Twins have long had stories of strangeness surrounding them. There is a certain allure to them that has sprung stories of psychic connections, shared experiences, and interconnected lives. Scientists are very interested in such possible links between these twins, with bonds that sometimes seem to transcend our understanding of the world as we know it, and throughout history there have been some truly amazing stories of twins and their odd synchronicity. There is a certain quality about twins that lies just out of the grasp of those of us who have no such sibling, and this is poorly understood, often even by the twins themselves. Yet every once in a while there is a weird tale of twins case that manages to truly stir up speculation and debate, and here we will look at some very odd cases, indeed.
One truly strange area of twins phenomena is that of odd synchronicity in their lives, despite even being separated at birth, and one of the most bizarre of these is surely that of the Jim Twins of Ohio. In 1940 two twin boys were born in Ohio and subsequently put up for adoption at a mere three weeks of age. One of the babies was adopted by the Lewis family in Lima, Ohio, and the other by the Springer family of Piqua, a mere 40 miles away. In some sort of oversight, the parents of each respective family were oddly told that there had been a twin, but that it had died at birth, and so the boys grew up unaware that their other half even existed at all. The only hint that something was amiss was when Mrs. Lewis was at the courthouse filing paperwork for the adoption and received the cryptic statement from an employee stating that the "other one" had been named Jim too. No other information was forthcoming, and so she raised her son with a sneaking suspicion that his brother was perhaps not dead at all, but rather out there somewhere.
In later years, when Jim Lewis was 39 years old, that nagging little hint would finally become too much to bear, and so he went about seeing if his twin was really real and alive. After some digging and going through records at the probate court, Lewis was able to find out that indeed he did have a living twin, also named James, and not only that but he lived just a mere 40 miles away. After contacting the Springers and talking with his brother on the phone, the two long lost brothers were finally reunited in a tearful reunion in 1979, where all present would be surprised at not only their uncanny physical resemblance, being the exact same height and weight, as well as the fact that they had both been named James, but also that in an eerie string of astonishing coincidences it would seem they had more or less lived the same exact life.
It would turn out that both of them had grown up with a dog named Toy, and both of them had each been married twice, in both cases the first wife being named Linda and the second wife called Betty, to which they both often left post it messages around the house for. They both had sons, one of them named Jim Allan and the other called Jim Alan, both had pursued law enforcement training and had held part-time posts in the profession, one being a security guard and the other a sheriff’s deputy, and both men had strong talent in and affinities for mechanical drawing and carpentry. Both Lewis and Springer drove light-blue Chevrolets, and both families went every year on vacation to the same beach in Florida. They also both smoked the same brand of cigarettes, drank the same brand of beer, and both men were nail biters and had problems with migraine headaches.
These incredible similarities in two twins who had never known each other until well into adulthood were so shocking that they caught the attention of Thomas Bouchard, Jr., a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, who had been involved in an ongoing study of twins called The Minnesota Twin Study. As well as researching the medical and psychological characteristics of twins, the team had been monitoring differences between identical twins and fraternal twins reared together and those reared apart, looking for any inexplicable similarities to show how much nature and nurture played a role in their development, and so with the “Jim Twins” they had hit a goldmine. Not only did they display astounding similarities, but they were apart the longest of any known separated twins at the time, and so were of great interest to the researchers on the project.
A variety of background checks, psychological tests such as personality tests and IQ tests, and interviews were carried out with Lewis and Springer, which confirmed that it was all very real and very strange. There were even new similarities found that no one had realized, including that both men had nearly the same memory capacity, spatial recognition skills, religious and moral attitudes, personality traits, and even the same IQ, leaving the scientists flabbergasted with the sheer amount of uncanny similarities. It was very much in keeping with their findings during their study of 81 pairs of twins who had been separated at birth that showed that genetics seemed to have more of an influence on mental capacity and personality than had previously been thought, but with the Jim Twins it was so pronounced and beyond the norm, with similarities such as the names of their wives and kids and even childhood dogs, that it bordered on almost paranormal.
There is not much understanding on what could be going on here, and the various odd coincidences and connections to the case of the Jim Twins and other similar cases are not fully understood. What is going on here with these two and others like them? What forces connect them and make them so similar despite having never met? Are there things at play beyond our understanding which we have yet to realize or is this all random chance? Whatever you may personally think, the odd case of the Jim Twins remains one of the most compelling and flat-out strange cases of separated identical twins on record, and will probably not be fully understood for quite some time to come.
Perhaps one of the strangest and spookiest is the tale of a connection between twins concerns two girls who managed to confound and baffle everyone they met with their eccentric ways and enigmatic lives. On April 11, 1963, the twins June and Jennifer Gibbons were born in Aden, in the Middle East, to parents Gloria and Aubrey Gibbons, who were from the Caribbean nation of Barbados, shortly after which the family immigrated to Haverfordwest, in Wales. The two young girls were faced with severe hardship from the beginning, as they were the only black people in their neighborhood, and so faced consternation, avoidance, and even downright aggressive racism, none of which was helped by the fact that they rarely talked to anyone else but each other and when they did it was in a fast staccato delivery that was practically unintelligible to everyone around them. They were also known for mirroring each other’s behavior and movements, often even finishing the actions that the other started, and would walk everywhere following each other in perfectly synchronized steps. The bullying and harassment they faced due to their race and general air of oddness was reportedly so bad that they would often be sent home from school early.
It was perhaps this stressful environment that contributed to their increasingly rapid withdrawal from the outside world. Their way of talking to each other got even more outlandish, until it was an undecipherable mishmash that not even their own parents could comprehend, a sort of bizarre secret language that only they and their youngest sister Rose could understand. They also refused to talk to anyone else but each other and sometimes Rose, ignoring their parents and their other siblings, further isolating themselves and earning them the nickname “The Silent Twins,” and sometimes merely the “Zombies.” Their concerned parents sent them to a string of therapists, but it did no good, and no one could figure out what was wrong with them. Out of exasperation the parents tried sending them to separate boarding schools, thinking that being apart would draw them out of their shells, but this in fact had the opposite effect, causing them to close off into a sort of unresponsive vegetative state or torpor, in which their bodies were “as stiff and heavy as a corpse.”
Upon being reunited, they cheered up but went about their odd ways once again, and began to spend large amounts of time locked away in their room writing rather dark and sinister fictional stories, a hobby which they would continue in later years, with them eventually even writing some novels that were actually published to little fanfare. Another pastime was for them to play with dolls, for which they would construct elaborate fantasy worlds and write biographies for, morbidly including even the specific date and method of death for each doll. During this tense time the two twins also began to exhibit a rather dark side to their relationship, exhibiting signs that they had a decidedly love-hate relationship, sometimes inseparable and at other times fighting so violently that they would throttle, scratch, and strangle each other. In one incident June actually tried to kill Jennifer by drowning her, and they would fearfully write of this in their diaries, with one such entry by Jennifer chillingly reading:
We have become fatal enemies in each other’s eyes. We feel the irritating deadly rays come out of our bodies, stinging each other’s skin. I say to myself, can I get rid of my own shadow, impossible or not possible? Without my shadow, would I die? Without my shadow, would I gain life, be free or left to die? Without my shadow, which I identify with a face of misery, deception, murder.
However, these terrifying episodes always soon passed by, and they would be the best of buddies again, jabbering away in their alien tongue, which was later found to actually be a rapid-fire mixture of Barbadian slang and English. During this time, they would speak to no one, and would not even interact with their own parents or other siblings except Rose, accepting their meals or anything else on trays set tentatively outside the room. It was at around this time of self-imposed exile within their room and growing animosity towards each other that they began to get rather unruly. In their teen years the twins started trying alcohol and marijuana committing petty crimes like shoplifting or burglary, but this soon graduated to more serious infractions when they began setting fire to buildings, including a tractor store and a technical college, and engaging in other random acts of vandalism. This would all get them into quite a bit of trouble, culminating in them being detained and sent away at the age of 19 to a psychiatric facility in Berkshire, England called Broadmoor Hospital, which was controversial considering its reputation as a maximum security facility for the criminally insane, and where things would get even weirder still.
As soon as they arrived the twins had experts stumped. No one had ever seen anything quite like it. They were completely unresponsive and lethargic, and would go absolutely nuts if anyone tried to separate them. Not long after they arrived June went into a catatonic state and tried to commit suicide, and Jennifer angrily lashed out at a nurse in an animalistic rage. Even when they did finally try to try to communicate with staff their speech was still a stream of outlandish gibberish.
During their time here there were many anomalies with the twins. Sometimes they would take turns eating, which is to say that one would gorge herself as the other one eschewed any food at all, whereupon they would switch for the other to starve as one ate their fill. More spookily still, although they were put into separate cells in completely different areas, nurses and doctors would often enter their cells to find them frozen into poses, sometimes very distinctive or bizarre ones, that were exactly the same even though they had had no contact with each other. They also showed an unerring, almost uncanny ability to know what the other was doing or feeling at any given time.
This would go on for 12 years, during which time they apparently became convinced that they were never going to have a normal life unless one of them ultimately died. It was during their time at the Broadmoor Hospital that they would catch the attention of London Sunday Times reporter Marjorie Wallace, who would spend a good amount of time forming a bond with the girls and investigating their case, as well as bringing the strange story to public awareness. After countless interviews and combing through their diaries and writings, Wallace would claim that the two girls felt that they needed to sever their strange bond in order to be free. To this end they would allegedly make a pact in which one of them would sacrifice herself so that the other one would become unfettered from their psychic link, abnormal behavior, and never-ending cycle of loving and loathing each other.
In 1993, on the very day that the two were to be transferred to a lower security facility called the Caswell Clinic, in Bridgend, Wales, Wallace claims that Jennifer approached her and prophetically told her, “I’m going to have to die. We’ve decided.” The whole ride to the new location saw Jennifer in a sort of trance, and shortly after that they were transferred she suddenly crumpled to the floor for no apparent reason. Despite all efforts to save her life, Jennifer Gibbons laid her head down in her sister’s lap and died at the age of 31. June would later claim that her sister’s last words to her had been, “At long last, we’re out.”
Although it was determined that Jennifer had died of a sudden inflammation of the heart called acute myocarditis, it has always remained elusive and nobody could quite figure out how this had happened, as she was young and in good health, with no history of heart issues, and their were found to be no drugs, alcohol, or any sort of poison in her system. June would say of the death, “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last Jennifer has given up her life for me.” To this day the death remains a mystery, and Wallace has said of it and June’s adjustment to it thus:
I've spent many years now wondering about the mystery of Jennifer's death. Now, I don't think there is really an explanation for that except Jennifer willing herself to die. After I learned about Jennifer's death - it was about two or three days later - I went down to visit June. And I found her surprisingly intact, really, and very prepared to talk. She spoke very clearly about the conflict between her terrible grief at losing the person closest in her life and her - the freedom that Jennifer had given her. And she just said, when Marjorie said, would you go to Haverfordwest and would you fly a banner over Haverfordwest and say that June is fit and well and at last come into her own? So there she was a few days later, both grieving and mourning, and at the same time, saying Jennifer gave up her life for me and now I have to go on and live for the both of us.
In the days after her sister’s mysterious death June Gibbons indeed did began to show a change. She began to speak normally and would speak with others, conversing even. She would be freed of psychiatric care and go on to become a normal member of society, and pursued her writing career, although it never really took off. Her family would also remain bitter over their incarceration in such a scary and intense facility as Broadmoor, saying that it had ruined their lives and led to Jennifer’s death. June now leads a quiet life in Wales. As for Jennifer, she is buried under a headstone that holds the eerie and haunting message:
We once were two
We two made one
We no more two
Through life be one
Rest in peace.
The story of June and Jennifer Gibbons is as tragic as it is odd. What sort of relationship was this and what did they share in the secluded world they crafted for themselves? What was the nature of their tumultuous relationship, which fluctuated wildly between deep love and oneness and hatred and spite? What did they share in those moments closed off from the rest of the world? What caused Jennifer's death and did it truly set June free? The bond between twins can be a strange and complex thing, and here with the Silent Twins we have one of the stranger cases there is, with answers we will likely never know the answers to.
There certainly are other cases of these odd connections between twins, and cases of some sort of ill-defined, shared psychosis. There was nothing particularly odd about Sabina and Ursula Eriksson. Identical twins, they were born on November 3, 1967 in Sunne, Värmland, Sweden, and they were fairly normal people leading normal lives, with no history of mental illness or anything particularly strange about them at all. In 2000, they were living a world away from each other, with Ursula living in the United States and Sabrina living in Ireland, and in May of 2008, Ursula flew over to visit her sister. It was a perfectly normal trip and there would have been nothing at all to expect that this was anything other than just an ordinary family get together, but this trip was about to spiral into a truly bizarre mystery that has baffled to this day.
Upon happily reuniting in Ireland, the Eriksson sisters suddenly and spontaneously decided to take a trip to Liverpool, England. It was a bit odd because they had told no one of this trip, and they decided to embark on it just hours after meeting, seemingly on a whim. It was also unknown exactly why they wanted to go to Liverpool in the first place, as they didn’t know anyone there and had never expressed any particular interest in visiting this place. Regardless, they packed their things and hopped on a ferry to make the trip to Liverpool, where they arrived on May 17 on the first leg of their inscrutable journey. After this they made a stop at a police station because Sabina had had a fight with her husband the night before and wanted them to check that her kids were alright. It is unclear whether this had anything to do with the strangeness that was about to unfold, but unfold it did.
Once in Liverpool, the two sisters got on a National Express Coach to London at around 11:30 AM, where they were seen to be acting rather oddly. The bus driver would claim that neither one of them would let go of their bags, indeed they were reported as clutching them closely in a very protective manner, and they also both complained that they were feeling sick. The bus driver thought it was all pretty weird, and suggested they check in their baggage like everyone else, but the twins absolutely refused, and so they were kicked off the bus at the Keele service station, which was an unscheduled stop. Once at Keele, they continued to act strangely, stumbling around clutching at their bags and acting generally erratically, and so an employee at the station called the police thinking they might be carrying bombs. However, when the cops spoke to them, the twins seemed perfectly fine, calm, and normal, and so no action was taken against them. When the police left, Ursula and Sabina seemed to be normal, but things were about to launch into the weird.
The two walked off on foot towards the nearby M6 motorway, where they walked out right into the road to make their way along the central median line. This was unusual enough to cause police to come out again to assist the obviously troubled women, but when officers approached chaos ensued. The twins suddenly ran right across the busy motorway, with Ursula making it safely to the other side, yet Sabina was not as lucky, being hit by an incoming car and knocked down. Unbelievably, she got right back up again as if nothing had happened, and the two twins then dashed out into the traffic one more, with both of them being mowed down by vehicles this time, Ursula hit so hard by a truck that her shoes flew off and her legs were crushed. By now, officers from the Highway Agency officers and the Central Motorway Police Group were converging on the strange scene, and they rushed to assist the twins, with Ursula seemingly seriously injured and Sabina sprawled out unconscious and motionless upon the road as cars continued to whiz by. It was a chaotic and unusual scene, however, this is far from the end of this story.
Paramedics came in to help the wounded twins, but as they were providing assistance, Ursula was acting extremely aggressively, cursing, spitting, and kicking with her broken legs as she spat out “I recognize you – I know you're not real!” Sabina, who had until then been out cold, suddenly regained consciousness and went berserk, jumping into action to punch and kick at paramedics and police officers while cryptically shouting “Why do you kill me?” at them. She managed to break free and she was heard to scream, “They're going to steal your organs!” Sabina then careened back out into the motorway shouting for help at passing cars, until she was finally restrained and sedated after a tense standoff in which she actually go into a fighting stance and attacked anyone who approached. Amazingly, the whole thing was captured on camera by a small television crew who happened to be there filming an episode of a reality show called Motorway Cops with the officers. The two injured twins were then brought to a hospital in Stoke-On-Trent for treatment and questioning, but the story doesn’t even end here, and in fact gets even more bizarre.
After the incident at the motorway, Sabina calmed down substantially, and after being treated for what were unbelievably only minor injuries, and after a minor court session she was sentenced to just one day in custody, without any psychiatric evaluation and facing no real punishment for what had happened out on the motorway. Despite the fact that she had caused accidents and had struck police officers, her day of custody was considered to be time already spent, and she was released from custody and walked out a free woman just 5 hours after arriving at the hospital. Seeing as Sabina did not know anyone in Stoke-On-Trent and had no idea really where she was, she then just sort of wandered around aimlessly, and the next chapter of this very strange day would unfold.
As Sabina wandered about the city streets in a daze, she was approached by a good Samaritan in the form of 54-year-old Glenn Hollinshead, who was out walking his dog along with his friend, Peter Molloy. Hollinshead offered to take her in and help her, and so the three went back to his house. At this time Sabina was once again calm, even playing with the dog, and she explained to the two men that she was stranded out there and trying to find her lost sister. After this, she reportedly then began to act erratically again, pacing about and constantly checking out the windows as if expecting something bad to happen. She was also very paranoid, even taking back some cigarettes she had offered the men because she realized they “might be poisoned.” Molloy would later claim that he thought at the time that the addled woman was perhaps running from someone, maybe an abusive boyfriend or spouse, and seeing as he did not have any reason to think she was actually dangerous, he headed home and left Sabina and Hollinshead alone.
The next day started normally enough. Hollinshead called Malloy to tell him that he was going to try and help Sabina find her sister that day, and he was seen to be acting normally, even speaking to neighbors in a friendly manner and not acting scared or nervous at all. It was this totally normal behavior that made it all the stranger when Hollinshead was seen stumbling out of his house bleeding profusely and shouting “She stabbed me!” He then collapsed and died right there on the spot. He had been stabbed five times. While this was going on, Sabina was fleeing the scene in a mad dash, with a roof tile from the home stuffed in her pocket and wielding a hammer that she had also stolen from the house, which she waved around and with which she would periodically smash herself on the head. At some point during her crazy flight, a passerby tried to stop her, only to get smashed across the head with the roof tile, oddly not the hammer, for his efforts.
The police were soon in hot pursuit of the troubled young woman, and they chased her to a bridge, where they thought they had her cornered. This would turn out to be wrong, as she then climbed over the railing and plunged down 40 feet to the busy road below, a feat that she miraculously managed to survive, although it left her with two broken ankles and a fractured skull. And so Sabina’s flight was brought to an end, and she was once again taken to a hospital for treatment, after which she was promptly arrested and put on trial in September of 2009. Although she would plead guilty to the crime of manslaughter, she would give no explanation at all for her bizarre behavior nor the motive for killing Hollinshead. The trial was a bit of a farce in a sense, as the extensive video footage taken from the M6 incident was not used as evidence, and she was found to have diminished responsibility, as it was ruled that she had suffered a bout of “shared psychosis,” with her sister, also called Folie à deux, French for "a madness of two," although she was considered sane at the actual trial.
In the end, despite the fact that she had brutally murdered an innocent man, Sabina Eriksson was judged to have a low culpability for her actions, and was sentenced to a short prison stint of just 5 years, mostly considered time served. She would be released in 2011 and then just sort of disappear off the face of the earth, her whereabouts unknown after that. Her sister, Ursula, was eventually released from the hospital and never charged with any crime at all, moving back to be with her family, and she has also never offered anything in the way of an explanation for what happened. In the aftermath of the incident and trial, there has been much debate and discussion on what went on here. What caused these two twins to do what they did? There was no evidence found of drugs or alcohol in their systems, they had no history of substance abuse or mental illness, so what happened? Why did they suddenly go berserk on a frenzied bout of madness? Was it a psychotic snap and “shared psychosis” or was it something else? Their older brother Leon would later cryptically state that they were being “chased by maniacs,” but this was never proven and he never elaborated upon further. Just what was going on here with these creepy twins?
Adding to all of this is the fact that it would seem that Sabina should have never been released from custody the first time she had been brought in in the first place. Despite her insane behavior out on the motorway, she was never subjected to any sort of mental evaluation, and furthermore, according to law, she could have been held in custody indefinitely until one was carried out. This gets even more interesting when one considers a piece of footage that was oddly left out of the officially released motorway footage, which shows two police officers saying that Sabine should most definitely be held for a mental evaluation, which they call a “136.” Why this was never done and why this was not included in the official footage has never been explained. In the meantime, Hollinshead’s brother, Gary, has lamented the fact that Sabina was never assessed, saying:
We don't hold her responsible, the same as we wouldn't blame a rabid dog for biting someone. She is ill and to a large degree, not responsible for her actions. But her mental disorder should have been recognized much earlier. I do question the criminal justice system for allowing somebody like this to be let out when she is capable of committing such a crime. Her mental condition should have been properly assessed after what she did on the motorway and the experiences the police had. Her mental disorder should have been picked up prior to her being let out in to the community... Glenn saw Eriksson in distress and was just trying to help. He wasn't slow in coming forward to help somebody in distress. It was in his nature. He was trying to help. He would help anybody. If he saw a fight in the street and a guy was losing he would help.
The extremely bizarre case of the mysterious Eriksson twins has gone on to become one of the weirdest unsolved cases on record in England, and has been the focus of a documentary Madness in the Fast Lane, which incidentally also cut the controversial footage of the police suggesting the 136. Coincidence? Cover-up? Who knows? there has never been any closure to this case, no one knows why these women did what they did or what triggered it, and it remains one of the most outlandish and wildest unsolved mysteries in the UK.
Sometimes it seems that twin mysteries seem to persist even after death. This strange story begins in the quaint and quiet town of Hexham, in Northumberland, England, with the family of John and Florence Pollock and their two young daughters Joanna, 11, and Jacqueline, 6. By all accounts they were a happy family and relatively well-off considering their successful grocery and milk delivery business, and the two girls were said to be the best of friends and inseparable. Things couldn’t have been better for their idyllic life, yet on May 7, 1957, tragedy struck when as the two Pollock children were on their way to church with a friend they were hit by a car driven by a local woman who had taken an overdose of aspirin and phenobarbitone in a bid to kill herself. The two Pollock children were killed instantly in the accident, reportedly sent flying through the air “like cricket balls,” and the other, a boy named Anthony, died later at the hospital.
The devastating news was widely covered in England at the time, and the two parents of Joanna and Jacqueline were inconsolable over their loss. While Florence Pollock spun into a deep depression in the void conjured up by the loss, the highly religious John maintained hope that his daughters would somehow return to them, and he even reported having a vision of them coming back to be reborn to them in the form of twins. He told of this vision to his wife, who was trying to move on, not religious in the slightest, and did not for one second believe in reincarnation or Heaven, and the two were practically divorced over the ensuing arguments over it.
Despite this ordeal and all of the fighting, Florence would become pregnant the following year, and on on October 4, 1958 gave birth to healthy twin girls, spookily just as John had predicted. It was all especially odd since their doctor had told them it was to be only a single birth based on the heartbeat signature of the fetus, and neither one of the parents had had any history of twins in their families. The twins, Gillian and Jennifer, were considered by John to be a sort of miracle, and he truly believed that his dead daughters had come back to them as he had said, citing as evidence an odd birth mark on Jennifer’s right eye that eerily resembled a scar that Jacqueline had had in the same exact spot, as well as a matching round birthmark on her waist. Although they were identical twins, Gillian lacked any such marks, making it quite unusual.
The family moved from Hexham to a town called Whitley Bay when the twins were just a few months old, and it was here where things would start to get strange. As soon as they were old enough to talk the twins began asking for and describing specific toys that Joanna and Jacqueline had owned, even calling their dolls by name, which was rather bizarre as the parents had boxed those toys up to store away in the attic and the twins had never seen them before, and indeed were not even aware that they had had two sisters who had died. When the toys were brought down from the attic each of the twins instinctively collected the correct respective ones that had belonged to Johanna and Jacqueline without hesitating and without any mistake, all the while proclaiming that they were “Santa’s gifts,” which was also correct.
Other strangeness was that the two twins liked the same foods that Joanna and Jacqueline had, had the same respective personalities, mannerisms, and behaviors, liked the same games, and Gillian once pointed at the birthmark on Jennifer’s forehead and accurately said that it was where Jacqueline had hit her head on a bucket when she was younger, leaving a scar. There was also the weird fact that the twins even had the same gait as their dead sisters when they walked and even the same general builds, with Gillian being somewhat more slender as Johanna had been, and Jennifer a bit more stocky, as had been the case with Jacqueline. In addition, Jacqueline had been having trouble learning to write at the time of her death because she had tended to hold her pencil upright in her fist, which was the exact same habit that Jennifer developed when she too began to learn how to write, and she would not shake the habit until she was 7.
Such oddities continued on over the years, with the girls eerily giving details of things that only their parents and Joanna and Jacqueline could have known, and rather spookily they were said to be terrified of passing cars, to the point that it was difficult to cajole them into crossing the street. The mother, Florence, once overheard the two girls discussing the actual accident that had killed Joanna and Jacqueline with details they could not have known. One thing they would supposedly often do was that Jennifer would rest her head on Gillian’s lap and Jennifer would say there was blood coming from her eyes. When the family took a trip back to Hexham the twins knew their way around and could accurately point out landmarks by name and the school they remembered attending, Joanna and Jacqueline's school, even though they would have been too young to have remembered any of these details when they had last been there and no one had ever told them about these things.
These stories were unusual enough to make it into local newspapers, which caught the attention of psychologist Dr. Ian Stevenson, who was highly interested in evidence of reincarnation in children. He began to make frequent visits to the Pollocks, interviewing them and examining the birthmarks and he would discover some interesting details. For instance, the twins were identical, meaning that they came from a single egg, yet they had slightly different builds that matched their dead sisters who had not been twins, and the fact that Jennifer had an unusual indented birthmark matching a past life injury of Jacqueline, whereas Gillian did not, was difficult to explain genetically.
Interestingly, these apparent memories of the twins’ past lives began to fade at around the age of 5, after which they led relatively normal lives without being haunted by the past, yet Stevenson would keep contact with the family for years, all the way up to Florence’s death in 1979 and John’s death in 1985. Although the twins grew up generally not remembering any more of their supposed past lives, in 1981 Gillian had a series of lucid visions in which she remembered playing in a sandbox in the town of Whickham as Joanna had done when she was around 3, and was able to perfectly describe the area even though Gillian had never been to Whickham. These powerful visions passed, but showed that the memories were still lurking there somewhere deep in her psyche. Indeed, Stevenson was so enthralled with the Pollock case that he would write a case report on it in a volume of Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiology of Birthmarks and Birth Defects, as well as mention it in 1987 in a book called Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation. He would go on to write a total of 12 books on the subject of reincarnation and study thousands of such cases in children.
The case of the Pollock twins has been held up by many as one of the most convincing cases for proof of reincarnation there is, but it has been met with its share of skepticism as well. One theory is that John Pollock, who was an avid believer in reincarnation and had been convinced that his dead daughters would come back to him even before the twins were born, must have mentioned things related to Johanna and Jacqueline to his new daughters, which they would have picked up on, if even subconsciously. Relatives and family friends could have also talked about the girls and their deaths in the presence of the twins. However, John and Florence, who herself did not believe in reincarnation and was baffled by the twins, were adamant right up until their deaths that they had never mentioned anything about Joanna and Jacqueline to the twins until they were much older.
It is important to note that Stevenson himself considered the possibility that the twins could have been influenced by what their parents said, but he eventually came to the conclusion that it would have been impossible for them to so exactly mold the behaviors and recollections of their twins to match so closely to their dead sisters through this alone. It was also noted that Florence Pollock did not believe in reincarnation at all, yet she witnessed the same puzzling phenomena as everyone else, meaning that in her case this wasn’t just all testimony colored by John’s belief in reincarnation. Stevenson also pointed out that the birthmarks provided physical evidence that something strange was going on, and indeed birthmarks matching injuries, scars or other birthmarks of past lives are a fairly common, recurring phenomenon with reincarnation cases. In the end, despite the criticism, Stevenson strongly believed that the evidence, when coupled with hundreds of other similar cases, were beyond rational explanation and undoubtedly pointed to reincarnation being real, and he believed the Pollock case to be genuine.
It is unknown just what is going on with the case of the Pollock twins, or just what it means for the case for reincarnation. It is very intriguing but we are still left to wonder what it all means. Were these two girls the re-embodiement of Joanna and Jacqueline Pollock? Does this constitute some strong evidence that we are indeed in a cycle of death and rebirth? No one really knows, but it remains one of the more interesting cases of supposed reincarnation there is.
In other cases, there seem to be mysterious places that seem to just produce twins at a bizarre rate. At first glance one might not notice anything particularly odd about the village of Kodinhi. It is a small, remote village located in the Malappuram district in Kerala, India. With only 2,000 families, it is a sleepy, quiet place that one could drive by without giving a second thought. It is a backwater, nondescript village not unlike countless others dotting the Indian countryside. However, spend enough time walking through its modest streets you may start to notice something peculiar about this village. You may start having a case of seeing double, for there are twins everywhere, of all ages, both identical and fraternal. In fact, there almost seems to be a pair of twins for practically every family in the village.
Kodinhi has the distinction of having the most unusually high rate of twin births in the world. In a village of only 2,000 people, there are reportedly over 220 pairs of twins. It was reported that in 2008 alone, 15 pairs of twins were born in the village. This may not seem like a high number when talking about a big city, but it is bizarrely high for such a small, relatively sparsely populated town. To put it into perspective, it is said that the rate of twin births globally is around 6 out of every 1,000 live births, whereas in Kodinhi it is more like 42 out of every 1,000 births, a striking contrast to the norm. In fact, the rate of twins in this sleepy, tropical town is around 6 times the global average.
Local doctor Krishnan Sribiju has spent a great deal of time studying the twins of Kodinhi and he believes that the rate of twin births is even higher than official records suggest. He also has found that the rate of twin births in the village is increasing every year, and that the number of twins in Kodinhi has doubled in the past decade. Dr. Sribiju is also quick to point out that the phenomenal rate of twin births in the village is particularly impressive considering that sub-continantal Asia has a typically lower rate of twin births than most of the world, and India has the lowest twinning rate in Asia. Indeed, generally India has one of the lowest twinning rates in the world, making Kodinhi even more of a curiosity. It is said that the twinning phenomenon in Kodinhi started around 60 to 70 years ago, and the exact cause remains unknown. Doctors have long been baffled as to why this village has so many twins, and no one as of yet has been able to unravel the mystery. Adding another layer of odd to the puzzle is the fact that even those who marry outsiders and move away from the village exhibit a substantially higher than normal rate of having twins.
Researchers have delved into genetic, biological, molecular, hereditary and climatic factors and still have not come to a satisfactory conclusion to this enigma. Pollutants or chemical factors have been mostly ruled out since the vast majority of twins born in Kodinhi are perfectly normal and healthy, without birth defects. In addition, artificial insemination or other fertility treatments are not a factor as the villagers are too poor to afford the prohibitively high costs of such procedures. Genetic problems have also mostly been discounted since the effect is localized in this one village.
Dr. Sribiju speculates that the answer lies in something the villagers are eating or drinking, but none has been able to isolate the substance that could be responsible. Further compounding this theory is that the eating habits of the villagers of Kodinhi don't seem to be any different than other villages in Kerala. Dr. Sribiju has said he plans to continue research in Kodinhi with more detailed biochemical analysis equipment, but for now the abnormal number of twins here remains an unexplained anomaly.
Fortunately for the villagers here, the twinning phenomenon has had no real negative effects except for perhaps people not being able to always quickly ascertain just which twin they are talking to. School teachers here like to joke that they are never sure if a student is really the one attending the class, or their twin. Mistaken identity is probably a real headache here, yet for the most part there have been no health concerns and the village even seems to be proud of their unique status. In order to bring wider attention to the peculiar problems twins here face, around 30 pairs of twins in the village started an organization called "The Twins and Kins Association." It is reportedly the first such association of its kind in India and it is hoped that the group will be able to raise awareness of Kodinhi's plight and the unique lifestyles of twins.
Just what is going on in the remote village of Kodinhi? What is the reason they have so many twins? For now, no one really knows. If you ever find yourself in this village and start seeing double yourself, just remember that it is not just your imagination playing tricks on you. Another place along similar lines has its origins in Word War II, and it involves not only a mysterious location, but also tales of unspeakable experimentation delving into the phenomenon of twins. One avenue of research that has long been considered important to science is that of various twin studies carried out all over the world. Twins are seen as vital to the study of behavioral genetics and a wide range of other areas such as hereditary diseases, the genetics of obesity, the genetic basis of common diseases, and many others. Yet for all of the good that most twin studies have done, there are others that lurk in the shadows of history, and one of the most mysterious and evil were those of a Nazi doctor operating at the height of the regime's depravity.
During the horrific stain upon history that is the Nazis and their role in World War II, a looming sinister presence whose evil still reverberates today was the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, Poland. Ordered to be constructed on April 27, 1940, by chief Nazi scumbag Heinrich Himmler, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp would go on to rapidly expand into three main camps and 45 sub-camps by the time the war was over, and this Hell on Earth would be the final destination for an estimated 1.1 million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, criminals, mentally or physically disabled persons, political opponents, and prisoners of war, transported there packed into cattle cars like animals. It has burned its way into history as one of the most horrific mass killing centers ever devised by humankind, synonymous with the Holocaust and evil in general, with death here coming in many guises such as starvation, relentless forced labor, disease, torture, and of course mass executions in the notorious Nazi gas chambers.
Among the many horrors of Auschwitz were the numerous medical experiments carried out here, most notably by Nazi doctors Carl Clauberg and Josef Mengele. Experiments covered a range of areas, including finding ways to sterilize Jewish women, the effects of many noxious substances on the human body, and trying to find ways to clone the “perfect Aryan.” Most often those chosen to be experimented on showed some unique physical traits, such as different colored eyes or having a genetic condition such as dwarfism or conversely gigantism, and reached such deranged, gruesome heights that Mengele would earn himself the ominous nickname “The Angel of Death.”
Certainly one of the more infamous lines of experimentation was carried out by Mengele on twins. Indeed, the mad doctor had a twisted fascination with twins, and he also believed that they were the key to saving the Aryan race if women could be somehow assured of giving birth to blonde haired, blue eyed twins. As he constantly surveyed the surging lines of bedraggled prisoners endlessly filing past the barbed wire and soldiers into the camp from the filthy cattle cars, Mengele’s eyes would light up whenever he spotted twins, which he would immediately have pulled aside from the crowds, saving them from hard labor or execution, yet dooming them to a perhaps worse fate.
The twins, which could be as young as 5 or 6 years old or sometimes even younger, were whisked away to a separate camp that consisted only of pairs of twins, and to them it probably did not seem a bad place to be at first. Conditions there were better than out in the rest of the camp, they ate reasonably well with extra rations, and Mengele was known to arrive at their barracks with toys, chocolates and candies, often playing with them and generally acting in a very cheerful, good natured way towards the children, to the point that they adored him and called him “Uncle Mengele.” The children did not have their heads shaved, often kept their own clothes, did not have to do any sort of hard labor, were not beaten or punished, and were even allowed outside to play like normal kids, and besides a daily blood sample taken from them it all must have seemed like heaven compared to what the others in the camp had to endure. However, this was all merely a facade to hide the truth, and the twins were completely oblivious to the horrors that awaited them.
Twins would be abruptly collected and ushered away when it was time for an experiment, and they put up no complaint or fight, nor did they even have any inkling that anything was amiss or that they were in any sort of danger. After all, they had been treated pretty well, lived life comparatively normally, and had no reason to fear their “Uncle Mengele.” Yet, once away from the barracks they were subjected to a wide range of twisted experiments. Some of these were done in order to find ways to perfect the “Master Race,” while others were to test out any sort of connection the twins had and still others that don’t seem to have served any purpose at all other than to satisfy Mengele’s depraved curiosity and for his own sadistic pleasure.
The experiments were quite varied, but always horrible. In some cases the twins were separated and kept in isolation from each other, whereupon one or the other would be tortured either mentally or physically in order to measure some sort of response in the other twin, as it was suspected that they may share some sort of psychic link. Sometimes one would be kept in sensory deprivation while the other twin was not. In other experiments they were injected with various mysterious substances that only Mengele knew the identities of, and these injections could have effects ranging from nothing to strange side effects, severe pain, illness, or death. The nature of these substances is still unknown, but likely included pathogens, dangerous chemicals, poisons, and drugs. In many cases only one twin was given these injections, so that they might more accurately measure the effects by comparing the two, with the other twin serving as a control group.
There were also complete blood transfusions carried out between the twins, injections directly into the eyes in an effort to change eye color, surgeries without anesthetic including organ removal, biopsies, castrations, and amputations. In some cases Mengele had the twins sewn together in order to create Siamese twins, which often ended in the death of both. When one twin died, as many inevitably did, the other would be killed and then the two dissected for analysis. Even if both twins both somehow survived the experiments they were routinely both killed at the end of the trials so that the autopsies could be performed. By the time the Auschwitz Concentration Camp was liberated it is estimated that around between 900 and 1,500 pairs of twins had been experimented on by Mengele, and the vast majority of these did not survive the ordeal.
While most of the twins involved in Mengele’s demented experiments died, there is a handful who did survive until well after the war was over, and it is from these survivors that we know most of our information on what Mengele did to them, as the Nazis had most official documentation on the twin program destroyed along with everything else on the concentration camps to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. One of these surviving twins is Vera Kriegel, who says that one of her most vivid memories of the time was being brought to Mengele’s laboratory and being greeted with the sight of hundreds of disembodied human eyes looking on into oblivion. She told the BBC:
I was looking at a whole wall of human eyes. A wall of blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes. These eyes they were staring at me like a collection of butterflies and I fell down on the floor.
When the experiments began, Kriegel and her sister were kept in tiny wooden crates like animals and subjected to numerous painful injections that she thinks were to change the color of their eyes. She also claims that they and many other twins were given injections of Noma’s disease, which causes painful boils on the mouth and genitals. Kriegel also has spoken of the experiments to remove organs. One of the most well-known and outspoken of the survivors of Mengele’s twin experiments is Eva Mozes Kor, who was brought to Auschwitz with her sister Miriam Mozes, who were 10 years old at the time and were there from 1944 to 1945. Their entire family, including their parents, grandparents, two older sisters, uncles, aunts and cousins were all killed at the death camp, and they were singled out for the twin experiments soon after arriving. She would say of this:
When the doors to our cattle car opened, I heard SS soldiers yelling, "Schnell! Schnell!", and ordering everybody out. My mother grabbed Miriam and me by the hand. She was always trying to protect us because we were the youngest. Everything was moving very fast, and as I looked around, I noticed my father and my two older sisters were gone. As I clutched my mother’s hand, an SS man hurried by shouting, "Twins! Twins!" He stopped to look at us. Miriam and I looked very much alike. "Are they twins?" he asked my mother. "Is that good?" she replied. He nodded yes. "They are twins," she said. Once the SS guard knew we were twins, Miriam and I were taken away from our mother, without any warning or explanation. Our screams fell on deaf ears. I remember looking back and seeing my mother's arms stretched out in despair as we were led away by a soldier. That was the last time I saw her.
Kor has spoken of many of the dark horrors that the twins went through. She recalls one set of Gypsy twins who were sewn together back to back and their organs and blood vessels connected, after which they could be heard screaming in anguish nonstop until their cries were silenced by eventual gangrene and death three days later. Kor remembers being taken in for experimentation 6 days a week, and often these entailed just making them sit naked for up to 8 hours at a time while they were observed and measured for inscrutable reasons. Then there were the scarier experiments, in which her and her sister were given mysterious injections, and during which their despair seemed to invoke pleasure in Mengele, of which she has explained:
On alternate days we would be taken to another lab that I call the blood lab. This is where they would take a lot of blood from my left arm and give me several injections in my right arm. Those were the deadly ones. We didn't know the contents then and we don't know today. After one of those injections, I became very ill with a very high fever. I had also tremendous swelling in my arms and legs as well as red spots throughout my body. Maybe it was spotted fever, I don't know. Nobody ever diagnosed it. I was given five injections. That evening I developed extremely high fever. I was trembling. My arms and my legs were swollen, huge size. Mengele and Dr. Konig and three other doctors came in the next morning. They looked at my fever chart, and Dr. Mengele said, laughingly, 'Too bad, she is so young. She has only two weeks to live.
Unbelievably, both Eva and Miriam survived the ordeal, and were among the only twins left alive when the Soviet Army liberated them from Auschwitz. Kor says that at the time she was too young to understand what was being done to them, and that it wasn’t until years after gaining her freedom that she realized what had really happened to them. Kor spent many years tracking down other surviving twins, and through her program CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) was able to locate 122 pairs sprawled out across ten countries and four continents, who she made efforts to bring together to share their experiences and which culminated in a meeting in Jerusalem in February of 1985. Kor has said of this in an article for Quora:
We talked to many of them. What I found out was that there were many, many other experiments. For instance, the twins who were older than 16 or were of reproductive age would be put in a lab and used in cross-gender blood transfusions. So blood was going from the male to the female and vice versa. Sadly they did not check of course to see if the blood was compatible and most of these twins died. There are twins in Australia who survived, Stephanie and Annette Heller, and there is a twin in Israel who was a fraternal twin— Judit Malick, and her twins' brother's name was Sullivan. I heard Judit testify in Jerusalem that she was used in this experiment with a male twin of reproductive age. She remembered being on a table during the experiment when the other twin's body was turning cold. He died. She survived but had a lot of health problems.
The question is how many of these twins did survive? Most of them obviously died. I also know for a fact that Mengele did strange experiments on kidneys. Mengele himself suffered from renal problems when he was 16 in 1927. He was out of school three or four months according to his SS file. He was deeply interested in the way the kidneys worked. I know of three cases where twins developed severe kidney infections that did not respond to antibiotics.
Indeed, Miriam too developed severe kidney problems later in life due to an injection she had received that seems to have stunted the organs’ growth. After the birth of her children the kidney problem got progressively worse and none of it seemed to respond at all to antibiotics. Eva would eventually donate one of her own kidneys to save her sister in 1987, but Miriam would die of kidney complications in 1993 and doctors are still not sure what was injected into her to cause all of this.
Kor has gone on to speak of her experiences all over the world, is the founder of the Holocaust Museum and Education center in Terre Haute, Indiana, and has written books on her ordeal, including one titled Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin at Auschwitz. Unbelievably, despite the evil she has looked right in the face and the gruesome nature of her experience she has long advocated forgiveness towards her vile captors. Indeed, in 1995 Kor made the brave decision to face Nazi physician Hans Munch, who had since the end of the war come to regret what he and his kind had done. Kor and Munch even travelled together to Auschwitz to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp, and she has said of her decision to forgive Munch:
I forgave the doctor, who oversaw the gas chambers where the rest of my family was killed. And I realized I had the power to even forgive the Angel of Death. Now, I am no longer a victim of Auschwitz. This act of forgiveness is an act of self healing. I believe forgiveness is a modern miracle of medicine. Forgive your worst enemy and forgive everyone who has hurt you- it will heal your soul and set you free.
To this day it is a mystery as to just what these various twin experiments were trying to accomplish or what results they procured, as Mengele never did release his findings or elaborate much on his methods or true goals, taking them with him to his eventual grave. It is unknown just what was injected into these patients, why these surgeries were carried out, what purpose any of this all had, or whether Mengele ever found what he was looking for. At about this point in the article you may be wondering what happened to Mengele himself, and that is a mystery unto itself.
When the Soviets liberated the death camp, Mengele went on the run, escaping to head west, but he was soon captured by American soldiers. Unfortunately, since he did not have a tattoo marking him as SS and his face wasn’t recognized, no one had any idea that he was a Nazi and he managed to get released even though he was considered a highly wanted war fugitive. He would eventually flee Europe and head to Argentina in 1949, and he would defy all efforts to track him down and have him arrested for decades, evading justice and moving from country to country before finally drowning at a holiday resort in Brazil in 1979. Very little is known about just what Mengele got up to during his decades in exile, and this time of his life is mostly a big historical blank, but there has been speculation and ideas.
Interestingly, there have been conspiracy theories that Mengele never did give up on his obsessed experimentation with twins, even after fleeing to South America, which has been illuminated by Argentine historian Jorge Camarasa in his book Mengele: the Angel of Death in South America. After spending years piecing together the mysterious time that Mengele spent in the region, he found that German residents of the town of Candido Godoi, Brazil, claimed that Mengele made numerous visits during the 1960s posing as a veterinarian and then a doctor offering various medical services to women in the village. Shortly after these visits the town began to experience a spike in twin births, far over the normal rate and many of them with blonde hair and blue eyes. The town has a remarkable rate of one twin birth in every five pregnancies, and scientists have never really been able to figure out why, but Camarasa thinks he knows, and has told The Telegraph of this:
I think Candido Godoi may have been Mengele's laboratory, where he finally managed to fulfil his dreams of creating a master race of blond haired, blue eyed Aryans.There is testimony that he attended women, followed their pregnancies, treated them with new types of drugs and preparations, that he talked of artificial insemination in human beings, and that he continued working with animals, proclaiming that he was capable of getting cows to produce male twins. Nobody knows for sure exactly what date Mengele arrived in Candido Godoi, but the first twins were born in 1963, the year in which we first hear reports of his presence.
Did Mengele, the Nazi Angel of Death truly continue with his research in South America, and did he finally find what he was looking for, completing his goal decades after and half a world away from where he began? No one really knows. The only thing that can be said for certain is that Mengele has left an indelible taint upon history and remains a dark spot on twin studies and indeed scientific medical research in general, inhabiting the dank cracks and crevices beneath the mossy rock that is the Nazi legacy. We will probably never know what he was up to, what results he had, or whether he ever was successful to any extent, but we can hope that this grim time in history is never again repeated.
It all adds to the rich tapestry of weirdness that seems to surround twins. What is going on here in these cases? Are there powers beyond our understanding operating with these people? Or is it just strange synchronicity and superstition? It remains to be seen.