Shirley A. Mason--Sybil All About Sybil: The Natural History of A Myth
Robert W. Rieber
Psycke-Logo Press/ 10 East 85th Street/ NY, NY 10028

Click here to buy a copy of _Sybil_ and see what you think
Note: Take Spiegel and Sybil's other detractors with a large grain of salt. We run articles which detract Sybil's authenticity simply for information; we believe she was multiple. In fact, a number of deep background sources have told us they know for a fact that she was. Don't base your view of multiples on Sybil; her case was unusual; but keep in mind that the men who wish to discredit her and Dr. Cornelia Wilbur have a control agenda.

As far as this article and Rieber's book, we're running this mainly to illustrate the mentality of the type of professional psychologists who are trying to garner attention and status by detracting the idea of multiplicity. The following article is, in our opinion, demonstrably false, in places incoherent drivel -- a collection of self-righteous vulgarities at the expense of sincerity and integrity. Be sure to read the review of his book and article.

We don't know
what we don't know
Who's the Real Me
Am I a person
One, Two, or Three
Who can it be?
Bring on the clowns.
Am I really sick?
A dissociated trick
Go into therapy- Get in real quick
Let in the clowns.
Was I abused?
False memory confused
Hypnosis Suggestion Misused
Litigation Pursues
Bug Off Those Clowns
We donít know what we donít know
said Wittgenstien,
But nobody seems to know that:
And thereís a concerted effort
to prevent anyone
from finding it out.

Prelude to a Mystery

Is there really such a thing as a multiple personality? Before 1973 there were fewer than 50 known cases of the syndrome. By 1995 over 40,000 cases had been diagnosed. Some therapists contended that there were at least two million more. Were thousands of multiples (as they're known) wandering around, undiagnosed and untreated until 1937? And what happened in 1937 to bring so many others to light?

What happened was Sybil, the best-selling book by Flora Schrieber. When it appeared some called it "a psychological masterpiece." The American Journal of Psychiatry declared that it was "destined to stand as a significant landmark both in psychiatry and in literature." It became a landmark all right, but not exactly the kind that the Journal anticipated.

The Forgotten Tapes

Every couple of weeks Herb Spiegel, a distinguished psychiatrist, and myself get together for lunch. We generally talk about our work and colleagues. But one particular lunch -- in May 1997 -- sticks out in my mind. Spiegel asked me if he would mind taking a look at the proofs of an interview he'd given to a writer for the New York Review of Books. The interview focused on Spiegel's association with Sybil, the most famous multiple personality disorder case of all time. This came as a shock to me. At no time in the history of their friendship had Spiegel ever so much as hinted to me that he knew Sybil. "That was because you never asked," Spiegel told me. There was another connection: I knew Flora Schrieber -- we had been colleagues at John Jay for years until her death. It was then that I remembered the tapes Schrieber had given me long ago. The tapes held confidential conversations between Sybil and her psychiatrist, Br. Cornelia Wilbur. But I hadn't listened to them in years, no one had. For that matter, no one knew that they existed. I had even forgotten about them. But I wondered whether they would cast light on a case that had set in motion a cascade of events that would forever change the social fabric of America. Or to put it another way: the tapes, if they were what I though they were, could prove a bombshell.

The question uppermost in my mind when I walked out of Spiegel's office that day was whether after a quarter of a century I still had the tapes. I discovered that I'd discarded most of them, but did find two that I'd somehow held onto. Much later I was to find a two hour tape of a therapeutic session between Sybil and Wilbur.

When I began to listen to the first tape, I failed to recognize who was speaking. Was it Wilbur I was hearing? Or was it the mysterious Sybil herself? Suddenly a gravelly voice filled the room. It was unmistakable. I knew at once that it was Flora Schrieber.


When I first met Flora I was doing research on language and speech at the New York Psychiatric Institute. In the early Seventies I was invited to assume a full time teaching position at a division of CUNY -- John Jay College. It wasn't long after taking up my teaching duties at John Jay that I came into contact with Flora Schrieber who was head of public relations for the school. A clever, talented writer, with a pop book on child development and language under her belt, she inspired admiration, envy and resentment. As I recall her, "She could put over the charm but she could be a vicious bitch when she lost her temper." A frequent contributor to Science Digest and other magazines, she was an endless self-promoter. In her vita, which she made sure to send to anyone who might be of help to her, she claimed that she had been "a friend of every president since FDR and most of their families." [Oh, so it's okay when you talk about your lunches with a distinguished psychiatrist, but God help any woman who sends out her vita or in anyway asserts herself. - Astraea]

In 1972 Schrieber approached me with a bag full of cassette tapes. The tapes, she said, were recordings of therapeutic sessions. She was hopping to use them for some research she was pursuing. At the time I was studying the connections between mental illness and on-off speech patterns. The object was to see whether the vocalization of a person measured by computer could be used to assess mental health. She described it as an ideal research project for me. She knew I was also working at the Columbia New York State Psychiatric Institute and that it had a good reputation and the research journal might publish it. I had no inkling that she was writing the book (Sybil) before she came to me. We weren't going to analyze what was said on the tapes Flora gave to me, we were simply going to analyze speech patterns. The experiment never go off the ground. "I played the tapes but I told her no, it's impossible because of the noise. [Admits he couldn't hear or understand the tapes. - Astraea] To the best of my knowledge she never got any scientific journal to publish the paper. Nor did she ever ask for the tapes back, saying that she'd already transcribed them all.

An Analyst with a Park Avenue Practice

We know that Wilbur first got in touch with Schrieber in 1962. Soon afterwards she introduced the writer to Sybil. To Schrieber Sybil seemed constrained and remote but Schrieber says she attributed her behavior to her illness. What decided Schrieber on pursuing the project was Wilbur's reputation as 'an analyst with a large Park Avenue practice.' And the therapist was willing to provide a wealth of raw material for Schrieber to draw on -- a compilation of case notes taken from on less than 2,354 therapeutic sessions that went back almost a decade. Because Sybil was a talented artist (and bright too: with an alleged 174 IQ) Schrieber conceived of the story as a case history that would illuminate "the role of the unconscious mind in creativity."

As I listened to the two tapes a quarter of a century later I realized that these tapes were not recordings of therapeutic sessions at all as I had assumed. The two tapes I'd saved contained instead a recording of a rambling conversation between Schrieber and Wilbur about the book that would become Sybil. How would they construct it? What did they want to establish in the readers' minds? There was Wilbur recalling the therapeutic sessions: "She introduced me to all the personalities . . . Uh, you did do that on the (sodium) pentothal?" And there was Wilbur explaining how she had dealt with all the personalities. "Well, excepting sometimes. . . I mean I would say to whoever was talking to me.. well, who are you? Well, I'm talking for, you know, and they'd name three of four. And I would say, what does Peggy think about that? What does Vicky think about this? And I would say, Can I talk to Vicky? . . . I could summon them all."

The Publication of a 'Psychiatric Masterpiece'

Sybil, which appeared in 1973, was an immediate sensation -- and quickly moved to the top of Time magazine's best-seller list. Paperback rights were acquired for $300,000, an enormous sum at the time. The TV movie shown two years later, with Sally Field as Sybil and Joanne Woodward as Wilbur, brought the story to millions more.

Told from the point of view of the pseudonymous Sybil Isabel Dorsett, now known by her true name Shirley Mason, the story shifts in and out of personalities -- sixteen in all. Among them the elegant and sophisticated Vicky, the assertive and eager Peggy Lou, the more fearful Peggy Ann, the religious Mary and the dramatic Vanessa who scorned religion. There are even two boys -- Mike and Sid. As the story goes on, the reader begins to discover how each personality was formed in turn and why. Peggy, for instance, was created as result of one of Sybil's earliest dissociations in order to cope with the anger which she felt towards her mother but was never able to express.

According to the book, the breakthrough in the treatment -- which began in the early Fifties -- comes when Wilbur finally understands the reason for why her patient had developed a multiple personality disorder -- her mother. It's right there on the tape where Wilbur tells Schrieber: "I was pushing her in terms of, you don't love your mother. Your mother was wicked, bad, cruel, painful. And you really hated . . . If you don't hate her because a normal response to this kind of treatment would be hatred. Bitter hatred. And she couldn't figure . . . to say I hate her. So . . . after she wrote the letter that came through with I hate her, I hate her, I hate her." And what did here mother do that was so abominable? According to Sybil's recovered memories (which supposedly started from when she was six months old and lasted until she was about seven) her mother shoved spoons, knife handles and buttonhooks up her vagina, copulated with her husband in front of her, defecated on the neighbors' lawns while her daughter was forced to watch, sexually molested her, and engaged in lesbian orgies with young girls in her presence. In Wilbur's view, the personalities had formed as a response to these early traumas, providing Sybil with a way to escape her pain and humiliation. Wilbur might have had another motivation in turning Sybil against her mother. I concluded that, "Wilbur and Schrieber became the surrogate parents for Sybil and as a consequence they must destroy any competition including her real parents." [See any book by Dr. Alice Miller for the roots of this kind of apologia for abusive parents. - Astraea]

The story -- at least in the book -- has a happy ending. In 1965 Wilbur declares Sybil cured, having 'integrated' all her personalities, finished her college degree, became a successful artist and stopped having blank spells and memory lapses. The subject of the book pronounced herself eminently satisfied with the result. "Every emotion is true," she said. Wilbur agreed: "Every psychiatric fact is accurately represented."

Readers embraced the book with unrestrained passion. Women especially identified with its protagonist. One wrote, "I always wonder where she is now, and if she ever married. My sincere wish for Sybil is that she has peace of mind and a happy life." A California woman weighted in with this comment: "Fascinating study into the inner workings of the mind. Shows how past torments create future mental nightmares. Parents like Hattie and Walter (Schrieber's aliases) do exist daily, and they create a concentration camp atmosphere for a child to grow up in, as did their parent before them."

The Aftermath

The book's astonishing success brought all three principals money and fame even in Sybil herself remained anonymous. Schrieber was now a celebrity at John Jay, more powerful -- and more envied -- than ever. Publishers began to court her. She was contracted to write a third book entitled Shoemaker: Portrait of a Psychopath -- for a $600,000 advance -- this time focusing on a Philadelphia cobbler named Joseph Kallinger, a serial killer whose crime spree was reputedly the result of child abuse.

Wilbur, too, was now a celebrity in her own right. She practically became a matriarchal cult figure. Adopting the theory that childhood abuse causes multiple personality disorder, some therapists began to talk about the "Wilburian revolution" and "the post-Wilbur paradigm." Her disciples in the psychiatric community would even give copies of Sybil to their patients as if it were an instructional manual.

From all that I have discovered, I concluded that the three women -- Wilbur, Schrieber and Sybil -- are responsible for shaping the modern myth of multiple personality disorder. A psychological oddity, so bizarre and rare that it did not merit much publicity in most textbooks before 1973, multiple personality disorder had acquired a sudden respectability and acceptance. And it wasn't a disorder that was just limited to America. "MPD is being exported from the US as effectively as Diet Coke and the Gap," wrote social critic Elaine Showalter in The (London) Observer.

The publication of Sybil marked the height of Schrieber's career. Her next book failed to stir up anything like the sensation that its predecessor had. And with a change in administrations at John Jay her influence began to wane. She was pushed back into the department to teach. She died in the late Eighties. That was the last I heard. Her death had no impact on me. Flora was a potentially dangerous person in my eyes -- hysterics like her are always "potentially dangerous." [For "hysteric", read "anyone with a uterus". - Astraea]

The Myth Explodes: The Multiplication of Multiples

In the writing of writing Sybil, Schrieber had made a bid for fame and the kind of immortality that a seminal book can sometimes grant its author. Instead her star faded while- ironically -- that of her subject shone ever brighter. In 1980 MPD advocates successfully waged a battle to get the syndrome into the psychiatric bible, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health), as an important disorder. Soon the number of cases and therapists specializing in the treatment escalated quickly. And the number of personalities that victims claimed grew in a similar fashion. Indeed, a leading American MPD therapist, Richard Kluft, maintained that he identified over 1,000 personalities in one individual. Nor were the newly uncovered personalities (or alters) always necessarily human. Some were identified as cats, dogs, stuffed animals and, in one case, a lobster. [Typically gross misreading of what Dr. George Ganaway actually said about people in multiple systems. -- Astraea] By the late '80s, MPD had become a staple of daytime TV talk shows. Roseanne famously announced that, because of abuse in her childhood -- a claim her parents flatly denied [because real child abusers will always admit something happened - Astraea] -- she now had 21 alters among them Bambi and Piggy. More recently the disorder has gained a foothold on the Internet where support groups have sprung up on sites with names like Divided Hearts, Shattered Selves and Crazy People Incorporated. [The first two sites disbanded ten years ago. The third is a well-known stage play. -- Astraea]

The Primal Scene: The Criminal Illusion of An Experimental Principle

Freud may have invented the notion of the primal scene but it was Wilbur's inspiration to appropriate it to account for Sybil's condition. On the tape in my possession the therapist describes to Schrieber just how important she believes the concept is to the narrative. "And this business of the primal scene. And (Sybil) being forced to sleep in the same bedroom with her fucking parents." "They screwed in front of her," says Schrieber her voice shaking in anger. "She could see because her crib was here, the window was there, and the streetlight was right outside. She could see her father having an erection and putting it in her mother's vagina . . . Did you know that?"

Taking their cue from Wilbur, her disciples made childhood sexual abuse into the cornerstone of a diagnosis on MPD. Almost all multiples have been female -- nine out of ten- and their stories reflect Sybil's influence. Each story follows a typical scenario: A distressed adult woman seeking help for depression or other psychological problems enters therapy that usually involves hypnosis, then seemingly develops an alternative personality, the another and another, all with different characteristics than her own or "host" personality. the act of splintering into so many different selves is viewed by MPD therapists as a mechanism to repress the memories of childhood sexual abuse. These therapists assume that the more severe the sexual abuse, the more personalities will be created. About 25% of MPD patients will go on to develop memories of satanic rituals, involving large numbers of devil worshippers, child sacrifice and cannibalism. As many as 50% will begin to cut, burn or mutilate themselves. [Needless to say he can't cite any sources for these statistics. -Astraea] It is under hypnosis that the therapist is able to finally evoke the painful memories of abuse in order to pave the way for an eventual cure. Ultimately --in theory anyway -- all the alters are integrated into one functioning person.

Sybil, it became obvious, just didn't make multiple personality disorder a fashionable illness in North America and abroad. With its emphasis on childhood sexual abuse it also spawned two other related obsessive phenomena: one was the belief that people were being poisoned by buried memories and the other was that only by reawakening those memories through hypnosis was recovery possible. Together, the three phenomena constitute what I term "a trinity of affinity."

The Trinity of Affinity

In 1994 MPD was renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). (Dissociation refers to a disruption in the various parts of mental functioning that constitutes consciousness: forming and holding memories, assimilating sensory impressions, making sense of them, and maintaining a sense of one's identity.) By stressing the dissociation experienced by the person rather than the splitting of personality the name change in the DSM reflected a groundswell of critical response to the whole idea of multiple personality disorder. Longtime opponents of the MPD movement -- for that was what it had become -- saw a decline to what they termed "a psychiatric craze." "Ignore the alters!" urged Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins Hospital [and well-known LGBT-hater -- Astraea], calling for an end to MPD treatment. "We've just seen the rise and fall of a fad. And call it a fad, that's what it was." The multiples had in effect been producing a demand for therapists who in turn overproduced personalities in their vulnerable patients. [Wait a minute, now he's claiming that there were actual multiples who started this? - Astraea]

But if it was merely a fad it was a dangerous one. People who sought treatment found to their dismay that the 'cures' were in many ways far worse the 'disease' they were supposed to have. It appeared that in may instances these MPD specialists were actually making troubled people sicker so that they could continue to treat them. Therapists influenced by Sybil are 'unconscious con artists', in Spiegel's words, working at 'memory mills,' diagnosing MPD in patients and producing 'phony memories.' "They are taking highly malleable, suggestible persons who might have a dissociative disorder and molding them into acting out a thesis that they are putting upon them.

"The problem with MPD is that it's now so much part of the popular culture,: says one psychiatrist who has treated multiples. "It's such a dilemma when someone comes in these days, because I know this person will have seen 10 documentaries on it, read umpteen articles and books. They themselves don't know what they have experienced and what they have picked up."

Hypnosis is not a one-way street: its success, however you wish to measure it, is based on the degree of interaction and cooperation between the two individuals involved. So obviously trust and motivation -- on the part of both participants -- is also an essential factor in what the results will be. About five percent of the US population is extremely susceptible to hypnosis. Sybil was among them. We know this because Spiegel hypnotized her himself when she came to him for treatment. He was initially introduced to her by Wilbur. "I got a call from her one day, telling me that she had a peculiar feeling that this was not schizophrenia at all. She asked me if I could examine the patient and help her clarify the diagnosis. . . I examined Sybil and discovered that she was highly hypnotizable." She was among the top group of hypnotizable. Because of her rare ability Spiegel began to use her in research studies. "She had amnesia that you could command her to have for certain events, she had post-hypnotic sensory motor alterations on command, you could stimulate hallucinations with her, which only the hypnotic virtuosos could achieve." But he had no idea that she -- or Wilbur -- believed that she had multiple personalities until one day in the middle of a hypnotic session, Spiegel recounts, she burst out, "'Well, do you want me to be Helen?' And I said, 'What do you mean?' And she said, 'Well, when I'm with Dr. Wilbur she wants me to be Helen.' I said, 'Who's Helen?' 'Well, that's the name Dr. Wilbur gave me for this feeling.'" It turned out that any of her sixteen personalities only appeared after Wilbur began to use hypnosis. Sybil's mother, Spiegel maintains, might have been a schizophrenic, but he discovered no evidence of sexual abuse by her or Sybil's father. In other words, there was probably no primal scene.

Several years later, long after Spiegel had ceased to treat Sybil, Schrieber and Wilbur sought him out. "They both came to see me to ask if I wanted to be a co-author with them. . . They said they would be calling her a 'multiple personality.' I said, 'But she's not a multiple personality.' I think she was a wonderful hysterical patient with role confusion, which is typical of high hysterics. . . I saw her 'personalities' rather as game playing. Schreiber then got in a huff. She said, 'But if we don't call it a multiple personality, we don't have a book. . . So I said, 'OK, go ahead, but I don't want to be identified with that.' Both women were very angry."

The Crucible of the Sixties

In my opinion, the book and film versions of Sybil need to be understood as symptoms of social distress and psychopathy of everyday life. This is elaborated in my book Manufacturing Social Distress. The Sybil case is an example of how phony facts create phony problems that in turn create phony solutions. Sybil is a triggering mechanism in the natural evolutionary development of reported false memory, child abuse and the misuse of hypnosis in the treatment of the mentally ill. It's little surprise then that the myth of Sybil began in the tumultuous years of the late Sixties when revolution was in the air and the prevailing orthodoxy was under attack from every quarter. Writers like Thomas Szasz questioned the very definition of an illness, dismissing it as a myth. R.D. Laing questioned the nature of insanity. It was society that was sick, he asserted, not the person labeled mentally ill.

But what was going on in the minds of Schrieber and Wilbur when they were putting the book together? Did they believe their story? Did they perpetrate a hoax on the American public or did they actually buy into their own tale? Was the answer to be found on the tapes that Schrieber had given to me? I had to listen to those tapes repeatedly, and you can't really digest them at first listening. To put it in context of the history it wasn't a boom, it wasn't an eureka." All the same I knew I had something very important. [Never underestimate the big thrill of being very important in professional psychology!! -- Astraea]

In August 1998 I presented my analysis of the tapes at the annual meeting of the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco. This has just been published in the March issue of History of Psychiatry. After beginning my presentation with a brief rundown of the literature relating to MPD and discussion of the current theories about hypnosis, I dropped the bombshell. After having recently listened to the recordings for the very first time, I was shocked to hear how much important information was contained therein that would help us understand the very real story behind Sybil as a multiple personality. [The tapes were barely audible and very badly transcribed as your own book reveals. -- Jay@Astraea]

As the rapt audience listened to the taped conversations I proceeded to analyze what they were saying. It was Wilbur, I contended, who had labeled Sybil a multiple. The therapist wasn't finding the personalities inside of Sybil- she was planting them under hypnosis. [There's no evidence she had Shirley under hypnosis while she was talking to her about the people she had already seen. -- Astraea] With her patient hypnotized Wilbur was manufacturing memories and concocting the primal scene -- the grand illusion of an explanatory principle. The idea was to make the punishment fit the crime, to give a justification for why Sybil was so fragmented. When Sybil became confused about the role each personality had in her life it was Wilbur who came to the rescue and invented the lineup of personalities, explaining their connection to one another. And once Sybil was made to recognize the cause of her condition -- sexual abuse at the hands of her mother -- Wilbur then had to teach her to 'hate' her mother. The primal scene also had another advantage. It would make the book sensational and sexy -- and very salable.

Wilbur and Schrieber, in my opinion, were "not totally unaware" that the story that they told was wrong. Nonetheless, I said I would prefer to believe that there was as much self-deception as deception of others. Once you start making up a story to suit your own needs it can take on a life of its own. Schrieber might have repressed the memory of how the story began and then once it became a success there was no turning back.

The Reaction

I had no idea just how much interest his talk had generated. "I called my answering machine. I had 25 messages from almost every imaginable source from TV people. Koppel and Dateline were on my machine. When I got to San Diego 'Extra' rushes in and shoots me. The calls haven't stopped since.

There were still some mysteries to clear up, though, questions that hadn't been answered by the tapes. I obtained access to some of Schrieber's files at John Jay Library. (There is also a secret file to which practically no one can look at.) At the bottom of one document I came across a provocative statement scrawled in her own hand. "I am now working on the most extraordinary case ever to hit the psychoanalytic literature," she'd written. Then she added: "Who is Sylvia and what is she?" "She'd crossed out a name and substituted Sylvia." Sylvia was the name that Schrieber and Wilbur had used in their conversations before -- for whatever reason -- they'd finally settled on the more evocative Sybil. But what was the name that had Schrieber had crossed out? I assumed it was the real name of the patient. At that point her identity was still a mystery.

Another mystery was more easily resolved. When I finally got around to re-reading Sybil the book, I had been struck by the number of personalities Wilbur had ascribed to her patient. But why sixteen? Why not fourteen or eight or three or three hundred? There was something about the number sixteen that kept gnawing at me. Then it hit me. I knew that Schrieber must have read The Mask of Sanity by Hervey Cleckley. (Cleckley had also been the co-author of The Three Faces of Eve.) In Mask of Sanity Cleckley had distinguished several distinguishing characteristics of a psychopath. There were, I, recalled, sixteen in all. I felt sure I had the answer. [And this is where Dr. Rieber goes right off the rails into Glenn Beck territory. -- Astraea]

Who is Sybil and What is She?

From time to time I would run into a historian named Peter Swales who calls himself 'an archaeologist of knowledge' and has made a name for himself as a debunker of Freud. More recently he turned his attention to unmasking the identity of Sybil. Reasoning that there must be some connection between 'the true facts and a fabrication,' as he put it, Swales used the book as a guide. His search finally led him in late 1998 to a small conservative Midwestern town called Dodge Center in Minnesota. Sybil, Swales discovered, was really named Shirley Ardell Mason. But he was too late to meet her. She'd died peacefully at home on February 26, 1998 of breast cancer. She was 75.

The only child of Mattie and Walter Mason, a hardware-store clerk and carpenter; Mason was raised as a strictly observant Seventh-Day Adventists. Dodge Center residents recall a somewhat withdrawn, slender girl with a talent for painting. While her mother was known to display bizarre behavior no one in the town knew of any instances of the sexual and physical abuse ascribed to her in the book. Until 1945 there was no indication that Mason was in trouble. [There almost never is, you dope. -- Astraea] In 1945, however, she suffered a breakdown and experienced sever anorexia. She met Cornelia Wilbur in Omaha in the early Fifties. After her mother's death, she moved to New York where Wilbur was then practicing. Though the treatment lasted for eleven years the relationship between the two continued. When Wilbur left New York to take a teaching job at the University of Kentucky in Lexington Mason felt adrift. She never married or had children. The book's success, however, gave her financial freedom, allowing her to move to Lexington to be near Wilbur. In 1992 Wilbur died at the age of 88, leaving Mason $25,000 and all of her royalties from the book. After Wilbur's death Mason became even more reclusive, spending time taking care of her cats, gardening and painting until arthritis made it too difficult to hold a brush. When she fell ill with cancer she refused medical treatment, averring that she'd had "enough trauma" in her life.[Because everyone knows chemotherapy and radiation aren't traumatic. - Astraea]

I ran into Swales not long after Mason's identity had come to light. As we fell into conversation Swales offhandedly mentioned that when Mason first moved to New York she'd lived for a year in a six-story walkup apartment on York Avenue between 78th and 79th Street. I stared at him "That's uncanny! I know that building," I said, "I was living there the same year she was. We could have passed each other a hundred times." When I looked at a recently published photo of Mason I realized that it was possible that I had actually seen this woman when I lived in the same apartment complex.


Thus far, with brief and therefore "unable" pen, I have been able to tell the story about how it is possible to manufacture a multiple personality. The conditions surrounding my ability to expose this case were entirely serendipitous. Had it not been for a personal friendship with Flora Schrieber and Herb Spiegel none of this material would have surfaced. More specifically, the tapes that Schrieber had given me would have never been looked at again if not for my subsequent conversations with Dr. Spiegel.

As to the question of whether or not the Sybil case was an out and out fraud; that of course depends upon your personal definition of that term. No matter what you wish to call it, it was a conscious misrepresentation of the facts. A fine line between self-deception and the deception of others is an important issue here. Unquestionably, Schrieber and Wilbur wanted to make Sybil a multiple personality case no matter what. This is clear when you examine their response to Dr. Spiegel that the publishers wanted a book on multiple personality when Spiegel had already informed them that she was simply a case of hysteria.

From my personal knowledge of Flora Schrieber, I am quite certain that she had convinced herself that the story was true, even though she more than likely knew that it wasnít at the very beginning. As I said before, there is a fine line between deception of self and deception of others. Once you start making up a story to suit your own needs it can take on a life of its own. The creators of Sybil, more than likely, repressed the remembrance of how it began once they got into the thick of it. When it became a financial success there was no turning back. In the final analysis, Sybil is a phony multiple personality case at best. Furthermore, this tendency to go over the top and not know where to stop with multiple personalities will continue to persist until we cease to be proud of self-righteous vulgarities at the expense of sincerity and integrity.

- The above article is by Robert W. Rieber. He can be reached at Psycke-Logo Press/ 10 East 85th Street/ NY, NY 10028.

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