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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"Sybil" and The Multiple Personality Hoax

     In 1973, the memoir, Sybil told the story of Sybil Dorsett (real identify Shirley Mason) who claimed to have had sixteen separate personalities as a result of childhood abuse. The best-selling book (7 million copies) created the multiple personality disorder and planted the notion of the repressed memory syndrome into the American consciousness.

     According to a book by Debbie Nathan called Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case, the 1973 memoir was a phony book contrived by Munson, her therapist, and a journalist. In a 1958 letter uncovered by Nathan, Mason confessed that she didn't have multiple personalities. Shirley Mason died of breast cancer in 1998. (In the years that followed the publication of the 1973 memoir, several defendants in serial murder cases, pursuant to insanity defenses, claimed--unsuccessfully--multiple personality disorders.)

     Mason's memoir led 40,000 readers to claim they had repressed memories of childhood abuse, an unknown syndrome prior to 1973. Several of these claims led to the sexual abuse convictions of innocent people. In 1976 and 2007 two movies based on Mason's memoir were produced. One of them starred Sally Fields. 

1 comment:

  1. What about "The Three Faces of Eve"? That was in the 1950s. My first Psych course dissected that case.