Twins are just one of those phenomena that the horror genre loves – they appear in innumerable horror movies and novels because the thought of two people functioning as one unit tends to weird people out.
But creepy twins don’t just exist in movies – there are cases of twins that are wildly eccentric, developing their own “twin languages” and mirroring each others’ movements.
The tale of June and Jennifer Gibbons is one such case.
This pair was bullied and ostracized from a young age and eventually spent years isolated with only each other, spiraling deeper into their elaborate fantasy worlds.
When they reached their teen years, they began committing petty crimes and got committed to Broadmoor hospital, where stranger things about their relationship were recorded. Ultimately, their intense and peculiar bond ended in one of the twins’ deaths.
Read on to know more about their strange case.
Birth and Early Life
June and Jennifer Gibbons were born on April 11, 1963. Their parents, Gloria and Aubrey Gibbons, were from Barbados but moved with the girls to Wales when they were very young.
The sisters were always together and soon found that being the only black children in their community made them easy to be bullied and ostracized.
These behaviors were inflamed by the fact that the girls spoke very fast and had little grasp of English, making it difficult for anyone to understand them. The bullying got so bad that the girls’ school elected to start dismissing them early so that they had a hope of avoiding it.
As they became more and more isolated, the twins’ language eventually twisted into idioglossia – a private language understood only by the girls themselves and their younger sister, Rose. This language was later identified as a mix of Barbadian slang and English. But at the time, it was essentially unintelligible.
The girls got to the point where they wouldn’t even speak to anyone but themselves and their sister.
This caught the attention of the medical community. When they were 14, the twins were sent to a long succession of therapists, none of whom could figure out what was wrong with them, if anything at all.
As part of the “treatment”, the girls were sent to separate boarding schools in order to try and break their bond and get them communicating with other people. Unfortunately, the plan was a disaster – the girls became catatonic and withdrew entirely when separated. They didn’t perk up until they were reunited.
The two, then, spent several years locked away in their shared bedroom, engaging in elaborate fantasy worlds aided by dolls – each doll had its own biography and rich life, and their interactions with other dolls resembled the plot lines of soap operas.
Bizarrely, the girls also noted the exact dates and methods of death for each doll. They created plays and stories set in this bizarre world, performing aloud on tape at times so that the tapes could be given to Rose.
In 1979, the pair received a matching pair of diaries as a Christmas gift. Inspired, the two began to write, each writing several novels and many more short stories during this period. These stories were primarily set in the United States, particularly in Malibu, California — likely due to the twins’ apparent obsession with America’s west coast.
Their protagonists were often young people who engaged in bizarre and often illegal activities.
In June’s Pepsi-Cola Addict, the hero is in high school, but has been seduced by a teacher and is subsequently sent away to a reformatory, where a gay guard begins to pursue him.
Jennifer’s The Pugilist chronicles the story of a physician who, in a last-ditch attempt to save his son, kills the family dog in order to harvest its heart for transplant. The dog’s spirit remains, however, and ultimately uses the body of the child to exact its revenge.
The novels were published by a self-publishing house called New Horizons. The girls also made numerous attempts to sell their shorter works to magazines, but were largely unsuccessful.
Love and Hate
According to most reports, the girls had a very complex love/hate type of relationship with each other. They were inseparable, but they would also have excessively violent fights that involved throttling, scratching, or otherwise harming one another.
In one incident, June actually attempted to kill Jennifer by drowning her. Jennifer later wrote this chilling quote in her diary:
“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.”
Despite everything, however, the girls remained inexorably intertwined, never separate. And they did had periods when they got along as always.
Unfortunately, Jennifer’s words remained to be a painfully accurate foreshadowing of what became of the Silent Twins.
Criminal Activity and Admission to Broadmoor
When the girls began to mature, they engaged in typical rebellious behavior found in millions of other teenagers – experimenting with alcohol and marijuana, having flings with boys, and committing crimes; mostly petty crime such as shoplifting and burglary.
It began to get more serious when the girls decided to start committing arson. Their spree included setting fire to a tractor store and a very serious fire at a technical college – it was this crime that landed them in Broadmoor Hospital when they were 19.
Broadmoor Hospital is a high-security mental health hospital with a reputation for handling the criminally insane. Not long after their arrival, June would go into a state of catatonia and attempt to commit suicide, while Jennifer lashed out violently at a nurse.
Reports from hospital staff revealed a whole host of other anomalies with the girls and their behaviors.
There were stretches when they would take turns eating – one would starve while the other would eat her fill, and then they would reverse their roles. They displayed an uncanny ability to know what the other was feeling or doing at any particular time.
Perhaps the creepiest stories are those from when the girls were separated and housed in cells in different parts of Broadmoor. Doctors or nurses entered their rooms only to find them catatonic and frozen in place, sometimes in bizarre or elaborate poses.
Bizarrely, the other twin would be in an identical pose, despite the fact that the girls had no way to communicate with each other or coordinate such an event.
The girls’ 12-year stay in Broadmoor was both unusual and incredibly taxing – June later blamed this inexorably lengthy sentence on their speech issues.
“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.”
The girls had been placed on high doses of antipsychotics and found themselves unable to concentrate. Some state that Jennifer developed tardive dyskinesia, a neurological disorder that causes involuntary, repetitive movements.
Eventually, they either adjusted to the medications or the doses were changed enough that they could continue to keep the extensive diaries that they had been working on since 1980. They joined the hospital choir, but neither produced any more creative fiction.
During their stay in Broadmoor, it became more and more apparent to the girls that, if one of them ever wanted to live a normal life, the other would have to die. After much private discussion of the matter, they decided that Jennifer would be the one to make the sacrifice.
Marjorie Wallace, a reporter that had forged a relationship with the twins and wrote about them in the Sunday Times, said that Jennifer approached her the day before they were to be transferred to the Caswell Clinic in Bridgend, Wales and told her of their decision. Wallace had no idea how serious the girls were.
On March 9, 1993, the girls traveled to the Caswell Clinic. Jennifer was acting strangely; she slept with her head in her sister’s lap, but her eyes were open.
Upon their arrival to the clinic, Jennifer could not be awakened and was transported to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead of acute myocarditis – a sudden inflammation of the heart.
This was obviously strange, as Jennifer was only 29 years old and had no long-term heart conditions or illnesses; no drugs or poisons were found in her system, and to this day, her death remains a mystery.
A few days after, Marjorie Wallace went to visit June – she notes that the remaining twin was in a strange mood, and said, “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last Jennifer has given up her life for me.” Wallace wrote of Jennifer’s death this way:
“I’ve spent many years now wondering about the mystery of Jennifer’s death. Now, I don’t think there is really an explanation for that except Jennifer willing herself to die.
After I learned about Jennifer’s death – it was about two or three days later – I went down to visit June. And I found her surprisingly intact, really, and very prepared to talk. She spoke very clearly about the conflict between her terrible grief at losing the person closest in her life and her – the freedom Jennifer had given her.”
The Remaining Twin
After the death of Jennifer, June gave interviews with Harper’s Bazaar and The Guardian, apparently dedicated to upholding the deal that she had made with her sister; if one of them died, the other would begin to speak and live a normal life.
By 2008, she was living independently near her parents in west Wales, no longer monitored by psychiatrists and having been accepted by the community despite her strange and eerie past.
In 2016, the twins’ older sister Greta revealed the family’s disgruntlement with Broadmoor and the twins’ incarceration in an interview. She said that they blame the hospital for ruining the girls’ lives and neglecting the symptoms that led to Jennifer’s sudden death.
Greta herself expressed wanting to file a lawsuit against Broadmoor, but the twins’ parents Gloria and Aubrey refused, saying that nothing could bring Jennifer back.
The Silent Twins were the subject of a 1986 TV drama The Silent Twins that was broadcast on BBC Two as part of their Screen Two series. Inside Story also did a documentary about them called Silent Twin – Without My Shadow that aired in September 1994. Their story is also said to have inspired the Manic Street Preachers’ song Tsunami.
Where Are They Now?
There has been little coverage of the case since the 2016 interview with Greta, and much of the case’s more bizarre elements remain entirely unexplained.
Was there really such a strong psychological bond between the sisters that one of them had to die so that the other could live normally? Or was the idea simply a solution brought up by a pair of ill minds?
In the end, only one of the Silent Twins remains, and the story can be summed up by a simple poem engraved on Jennifer’s headstone:
We once were two,
We two made one,
We no more two,
Through life be one,
Rest in peace.