Home > The Silent Twins
The novel I’m working on contends with a pair of girls who wish to be twins. To that end, they develop their own language (idioglossia) and fantasy world, much like the real-life twins Jennifer and June Gibbons in Marjorie Wallace’s excellent book, The Silent Twins.
As children, the girls only spoke to one another and by the time they were in their teens they had retreated to a world of fantasy, writing copious journals and fiction pieces. Eventually they turned to arson and wound up in Broadmoor, a hospital for the criminally insane, which is where Ms Wallace met them.
-01- As I looked out of the window
There I saw the bird sitting alone.
His feathers ruffled in the snow,
His beak firmly closed to the world.
Just like I was, but who was to know. –June Gibbons, twin of Jennifer Gibbons
-02-p7 June and Jen emerge, through these diaries, as two human beings who love and hate each other with such intensity that they can neither live together nor apart. Like twin stars, they are caught in the gravitational field between them, doomed to spin round each other for ever. If they come too close or drift apart, both are destroyed. So the girls devised games and strategies and rules to maintain this equilibrium.
The mystery of the twins lies in these childhood games which they cannot relinquish without losing one twin or the other to the real world. Such games and rituals often embody sinister meanings which can lead the players into the darker side of life. There are penalties to be extracted, forfeits to be paid. Failure, punishment, even death await those who play too long.
-03- p12 they tend to be too content to do very little
-04- p13 Private languages used by twins are not unknown. [About Poto and Cabengo] From early childhood these twins had invented a ‘code’ which sounded so foreign that at first people thought they had developed a new language. … [The girls] spoke rapidly in staccato bursts. By slowing down the tapes and analysing them word by word, their secret ‘language’ turned out to be ordinary English mixed with German (their family was bilingual), but spoken fast and with many repetitions and such altered stress on individual syllables that the words took on the opposite emphasis to normal.
-05- p14 The twins took no part in family discussions but bowed their heads, eyes fixed on their plates, their faces without expression, tight and drawn in denial of the world around them.
-06- p15 The headmistress, Beryl Davis, who prides herself on getting through to children, asked them to her office to get their names and ages for the school records. ‘They stood one behind the other, as in a queue,’ she recalls. ‘They would look at your chest, straight through you and would not answer. It was most unnerving. …’ No teacher or pupil ever heard them talk. They were never known to go to the lavatory, did not eat at school and were always together.
Because of the bullying, the twins were allowed to leave school five minutes early. ‘One day I was in with the school secretary, whose window looks out on the playground,’ says Cyril Davis, their headmaster, ‘and there were the twins doing a kind of goose-step, walking ten yards one behind the other, very slowly as though in some strange stately procession. … I jumped in my car to see how long they would keep it up. I followed them through the town, still doing their dead march, one following the other.’
-07- p16 When attacked they would stand facing one another, one arm on the other’s shoulder, huddled together to protect and give strength to one another. ‘…you’d find them huddled together in back corners out of the flow of life. They were always apart from everyone else, trying to be invisible, yet they attracted attention in a way I disliked,’ say Michael John. I’d had 6,ooo children go through my hands in thirty years and I’ve encountered only four I felt were evil. …The fourth was Jennifer. I felt that June should not be allowed to mix with her or come under her influence. The bad one would not have been so bad had she not been able to draw strength from her twin, and the other would have been normal.’
-08- p18 The present home situation is that the twins mix very little with the family except at meals, preferring to go to their bedroom where they will read and play. Very occasionally they will visit friends’ houses, but not to parties, and one girl of their age will visit them in their home now and again. When the girls talk to each other the parents can only recognize the occasional word, but can make no sense of the conversation. On returning home from school they volunteer nothing, but will answer questions more or less intelligibly.
-09- p19 Elective mutism is a rare condition where a person chooses not to speak, although physically able to do so. It usually occurs in only children of overprotective mothers, or can follow emotional trauma, often only for a short period. Although twins are late in talking, there are only a handful of recorded cases of elective mutism in twins.
-10- p21 The twins never spoke to Ann Treharne face to face. ‘I might get a “yes” or “no” or “thank you” our of June. Nothing from Jennifer. There was a sort of game going on. I could see June dying to tell me things. Then something would happen. Jennifer was stopping June. She never moved. I watched and could barely detect the slightest eye movement, but I know she was stopping June. It was strange. Like extrasensory perception. She sat there with an expressionless gaze, but I felt her power. She made all the decisions. The thought entered my mind that June was possessed by her twin.’
-11- p22 The girls visited the Eastgate centre to see whether they would like it. Evan Davies remembers seeing them there sitting side by side on a settee drinking tea. They would cross their legs and lift up the teacup to their mouths in perfect synchrony. …’You have to have tremendous rapport to anticipate that exact timing. I thought there must be some intuitive link that enabled them to do it. Mind you, they did it very slowly. If the tempo had been faster it would have been much more difficult. I think it may have been the desire not to be the initiator of any movement that made them do everything so slowly.’
-12- It was more comfortable just nodding heads. Words seemed too much; if we were suddenly to talk, it would be too much of a surprise.
-13- P25-26 Every morning at 8.45 Cathy drove up to fetch the girls from a bus stop half a mile from their home. They never went into the bus shelter but waited outside, even in the rain, to avoid standing close to other people. They were always there on time but neither would be first to get into the car. The girls often remained standing stiffly on the pavement. Cathy would have to take one twin by the shoulders and fold her knees from behind, then push her in. The other would follow… Once they were in the back seat there was a further hiatus as neither girl would shut the door.
The journey from Haverfordwest to Pembroke was far from jolly. The twins sat stolidly in the back as though riding in a hearse… ‘Look at that horse,’ Cathy exhorted, but there was no reaction. It would take several minutes for them to reach a silent agreement on how to respond. Then she would see in the driving mirror two head turning simultaneously in the direction she had pointed—a mile or so too late.
-14- P26 [on trying to get them to be involved with the world] Cathy Arthur turned her attention to less physical activities. She knew they were excited by anything to do with America, so she asked an American student to give a talk and show slides. The wins, however, say throughout the lecture with their chairs turned to face each other. Neither so much as glanced at the screen.
She then tried to interest them in the theatre…The twins just sat staring ahead, the hoods of their duffle coats still up, like misplaced members of the KKK.
-15- P32-33 [upon trying to separate the twins] At first the girls remained still. Then, slowly, they began to move. Jennifer gave June a menacing glower. The muscles in her hands tightened. Both bodies began to arch and tense, their eyes fixed on each other. There was something malevolent in their postures, like cats about to strike. There was a scream and then a seriesof unintelligible shouts as Jennifer lunged forward and dug her long nails into June’s cheek, just below the eye, drawing blood. June replied by clutching her sister’s head with such ferocity that chunks of wire black hair fell to the floor…. In combat, the girls possessed remarkable strength, but once separatered, that strength fell away, leaving them as limp as two rag dolls in his hands.
-16- You are Jennifer. You are me. [Jennifer says this to June]
-17- P37 [June writes to the officials at the prison] First of all let’s get one thing straight: nobody knows us really. All these things you say about us are all wrong. Nobody really knows what goes on between us two. We both know that we are individuals. We are not trying to tie one another down either. We do not depend on one another. So all the things that people say about us two, they will have to learn to keep it to themselves. It is best not to tell us what you think.
Nobody knows us more than we do. We may be twins but we are different twins. We are exactly alike in everything we do. But some people think that one of us is a troublemaker, and that she is the boss. Boss indeed! None of us two is the boss or the leader. You may think we are different but we still think the same, and we both agree to what I am writing.