This book is the factual account of the life, up to now, of William Stanley Milligan, the first person in U.S. history to be found not guilty of major crimes, by reason of insanity, because he possessed multiple personalities.
Unlike other multiple personalities in psychiatric and popular literature who were kept anonymous at the outset by the use of fictional names, Milligan became a controversial public figure from the moment he was arrested and indicted. His face appeared on the front pages of newspapers and on the covers of magazines. Results of his mental examinations made evening television news programs and newspaper headlines around the world. He is also the first multiple personality patient to have been carefully examined around the clock as an inpatient in a hospital setting, with findings of multiplicity attested to in sworn testimony by four psychiatrists and a psychologist.
I first met the twenty-three-year-old man at the Athens Mental Health Center in Athens, Ohio, shortly after he had been sent there by the courts. When he asked me to write his story, I told him it would depend on whether or not there was more to it than had been reported extensively in the media. He assured me that the deeper secrets of his inner people had never been revealed to anyone, including his attorneys and the psychiatrists who had examined him. Now he wanted the world to understand his mental illness. I was skeptical but interested.
Several days after I met him, my curiosity was further aroused by the last paragraph of a Newsweek article entitled “The Ten Faces of Billy”:
There remain, however, unanswered questions: How did Milligan learn the Houdini-like escape skill demonstrated by Tommy [one of his personalities]? What about his conversations with his rape victims in which he claimed to be a “guerrilla” and a “hit man”? Doctors think that Milligan may have personalities yet unfathomed—and that some of them may have committed undiscovered crimes.
When I talked with him alone during visiting hours in his room at the mental hospital, I discovered that Billy, as he came to be called, was very different from the poised young man I’d first met. He now spoke hesitantly, his knees jiggling nervously. His memory was poor, with long periods blanked out by amnesia. He could generalize about those portions of his past that he vaguely recalled, his voice often quavering at painful memories, but he could not provide many details. After trying, vainly, to draw out his experiences, I was ready to give it up.
Then one day something startling happened.
Billy Milligan fused completely for the first time, revealing a new individual, an amalgam of all his personalities. The fused Milligan had a clear, almost total recall of all the personalities from their creation—all their thoughts, actions, relationships, tragic experiences and comic adventures.
I mention this at the outset so that the reader will understand how I was able to record Milligans past events, private feelings and solitary conversations. All the material in this book was given to me by the fused Milligan, his other personalities and sixty-two people whose paths crossed his at different stages in his life. Scenes and dialogue are re-created from Milligans recollections. Therapy sessions are taken directly from videotapes. I have invented nothing.
One serious problem we faced as I began to write was developing a chronology. Because Milligan had “lost time” frequently since early childhood, he rarely paid attention to clocks or calendars and was often too embarrassed to admit not knowing the day or month. I was able, finally, to arrange events in time by using bills, receipts, insurance reports, school records, employment records and the many other documents turned over to me by his mother, sister, employers, attorneys and physicians. Though Milligan rarely dated his correspondence, his former girl friend had kept the hundreds of letters he wrote to her during his two years in prison, and I was able to date them by the postmarks on the envelopes.
As we worked, Milligan and I agreed on two basic ground rules:
First, all people, places and institutions would be identified by their real names, except for three groups of individuals whose privacy had to be protected by pseudonyms: other mental patients; unindicted criminals with whom Milligan had been involved, both as a juvenile and as an adult, and whom I was not able to interview directly; and the three Ohio State University rape victims, including the two who agreed to be interviewed by me.
Second, to assure Milligan that he would not incriminate himself in the event some of his personalities revealed crimes for which he might still be indicted, we agreed that I would use “poetic license” in dramatizing these scenes. On the other hand, those crimes for which Milligan has already stood trial are reported in hitherto unrevealed detail.
Of those who have met, worked with or been victimized by Billy Milligan, most have come to accept the diagnosis of his having multiple personalities. Many of these people remembered the thing Milligan said or did that made them finally admit, “He just can’t be faking this.” Others still feel he is a fraud, a brilliant con man using the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity to avoid prison. I sought out as many people in both groups as would talk to me. They gave me their reactions and their reasons.
I, too, maintained an attitude of skepticism. Hardly a day went by when I wasn’t pulled one way and then the other. But during the two years I worked with Milligan on this book, the doubt I felt when his recalled acts and experiences seemed incredible turned to belief when my investigation showed them to be accurate.
That the controversy still absorbs Ohio newspapers can be seen from an article in the Dayton Daily News of January 2, 1981—three years and two months after the last crimes were committed:
Fake or Victim? Either Way,
Milligan Case Illuminating
by Joe Fenley
William Stanley Milligan is a troubled man living a troubled existence.
He is either a con man who has duped society and beaten the rap for violent crimes or he is an authentic victim of a multiple personality disorder. Either way its a bad scene . . .
Only time will tell whether Milligan has played the world for a fool or is one of its saddest victims … „
Perhaps the time is now.
Athens, Ohio January 3, 1981