Gibbon Twins

The ‘Silent’ Life of the Gibbons Twins

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The connection between twins remains a mystery to scientists, even after a series of breakthrough in medical genetics. But the case of June Alison and Jennifer Lorraine, the Gibbons twins, was exceptional, as it was somehow more puzzling than the rest.

Gibbons Twins: The Girls Who Refused to Talk to Anyone but Each Other

June Gibbons and Jennifer Gibbons, born on April 11, 1963, were identical twins who grew up in Haverfordwest, Wales, England. Later on, they became known as “The Silent Twins” since the duo only spoke to each other and their younger sister Rose. They talked in a high-speed Bajan Creole, a language distinct to the Caribbean island of Barbados.

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the Gibbons Twins

As the only black descent in the village, they were snubbed at school to the point that administrators had to dismiss them earlier than the other students to avoid bullying. Because of this, the twins’ language became more incomprehensible to others as they invented a private lingo, known as cryptophasia or twin talk, that no one else could understand.

At 14, numerous psychiatrists attempted to talk to them. The twins’ parents, Gloria and Aubrey, even sent them to different residential schools to get them to talk with others. However, their efforts were futile; the twins’ dissociating tendencies only worsened whenever they were separated.

Life as Novelists

Gloria and Aubrey had no choice but to reunite them, which marked the beginning of several years of isolation in their room. They played detailed doll dramas and alter started creating short stories, which they recorded in audiotapes. Eventually, June and Jennifer took a mail-order course in literary creation and began writing fictional novels when they were only 16 years old.

Their imaginative minds translated into their novels. They made a lucrative business out of it after self-publishing their works. One of which was Pepsi-Cola Addicts, a novel about the adversities of a Malibu boy addicted to Pepsi. Then there’s The Pugilist, which follows a physician whose love for his dying child drives him to kill a dog to get its heart and use it for a transplant, and a third one titled Discomania, which relates the story of a girl who discovers a local club that turns disco goers into insane criminals.

Admission to Asylum

The Gibbons twins soon materialized their fictional crime-related novels by committing a number of transgressions including arson. As a result, they were admitted to a highly secured mental asylum in Crowthorne, Berkshire, in 1991, where they spent the next 12 years of their lives.

“We got twelve years of hell because we didn’t speak. We had to work hard to get out,” June shared. “They wanted us to talk, we’re talking now. But we were trapped.”

June even appealed in writing to the Queen of England, asking her to pardon them and get them out the mental institution. Unfortunately, no one came to rescue them. Instead, they were constantly placed on high doses of antipsychotic drugs, which disabled them to concentrate. These drugs, however, triggered Jennifer’s tardive dyskinesia, a disorder that causes involuntary and repetitive movements of the body, particularly the face.

On March 9, 1993, when the Gibbon twins were en route to a minimum-security clinic in southwest Wales, the ailing Jennifer died of acute inflammatory cardiomyopathy, a sudden irritation of the heart muscle. Her last words? “At long last, we’re out.”

Mystery Surrounding Jennifer’s Death

While official reports declared heart failure as the cause of Jennifer’s demise, the whole event sparked questions. People believe the Gibbons twins figured that one of them had to die so the other could start living a normal life. And somehow, Jennifer just agreed to be the one to go and took her own life.

This agreement was never confirmed by June. She revealed, whoever, that days leading to her death, Jennifer had been acting strangely. Her speech was distorted and she spoke about dying a lot of times. On the day that she died, Jennifer was sleeping on June’s lap with her eyes open.

As if things weren’t already strange enough, a few days after the death of her sister, June was heard saying, “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last, Jennifer has given up her life for me.”

This “liberation” was not automatically granted, though. It was only a year after her sister’s death that June got to enjoy the kind of freedom she and her twin had always wanted. She returned home at 37, along with the everyday medications she had to take in order to avoid spending another year in the prison facility where she and her sister pointlessly aged.

As scholars knew about their tragedy, they reckoned that the Gibbons twins were only too colored; they were victims caught in social oppression in an era of black servitude. In spite of that, the sisters chose to remain silent, talked only to each other, and picked up their pens instead. Their strength as writers emanated from their troubled emotions in times of isolation, when they tried to escape the harsh realities.

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