drug was widely believed to be a "truth serum."
One day, Shirley started talking about blackouts in which, she claimed, she became others with various names and personalities -- Peggy Lou, Peggy Ann, Vicky, etc.
Fascinated, Connie offered, "Would you like to earn some money?" She suggested that her patient could be the subject of a book. Connie offered to pay Shirley's medical-school tuition and living expenses.
The personality split was a lie, Shirley confessed in a five-page 1958 letter that sits in the archives at John Jay. She said she was "none of the things I have pretended to be."
Friday, October 21, 2011
The multiple personality hoax
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