"Sybil" was one terrifying television miniseries, and the 1976 program not only won Sally Field an Emmy, but introduced America to the concept of one person having multiple personalities. But was it all fiction?
Field played a woman whose childhood of abuse caused her to develop 13 different personalities. The personalities were disturbing, sure, but worse was the creepy depiction of the abuse by Sybil's mother. Let's just say an entire generation associates enemas with lengthy Dvorak musical compositions because of this movie, and also that entire generation probably has to go to the bathroom really badly just reading this.
In a new book, "Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case," author Debbie Nathan dives into the facts behind the original case, as is told in a 1973 best-selling book. She uses letters between the woman dubbed Sybil (real name: Shirley Mason), her analyst, Cornelia Wilbur (played by Joanne Woodward in the miniseries), and "Sybil" author Flora Schreiber to expose the book as a fake.
According to the New York Times, the book shows that Wilbur wasn't so much helping "Sybil" as planting the idea for the multiple personalities in her brain. The New York Post quotes a letter mentioned in the book in which Mason confesses "I do not have any multiple personalities ... I have essentially been lying. ... Got me a lot of attention."
And perhaps sparked plenty of imitators and unnecessary pain. And pretty much ruined a previously perfectly acceptable girl's name. "Sybil," like "Damien" after "The Omen" came out, earned a disturbing reputation it has yet to shake.