The Strange Tale of the Silent Twins
There are many different superstitions about twins. In some parts of the world, they have been considered capable of powerful magic. Some cultures consider them to be holy, while others consider them to be the worst of luck. It is interesting to think, then, what those cultures might have made of June and Jennifer Gibbons. Known throughout their lives together as the Silent Twins, June and Jennifer made headlines when their crimes came to light.
The twins were born in Barbados in 1963, and shortly thereafter, their parents moved them to Haverfordwest in Wales. One can imagine the isolation that the girls might have felt as the only black children at their school. They were inseperable, and they often refused to speak anything except the patois that they remembered from Barbados. They would speak it so quickly that it was difficult for even their parents to understand them.
June and Jennifer were often at odds with their schoolmates. Their teachers let them leave early to avoid bullying, and as time went on, they only cared to depend on each other. They spent all their time together, and their movements began to mirror each other. They would act in unison, and they would refuse to be separated. Eventually, they stopped speaking to anyone except each other, and, on occasion, their younger sister Rose.
The Gibbons sisters’ parents were justifiably concerned. They consulted with many therapists to try to socalize their twins. They even tried to send the girls to different boarding schools. The result, however, was that they went catatonic and refused to move at all.
Left to their own devices, the two pursued a writing career. They wrote of strange and disturbing events, like a heart transplant performed for a person from a dog, and how the dog’s heart takes it revenge. Another short story involved a disco where people became suddenly and inexplicably violent with each other. Though their stories have a certain fascinating quality in retrospect, they were never sold.
After a certain amount of time, the Gibbons sisters decided that crime rather than publishing was the way to become known. They engaged in a variety of crimes, including theft and arson. The later was what had them brought to Broadmoor Hospital.
For the next fourteen years, they were given high doses of drugs. Though these drugs did not seem to have a great effect on normalizing the sisters, they did reduce their ability to concentrate and in some cases, even to communicate. The doses were adjusted, and the sisters could go on to perform in the hospital choir. Their creative writing, however, never recovered.
Sometime after this, at the age of thirty, the girls decided to move on. According to hospital records, Jennifer and June had a long-standing agreement that if one of them died, the other had to go on to speak and to live a normal life while interacting with others. The twins were convinced that this could not happen if they both lived.
They spoke about the situation at length, and finally, they decided that Jennifer was going to be the twin to die. During a routine transfer to another clinic, Jennifer went comatose and would never wake up again. She was diagnosed with a sudden and severe inflammation of the heart, but there was no reason why it should have suddenly occurred. With no drugs or poison in her body, it was uneasily believed that she had somehow willed herself to die.
June’s only words on the subject were, “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last Jennifer has given up her life for me.”
Just a little over 10 years after Jennifer’s death, Jun returned to West Wales to live close to her parents. As far as the psychiatric community and her own community can tell, she has left her silence and her strangeness behind to become herself alone.