Having a secret language and a twin as your best friend are some things that people dream about because….how cool is that? But for these ‘Silent Twins’, June and Jennifer Gibbons…it became fatal. One had to die in order for the other to live.
What started out as a pact amongst siblings – June and Jennifer thought it would be fun, as children, to speak to no one other than each other. Born April 11, 1963, in Barbados but raised in the UK the girls were made fun of at school for their heavy Barbadian accents and race – the principal even allowed them to leave school five minutes earlier than the other students to avoid being bullied.
(What people considered to be their secret language was just a sped up version of broken English aka patois)
Eventually, June and Jennifer withdrew from society entirely and turned to literature as an outlet for their aggression that was building up inside of them.
When the identical twins were 14, their family members and doctors believed it would be a good idea to separate them completely and send them to different boarding schools hoping that they would become social again. This attempt backfired and they became even more distant and began developing symptoms of schizophrenia.
The family and doctors brought the twins back together and from there, June and Jennifer isolated themselves to their bedroom where they could be together and play. They spent several years doing this – putting on intricate plays for one another with their dolls, reading, journaling and writing poetry. They recorded some of their plays on tape in a soap opera style for their younger sister and even gave her a couple journals for Christmas – that’s when they became inspired to write novels. They wrote several novels each.
Both girls’ stories focused on the strange and criminal behaviour of their lead characters. In June’s ‘Pepsi Cola Addict’ – the high-school hero was seduced by a teacher, then sent away to a reformatory where a homosexual guard makes a play for him and 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.
The books were published by small independent publishing companies but they never made a real splash in the literary world – so that is when the twins did something else to get noticed….they started committing crimes. It began with pettytheft and then ended up with arson which is what landed them in court.
In court, they were diagnosed as psychopathsand sent to Broadmoor Hospital, the same high-security mental facility where legendary rapists and murders lived.
Excerpts from June’s diary are chilling:
“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.”
“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.”
June and Jennifer Gibbons actually tried to kill each other – Jennifer tried to strangle June with a radio cord and them June tried to drown Jennifer in a river. But they remained inseparable still.
The twins eventually began to believe that they would never be released from this powerful pact unless one of them died.
At Broadmoor, the doctors found June and Jennifer to be deeply disturbed and dangerous. The two took turns eating, one indulging one day while the other starved. And even though they were split up and housed in cells on opposite ends ofthe hospital, nurses often found them strangely frozen in the same distinct poses. This went on for 11 years. Until doctors agreed to transfer the twins to Caswell Clinic, a lower-security facility in Wales.
During their time at Broadmoor, they were befriended by Marjorie Wallace, who went on to write their biography, she became their only friend. One day, Jennifer told her,“I’m going to have to die”Wallace said she sort of laughed and said “what? Don’t be silly. You’re 31 years old. You know, you’re just about to be freed from Broadmoor. Why are you going to have to die? You’re not ill” And Jennifer just simply said, “because we’ve decided”
Marjorie said at that point, she got very frightened because she could see that they meant it. And then they said they had made a pact and that Jennifer has to die because the day that they left Broadmoor and were finally free from the secure hospital, one of them would have to give up their life to really enable the other one to be free.
In 1993, doctors had decided to transfer the girls to Caswell Clinic but on the bus drive over – Jennifer put her head on June’s shoulder – according to June, her words started slurring and she said she wasn’t feeling well and that she was dying. She puther head on June’s lap and fell asleep with her eyes open.
Upon arrival, Jennifer appeared unresponsive. Doctors rushed her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. Cause of death was acute myocarditis, or a sudden and lethal inflammation of the heart.
Doctors found no evidence of poison in Jennifer’s system and her death remains a mystery.
After Jennifer’s death in 1993, June went on to live a so-called “normal” life. In an interview with The New Yorker, she said all she wanted now was to get married and have children with a rasta man, like Bob Marley.June wrote a poem for Jennifer’s headstone – “We once were two/We two made one/We no more two/Through life be one/Rest in peace.”