June and Jennifer Gibbons
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|June and Jennifer Gibbons|
April 11, 1963|
|Died||9 March 1993 (Jennifer, aged 29)|
|Residence||Haverfordwest, Wales, United Kingdom|
|Other names||The Silent Twins|
|Parent(s)||Gloria and Aubrey Gibbons|
June and Jennifer Gibbons (born 11th April 1963; Jennifer died March 1993) were identical twins who grew up in Wales. They became known as "The Silent Twins" since they only communicated with each other. They began writing works of fiction but later turned to crime. Both women were admitted to Broadmoor Hospital where they were held for 11 years.
June and Jennifer were the daughters of Caribbean immigrants Gloria and Aubrey Gibbons. Gloria was a housewife and Aubrey worked as a technician for the Royal Air Force. Shortly after their birth in Barbados, their family moved to Haverfordwest, Wales. The twin sisters were inseparable and their particular high-speed Bajan Creole made it difficult for people to understand them.
As the only black children in the community, they were ostracized at school. This proved to be traumatic for the twins, eventually causing their school administrators to dismiss them early each day so that they might avoid bullying. Their language became even more idiosyncratic at this time. Soon it was unintelligible to others. Their language, or idioglossia, qualified as an example of cryptophasia, exemplified by the twins' simultaneous actions, which often mirrored each other. Eventually the twins spoke to no one except each other and their younger sister Rose.
When the twins turned 14, a succession of therapists tried unsuccessfully to get them to communicate with others. They were sent to separate boarding schools in an attempt to break their isolation, but the pair became catatonic and entirely withdrawn when parted.
When they were reunited, the two spent several years isolating themselves in their bedroom, engaged in elaborate plays with dolls. They created many plays and stories in a sort of soap opera style, reading some of them aloud on tape as gifts for their sister. Inspired by a pair of gift diaries on Christmas 1979, they began their writing careers. They sent away for a mail order course in creative writing, and each wrote several novels. Set primarily in the United States and particularly in Malibu, California, the stories involve young men and women who exhibit strange and often criminal behavior.
In June's Pepsi-Cola Addict, the high-school hero is seduced by a teacher, then sent away to a reformatory where a homosexual guard makes a play for him. In Jennifer's The Pugilist, a physician is so eager to save his child's life that he kills the family dog to obtain its heart for a transplant. The dog's spirit lives on in the child and ultimately has its revenge against the father. Jennifer also wrote Discomania, the story of a young woman who discovers that the atmosphere of a local disco incites patrons to insane violence. She followed up with The Taxi-Driver's Son, a radio play called Postman and Postwoman, and several short stories.
Their novels were published by a self-publishing press called New Horizons, and they made many attempts to sell short stories to magazines, but were unsuccessful. A brief fling with some American boys, the sons of a US Navy serviceman, led nowhere. The girls committed a number of crimes including arson, which led to their being admitted to Broadmoor Hospital, a high-security mental health hospital. They remained there for 14 years. June later blamed this lengthy sentence to their selective muteness: "'Juvenile delinquents get two years in prison... We got 12 years of hell because we didn't speak... We lost hope, really. I wrote a letter to the Queen, asking her to get us out. But we were trapped." Placed on high doses of antipsychotic medications, they found themselves unable to concentrate; Jennifer apparently developed tardive dyskinesia (a neurological disorder resulting in involuntary, repetitive movements). Their medications were apparently adjusted sufficiently to allow them to continue the copious diaries they had begun in 1980, and they were able to join the hospital choir, but they lost most of their interest in creative writing.
The case achieved some notice due to newspaper coverage by The Sunday Times journalist Marjorie Wallace. The British tabloid The Sun gave a brief account of their story, headlined "Genius Twins Won't Speak" (an apparent reference to their having tested above average intelligence when being considered for Broadmoor Hospital).
The pair were also the subject of the 1986 television drama The Silent Twins, broadcast on BBC Two as part of its Screen Two series, and an Inside Story documentary Silent Twin – Without My Shadow, which aired on BBC One in September 1994.
According to Wallace , the girls had a longstanding agreement that if one died, the other must begin to speak and live a normal life. During their stay in the hospital, they began to believe that it was necessary for one of them to die, and after much discussion, Jennifer agreed to make the sacrifice of her life. In March 1993, the twins were transferred from Broadmoor to the more open Caswell Clinic in Bridgend, Wales. On arrival Jennifer could not be roused. She was taken to the hospital where she died soon after of acute myocarditis, a sudden inflammation of the heart. There was no evidence of drugs or poison in her system, and her death remains a mystery. At the inquest, June revealed that Jennifer had been acting strangely for about a day before their release; her speech had been slurring, and she had said that she was dying. On the trip to Caswell, she had slept in June's lap with her eyes open. On a visit a few days later, Wallace recounted that June "was in a strange mood". She said, "I'm free at last, liberated, and at last Jennifer has given up her life for me".
After Jennifer's death, June gave interviews with Harper's Bazaar and The Guardian. By 2008 she was living quietly and independently, near her parents in West Wales. She was no longer monitored by psychiatric services, has been accepted by her community, and sought to put the past behind her. A 2016 interview with her sister Greta revealed that the family had been deeply troubled by the girls' incarceration. She blamed Broadmoor for ruining their lives and for neglecting Jennifer's health. She had wanted to file a lawsuit against Broadmoor, but Aubrey and Gloria refused, saying it would not bring Jennifer back.
- "Tragic tale of twins and their secret world". Herald Scotland.
- Harpin, Anna; Nicholson, Helen (7 October 2016). "Performance and Participation: Practices, Audiences, Politics". Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved 30 January 2018 – via Google Books.
- Marjorie Wallace The Silent Twins, Prentice-Hall, October 1986. ISBN 5-551-73250-9
- Claudia Joseph, "EXCLUSIVE – The 'Silent Twins' who were so close one of them had to DIE so the other could survive: Sister of girls held in Broadmoor for eleven years reveals lifelong heartache caused by their sinister bond". Daily Mail, 13 April 2016, page found 2017-02-11.
- "Screen Two: The Silent Twins". BBC Genome. BBC. 19 January 1986. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
- "Inside Story Silent Twin – Without My Shadow". BBC Genome. BBC. 22 September 1994. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
- Marjorie Wallace, The tragedy of a double life, London: The Observer, 13 July 2003
- Morgan, Kathleen (2 August 2010). "Tragic tale of twins and their secret world". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
- Inquiry into death of silent twin. The Independent, 12 March 1993. Page found 29 May 2011.
- Marjorie Wallace (2008). The Silent Twins. Random House. p. 293. ISBN 9780099586418.
- Hilton Als (2000) "We Two Made One", The New Yorker
- Oliver Sacks, "Bound Together in Fantasy and Crime" in The New York Times review of The Silent Twins, 19 October 1986.
- Jennifer Gibbons, 29, 'Silent Twin' of a Study Announcement of Jennifer's death in the New York Times, 12 March 1993.
- de Angelis, April (28 June 2007). "April de Angelis on troubled twins Jennifer and June Gibbons". The Guardian. London: GMG. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
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