The Unable to Live Separately Silent Twins
We used to be two, but we joined forces and became one to live our lives as one.
One of my friends is expecting her first baby. She is excited and anxious all at the same time. Before the gender reveal we had fun guessing whether she’d have a boy or a girl. We now know it’s a girl, one girl, and she has a name already. How exciting.
Just under six decades ago a would-be mother, Gloria Gibbons, was probably having similar conversations. I imagine her joy when she found out she was having twins. Or maybe she didn’t know until after she gave birth. I don’t have those facts. What I do know is that after her twin girls were born life was never the same for the family.
Gloria and Aubrey Gibbons were originally from Barbados and moved to the United Kingdom in 1960. Their baby girls, June and Jennifer were born in April 1963. When the twins started talking no one could understand them, but they could understand each other. Problems started when they stopped talking to other people and developed a language of their own. They were diagnosed with selective mutism, a childhood anxiety disorder characterised by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings.
The twins ended up being sent to a school for children with special needs. This environment was better for the girls. Teachers found out that they were actually intelligent. It had been assumed the girls spoke a language they had invented, but it turned out that it was English. They spoke so fast that no one could understand them.
June and Jennifer kept to themselves, and did everything together. After they turned 11 they started walking in sync — except when they were being watched. They said they had no choice but to act that way. Everyone thought they were strange.
You would think the girls were close and got along well as they showed all the signs of having the twin bond, except for one thing — they fought a lot. When they were separated they went into a catatonic state. They literally could not function without each other, and always had to be together. I have heard of siamese twins. These sisters were like soul or spiritual siamese twins — joined in their souls.
Things got progressively worse after one summer, after they met and became friends with twin boys from America. This caused tensions in the twins’ relationship. At the end of that summer the twin boys were sent back to America. June and Jennifer and were not happy about this. To vent their anger and frustration they burnt down a local store. They were caught and sent to jail.
Whilst incarcerated they continued exhibiting strange behaviours. They would fight, but when they were separated they were unable to function independently. At age 19 the twins were admitted into the Broadmoor Hospital, a mental health unit, with doctors suspecting they were in the early stages of schizophrenia. It turns out, this was not true. They were not happy about this situation and wanted to leave.
It would be over a decade before they would be transferred to a different hospital, with less restrictions. On the way to the new hospital, Jennifer told June that she felt unwell, and believed she was going to die. She died not long after that from acute myocarditis, which is sudden inflammation of the heart. This condition is rarely fatal, so it seems strange that she died in this way.
After her sister’s death, June is said to have remained at the mental health hospital for another year. Although she grived the loss of her twin, she also admitted that she felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Could they have been one soul living in two bodies? Did the death of one twin enable the soul to reunite with itself in one body? Or were they two inseprable souls from a previous life who returned as twins? We will never know, but this is what June wrote for Jennifer’s tombstone:
“We once were two, we two made one, we no more two, through life be one. Rest in peace.”