- The twins refused to talk to anyone but each other, and then only in their own personal ‘cryptophasia’ – or secret twin language.
- As they grew up, the complicated love-hate relationship culminated to multiple incidents where they attempted to murder each other.
This is the chilling and mysterious tale of June and Jennifer Gibbons – better known as the Silent Twins. Born in Barbados on 11th April, 1963, but raised in Wales, June was the elder twin by ten minutes. From a very young age they remained largely silent, refusing to talk to anyone but each other, and then only in their own personal ‘cryptophasia’ – or secret twin language.
They each mirrored the other’s walk and movements. The sisters had a very complicated love-hate relationship with each other. As they grew older they withdrew from other people entirely and had only each other, in this way they were inseparable, loving kindred spirits – the best of friends. At the same time there was also an intense rivalry between the pair, culminating in multiple incidents where they attempted to murder each other.
For example, Jennifer once almost strangled June to death with an electrical cord. For her part, June once threw Jennifer from a bridge and nearly succeeded in drowning her. Attempts to separate the pair fared no better. When they were sent to live at different boarding schools on the instructions of therapists, they became completely catatonic until their parents relented and reunited them.
The attempted murders were part of a crime and delinquency spree the Silent Twins embarked upon in their teens that also included theft, vandalism, underage drinking, taking drugs, sex (with the same boy, of course) and several arson incidents. In fact, they burned down a local store, were apprehended and sentenced to serve an indefinite period in England’s infamous Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital. They ended up remaining there for the next fourteen years. Though they would speak to no one but each other, they wrote a number of grand fantasy fiction books to further escape from reality. A journalist, Marjorie Wallace, took an interest in the twins and their writings, and it was through their fiction that she was able to gradually gain their trust to a level where, incredibly, they started to communicate with her and over time, befriended her. They confided in her that only one of them was going to make it out of the hospital alive. Jennifer calmly told Wallace that they had decided, after discussing the matter at length that she (Jennifer) was to be the one to die.
At some point the twins had come upon the notion that neither of them could ever be truly free whilst the other lived. In a secret diary, June called Jennifer ‘a dark shadow robbing me of sunlight’ and also wrote ‘Without my shadow, would I die? Without my shadow, would I gain life?’ One had to sacrifice themselves so that the other may live and Jennifer agreed to be the sacrifice. Sure enough, shortly thereafter Jennifer died suddenly under mysterious circumstances (partially put down to a rare heart problem, but never fully explained).
Jennifer (left) and June (right) with author and chief executive of SANE, Majorie Wallace, who wrote about their lives titled The Silent Twins.
With Jennifer dead, June then made a complete recovery, was released and today leads a normal life. Jennifer is now buried under a headstone engraved with a poem written by her twin sister:
‘We once were two/We two made one/We no more two/Through life be one/Rest in peace.’