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Shirley Mason was the psychiatric patient whose life was shown in the 1973 book Sybil.

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The book and also succeeding film resulted in an huge spike in reported instances of multiple personality disorder. Machild later admitted she had faked her multiple characters.

Courtesy Simon & Schuster

When Sybil initially came out in 1973, not just did it shoot to the top of the best-seller lists — it produced a psychiatric phenomenon. The book was billed as the true story of a woguy who endured from multiple personality disorder. Within a few years of its publication, reported instances of multiple personality disorder — currently known as dissociative identity disorder — leapt from fewer than 100 to thousands. But in a new book, Sybil Exposed, writer Debbie Nathan argues that most of the story is based on a lie.

Shirley Maboy, the real Sybil, thrived up in the Midwest in a strict Seventh-day Adventist family. As a young womale she was emotionally unsteady, and she decided to look for psychiatric assist. Machild became uncommonly attached to her psychiatrist, Dr. Connie Wilbur, and also she kbrand-new that Wilbur had a one-of-a-kind interemainder in multiple personality disorder.

"Shirley feels after a brief time, that she is not really acquiring the attention she requirements from Dr. Wilbur," Nathan defines. "One day, she walks right into Dr. Wilbur"s office and also she says, "I"m not Shirley. I"m Peggy." ... And she claims this in a childish voice. ... Shirley started acting choose she had actually a lot of world inside her."


Wilbur believed that she had actually stumbled on a exceptional situation. She began seeing Makid typically and eventually teamed up via the writer Flora Rheta Schreiber to job-related on a book about her patient. The 2 woguys taped a collection of interviews. In one of those interviews, Wilbur describes the moment that Peggy initially showed up. She supplies the pseudonym "Sylvia" to protect Mason"s identity:


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Sybil Exposed
The Extrasimple Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case

by Debbie Nathan


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She sassist, "I"m Peggy," and also she proceeded to tell me around herself ... that Sylby means of couldn"t stand also up for herself and she had actually to stand also up for her. Sylvia couldn"t gain angry bereason her mom wouldn"t let her, yet she gained angry. She knew it was a sin to be angry, yet world obtained angry so she got angry.


Makid ended up being progressively dependent on Wilbur for emotional and also financial assistance. She was eager to provide her psychiatrist what she wanted.

"Once she got this diagnosis she began generating more and also even more characters," Nathan states. "She had babies, she had actually little bit boys, she had teenage girls. She wasn"t faking. I think a much better method to talk about what Shirley was doing was that she was acceding to a demand also that she have actually this trouble."

Wilbur began injecting Machild frequently through sodium pentothal, which was then being provided to help people remember traumatic occasions that they had repressed. Under the influence of drugs and also hypnosis, the extremely suggestible Maboy unspanned her many characters.


Reading with Schreiber"s files, Nathan says it becomes apparent that the writer knew that Mason"s story was not entirely true. Memories of a traumatic tonsillectomy, for instance, morphed into a lurid story of abuse. And Schreiber appeared eager to pump up or even produce drama wright here none existed. But if Schreiber had doubts, she suppressed them.

"She currently had a contract and she already had actually a deadline," Nathan claims. "She remained in the middle of creating the book. So she had the dilemma all journalists have actually nightmares around — what if my thesis transforms out to be wrong as I do my research study but it"s also late?"

At one point, Maboy tried to collection points directly. She wrote a letter to Wilbur admitting that she had been lying: "I execute not really have any type of multiple individualities," she wrote. "I execute not even have actually a "double." ... I am every one of them. I have been lying in my pretense of them." Wilbur dismissed the letter as Mason"s attempt to prevent going deeper in her therapy. By currently, claims Nathan, Wilbur was also heavily invested in her patient to let her go.


I do not really have any kind of multiple personalities. ... I carry out not even have a "double." ... I am all of them. I have actually been lying in my pretense of them.



In 1973, Flora Rheta Schreiber publimelted Sybil: The True Story of a Woguy Possessed by 16 Sepaprice Personalities. The book offered 6 million copies and also, in 1976, was made into a TV movie.

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"She had actually already started giving presentations around this case," Nathan says. "She was planning a book. ... She was extremely, extremely attached to the instance emotionally and also professionally and also I do not think she could provide it up. But she had actually an extremely nice little piece of psychoanalytic theory to rationalize not offering it up."

As for Maboy, she easily obtained the message that if she elevated inquiries about the veracity of her multiple characters, she"d conveniently lose her support network.

"She acquired the exceptionally, extremely strong impression when she went in and lugged this letter of recantation to Dr. Wilbur that if she didn"t go with the regime she was not going to have actually Dr. Wilbur anymore," Nathan states. "Dr. Wilbur was giving her 14 to 18 hrs of treatment a week. Dr. Wilbur was coming to her residence and also eating via her, providing her clothes, paying her rent ... so, just how might you provide up Dr. Wilbur?"

The book thrived beyond anyone"s expectations — it marketed some 6 million duplicates approximately the people, and also in 1976, it was made right into a tv movie starring Sally Field and also Joanne Woodward.

As for the genuine Sybil, human being began to identify Maboy as the patient shown in the book and the film.

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She fled her life and also moved right into a residence near Wilbur. Makid resided in the shadows till her death in 1998.