By Deborah Goldstein
When you hear about cases of profound child abuse, like Jaycee Dugard’s, those stories stay with you. They get under your skin. In the 1970s, the thoroughly upsetting story of Sybil—a girl who developed 16 different personalities as a means of coping with horrific abuse—freaked out an entire generation, put Multiple Personality Disorder on the map, spawned a bestselling book and even a TV movie starring Sally Field. What makes this story especially shocking today is that it appears to have been made up.
Debbie Nathan, author of Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case, claims that Sybil (real name: Shirley Mason) was manipulated by her ambitious psychiatrist, Cornelia Wilbur, who wanted her own case of MPD, a relatively unknown condition back then. They signed a contract with journalist Flora Schreiber —who wrote the bestselling book, Sybil—agreeing to an equal split in profits from the book and any ancillary products. Talk about crazy.
According to Nathan, Dr. Wilbur willfully subjected Mason to years of heavy, mind-altering medication, which led to Sybil’s fantasized accounts of the abuse that Dr. Wilbur said caused Mason’s MPD.
VIDEO: Author Debbie Nathan discusses whether Sybil’s case was a hoax
Where is the proof? Nathan offers it in her expose as the first person to examine the Sybil archives, including countless documents, records, photos, and tapes, which were only recently released to the public.
And exactly how innocent was Mason? In her book, Nathan reveals the motives of the three women, which are as twisted, disturbing, and compelling as the story they doctored.
Tell Us: Do you think Sybil’s story was a hoax?