Mystery Monday: The Silent Twins

I came across this story quite by accident and saddened and intrigued me so much that I felt that it deserved a place in Mystery Monday. I believe that it was either Freud or Jung who had said that it is a parent’s duty to donate one of a twin to science. For years, identical twins have been used to try and study the ‘nature vs. nurture’ concept. Two human beings, identical to their fundamental DNA yet – completely different. Sometimes anyway.

I discovered this story quite by accident, idly browsing through a website. It’s the tale of identical twins Jennifer and June Gibbons who were born the 11th of April 1963 in Wales. They were inseparable, spoke their own language and didn’t mix with any other kids save for their younger sister. When they were 14, psychiatrists tried to separate them, placing each into a different facility of care but the two became non responsive and eventually catatonic. They had to be put back together and a different plan formulated.

During their teenage years, the twins each started writing novels, each with dark themes of crime and abuse. They also started a life of crime, committing theft and arson and was eventually caught and committed to

Majory Wallace, a newspaper reporter who wrote a book on the two young women called ‘The Silent Twins’ interviewed the two extensively in order to try and piece together the psychological pieces of the puzzle that were them. The two told her that they often felt as if they were looking in a mirror when they saw each other, and that they would see their own image distort and dissolve into that of their identical twin. They would then feel possessed by each other to such an extent that they would feel their personalities switching and their souls merging. They lived no life of their own and were bound to each other, unable to be separated like Siamese Twins.

It became clear to them that something had to be done and that all the doctors and treatment that they were being submitted to would not help them. After much debate, the twins decided that for one of them to be free – one had to die. It would forever end the silent war between them.

Wallace spoke of one Sunday evening when she was interviewing the two young women (now 29) in the Broadmoor special hospital (where they had been committed for 11 years) that Jennifer suddenly leaned forward, breaking their usual chatter and whispered to her:

“Marjorie, I am going to die. We’ve decided.”

The woman did not think anything of it at the time, focusing instead of the girl’s transfer to a more suitable place of rehabilitation where they would be able to enjoy more freedom than that which Broadmoor offered.

Ten days later though, Wallace received a call from the twins’ doctor saying that on the day of their release from Broadmoor, Jennifer suddenly collapsed against June and died from acute myocarditis. There was a list of possible causes, though nothing conclusive was found.
Her death was a mystery, unexplained to this day.

After her death, June became a new person, released from the bond of her sister’s presence. She began to lead a normal life, reaching out to the world she could not while her sister was still alive.

I find this story tremendously tragic yet fascinating. There is so much about life that we do not understand, for all our knowledge and our technology. The human soul and how it mixes with others are one of those things. It was clear that the souls of these two remarkable and tragic women were so entwined that – alive – they could not function together. A bitter tragedy and mystery that we would never understand or solve.

Did Jennifer die because she had decided to? Or did she know that she was dying and chose to let it happen?
We cannot say – but I hope that her sacrifice had not been in vane and that somewhere out there, June Gibbons is living a good life.