The book written about a “true story” of a woman with split personality problems named “Sybil” and later made into a movie starring Sally Fields has been found out to be a lie. Supposedly, the women in the story suffered from 16 separate split personalities that helped her to dig up repressed memories of monstrous childhood sexual abuse. The book was a number one best seller, selling 7 million copies in 1973.
Now the story has been revealed as a lie conjured up by three women as a money-making scheme. A new book “Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case” denounces the account as a fiction.
According to the author, Debbie Nathan, the memoir was cooked up by three individuals hungry for fame and fortune: Shirley Mason, her therapist Cornelia (Connie) Wilbur and journalist Flora Schreiber. Those three women are now all dead. However, Nathan draws on a cache of letters at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice that reveals how the three women created what they called “Sybil Inc.” for fun, fame and profit.
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.”
Shirley continued, “I do not have any multiple personalities … I do not even have a ‘double’ … I am all of them. I have essentially been lying … as trying to show you I felt I needed help … Quite thrilling. Got me a lot of attention.”
The two took the story to Schreiber, who specialized in made up ‘real-life’ women’s magazine stories and correctly predicted that with the right focus, grotesque child abuse including ‘scenes of Sybil’s mother defecating on lawns, conducting lesbian orgies and raping her daughter with kitchen utensils’ the book would captivate the masses, writes Nathan.