The psychology of twins has always been an interesting area of research for many scientists. For more than a century science has heavily relied on studies of twins to better understand genetically-related human behavior. Twins share physical and mental bonds that are unparalleled in human interaction, including the bonds between differently aged children of the same parents. One of the strangest stories of twin bonding is that of June and Jennifer Gibbons, where one of them is claimed to have died so that the other could lead a normal life.
Born in 1963, June and Jennifer Gibbons grew up to be known as “The Silent Twins” because they only communicated with each other.
June and Jennifer Gibbons were born April 11th, 1963 in Barbados. Soon after their birth, their family moved to Haverfordwest, Wales. While growing up both sisters became inseparable. They even talked with each other in a strange, high speed, patois-like English which no one else could understand, not even their parents.
While growing up, the twins were the only Black children in their community. Due to their race, they were bullied at school. This proved to be a traumatic experience for the twins leading them to avoid communication with others and only speaking with each other in a language which was almost unintelligible to anyone else.
At the age of fourteen the twins were sent to therapists, and even to separate boarding schools, to get them to communicate with others. This only made them more withdrawn from society.
Due to their resistance to speak with outsiders, the twins were sent to a number of therapists. None of these professionals, however, could get the girls to communicate with others. In an attempt to help them break their perceived need for self-isolation they were sent to separate boarding schools, but as a result of their separation, they became catatonic and even more withdrawn.
After their reunion, the twins spent the next few years in voluntary seclusion their room where they performed plays for one another and wrote diaries. In their diaries, they revealed the dark side of their bond.
When the doctors saw the adverse effect of separating the twins, they asked the family to reunite them. After that, the twins spent the next few years by isolating themselves in their room. They entertained themselves by playing with dolls and creating and enacting plays and stories. During the Christmas of 1979, they received diaries as gifts. From then on they began writing extensively in their diaries. They wrote about three thousand words a day.
In the pages of their diaries, the twins revealed the dark side of their bond. June wrote, “Nobody suffers the way I do, not with a sister; with a husband, yes; with a wife, yes; with a child, yes, but this sister of mine, a dark shadow robbing me of sunlight, is my one and only torment.”
Inspired by their diaries they start writing novels abut men and women exhibiting criminal behavior. June wrote Pepsi-Cola Addict and Jennifer wrote The Pugilist, Discomania, The Taxi-Driver’s Son and several short stories.
While writing diaries the twin sisters decided to develop writing careers. They took a mail order course in creative writing. Each sister wrote separate novels. The stories in June’s two novels were set primarily in Malibu, California in the United States. June wrote Pepsi-Cola Addict, which was about a high school hero who was seduced by a teacher and later sent to a reformatory where a homosexual guard terrorized him. Jennifer wrote three novels: The Pugilist, Discomania and Taxi-Driver’s Son. She also wrote a radio play called Postman and Postwoman, and several short stories. Their novels and other writings failed to make any serious impression in the literary world.
Next, the sisters turned to criminal mischief. Due to their criminal behavior and social disorder they were sent to a high-security mental facility, Broadmoor Hospital, where they spent 14 years.
After their novels failed to get any notice, the twins started committing crimes. They committed petty theft, choked each other and even burned a building down to the ground. They were eventually brought to court on the charge of arson. The judge ruled that since the twins were suffering from a severe social disorder they were to be confined in a high-security mental facility. The twins were sent to Broadmoor Hospital where they remained for the next fourteen years. Their case attained a modicum of notoriety when journalist Marjorie Wallace covered it for The Sunday Times.
In the hospital, the behavior of the sisters puzzled the doctors. They took turns eating. One day one of them would gorge herself while the other starved, and the next day they would switch roles. The sisters were housed in different cells at opposite ends of the hospital, but the nurses often found them frozen in the same bizarre poses.
During their stay in the hospital, they made a pact that one of them would die. When the doctors decided to transfer the twins to Caswell Clinic, Jennifer died during in transit. Her death remains an unsolved mystery to this day.
During the time spent in the mental hospital the twins began to believe that in order for one of them to lead a normal life, one of them would have to die. After a lot of discussions, they both agreed that it would be Jennifer who would die. In March 1993, the doctors decided to transfer the twins to Caswell Clinic. Before the transfer, journalist Marjorie Wallace came to interview the sisters. During the visit, Jennifer abruptly stated matter-of-factly over a cup of tea, “Marjorie, Marjorie, I’m going to have to die.” When Wallace asked why, Jennifer just calmly replied, “Because we decided.”
During the trip to Caswell Clinic Jennifer slept in June’s lap with her eyes open. Upon reaching the Clinic, Jennifer presented as unresponsive and was pronounced dead by the doctors. Later, the cause of death was determined to be a sudden, lethal inflammation of the heart. During an autopsy, doctors did not find any drug or poison in her body and her death still remains a mystery.
After Jennifer’s death, June said that she was now free and liberated, and claimed that Jennifer gave her own life for her. She now lives a normal life in West Wales.
When June was questioned at the inquest she revealed that Jennifer was acting strangely for a few days before their transfer. June also said that Jennifer’s speech was slurred and they both assumed she was dying. A few days later when Marjorie Wallace visited her again, June said, “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last Jennifer has given up her life for me”.
Strangely, after her sister’s death, June began interacting normally with people. She no longer needs psychiatric monitoring and has been fully accepted back into her community. She now lives a quiet life in West Wales near her parents.
Jennifer lies buried under a headstone that is engraved with a poem. The poem was written by June: “We once were two/We two made one/We no more two/Through life be one/Rest in peace.”
Even though no one really knows the bizarre and secret world of the Gibbons twins, an excerpt from Jennifer’s diary shows their shared disdain. In her diary, Jennifer had written: “We have become fatal enemies in each other’s eyes. We feel the irritating deadly rays come out of our bodies, stinging each other’s skin. I say to myself, can I get rid of my own shadow, impossible or not possible? Without my shadow, would I die? Without my shadow, would I gain life, be free or left to die? Without my shadow, which I identify with a face of misery, deception, murder.”