DID in history: oldest accounts of multiple personality

Before 1900

Most written accounts are fairly short, and many attribute behaviors or alter personalities to a form of religious possession, or link mental illness with belief in demons.
However some longer accounts were published by “physicians” and some historians found other accounts.

Many ordinary people couldn’t read and books were expensive rather than today’s mass-produced paperbacks and ebooks about DID.

An incomplete list of some of the historical cases of dissociative identity disorder…

  • 1580s: Jeanne Fery: A sixteenth-century case of dissociative identity disorder – van der Hart, Lierens and Goodwin (1997)


  • 1790 – 1952: Multiple personality before “Eve” – Adam Crabtree (1993), a short summary of the psychology of the times and recognition of DID
  • 1790: a woman from Stuttgart described by Eberhard Gmelin speaks different languages depending on which personality is in control at the time


  • 1802: Three cases described by Dwight who publishes them in 1818, with one likely to be multiple personality disorder and the others likely to be dissociative amnesia or fugue (Hacking, 1991), Dwight describes a female with “two souls, each occasionally dormant and occasionally active, and utterly ignorant of what the other was doing”
  • 1815-1875 Double consciousness in Britain 1815-1875 described by skeptical historian Ian Hacking (1991)
  • 1816: Mary Reynolds is described by Mitchill, and later by M. Kenny (1986)
  • 1823: Dewar published the first case of a teenager with DID, a 16 year-old Scottish girl
  • 1823 to early 1900s – Adolescent MPD in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – Elizabeth Bowman (1990)
  • 1834: “Estelle” is treated by Charles Antoine Despine (also described by Catherine Fine, 1988)


  • 1845: Mayo describes an 18 year-old English girl with two personalities, “misconduct in her relatives ” is mentioned
  • 1846: Ward refers to other boys with “double consciousness” whose “nervous system has been weakened by excess, terror or cerebral excitement” which Hacking believes suggests trauma
  • 1860: Mary Reynolds is described by Plumber


  • 1876: “Félida X” is described by Eugène Azam as “double personality” or ”doublement de la vie
  • 1876: “double consciousness” is now referred to as “double personality” according to Hacking (1991)
  • 1887: Barret describes a 17 year-old English boy with two personalities of different ages , with different handwriting. Barret attributes the symptoms with the stress of applying for a scholarship to Cambridge University – his symptoms delay his admission to Cambridge.
  • 1880s: Louis Vivé/Vivet in France – originally described by Bourru and Burot in 1885, 1886, 1887, and in Variatons de la personnalité (1888/95); Camuset in 1882; Mabille and Ramadier in 1886; and Voisin in 1885 and 1887.
    The 19th century DID case of Louis Vivet: New Findings and Re-evaluation (1995/1997) – Henri Faure, John Kersten, Dinet Koopman and Onno van der Hart
  • 1880s: V.L. and his six personalities are treated by Bourru and Burot in France, as described by Sidis and Goodhart in 1904.
  • 1887: Pierre Janet describes “dissociation” as demonstrates that some people have multiple “psychic centers” that he describes as multiple “personalities”, rather than dual or alternating states
  • 1858: Ansel Bourne – Wonderful Works of God: A Narrative of the Wonderful Facts in the Case of Ansel Bourne of Westerly, Rhode Island, Who, In The Midst of Opposition to the Christian Religion Was Suddenly Struck Blind, Dumb, and Deaf, and After Eighteen Days Was Suddenly and Completely Restored In the Presence of Hundreds of Persons, in the Christian Chapel At Westerly, on the 15th of November, 1857. Bourne also describes his father’s death when he was seven, severe poverty following the death, and being forced from school into work at thirteen due to poverty
  • 1881: Ansel Bourne is described as having dissociative fugue episodes and an “alternate personality”.
  • 1894: Peter Scott is described by Dana
  • 1894: Mollie Fancher is described by Abram H. Dailey in Molly Fancher: Brooklyn Enigma; An Authentic Statement of Facts in the Life of Mary J. Fancher, 1894. She is described in The Fasting Girl: A True Victorian Medical Mystery – Michelle Stacey – A much newer and confusing account of the story of Fancher including hysteria/hysterical paralysis and the fame surrounding people claiming to not need to eat in Victorian times.
  • 1895: Mary Barnes Account published in 1903 as A case of double consciousness by Albert Wilson, England, UK. Describes a child whose symptoms are first noticed at age 12 and a half, she has more than a dozen identities, five of which are not clearly defined. It begins after a case of the flu followed by meningitis; she was seriously ill for 6 weeks and hallucinating at times. Her different personalities have amnesia and can’t recognize people she knows. At least seemed to be a toddler and asks “What dat?” for names of things. One identity became dominate at age 17.
  • 1884: Charles L. Dana publishes The study of a case of amnesia or ‘double consciousness’ about a 24 year-old man with no “hysteria, epilepsy, or organic disease”.
  • 1899: Theodore Hyslop describes different types of “double consciousness”

1900 – 1919

  • 1900: From India to Planet Mars by Théodore Flournoy describes Catherine-Elise Muller under the name “Hélène Smith” as a spiritualist with multiple personalities. Flournoy, a psychology professor, realizes that the “martian” language used by one of them is based on French.
  • 1900: Ottolenghi, an Italian , refers to ”sdoppiamenti el le transformazioni della personalitá”
  • 1901: Sally Beauchamp (Clara Norton Fowler) is described by Morton Prince as having multiple personalities
  • 1903-1904: Albert Wilson publishes accounts of 12 1/2-year-old “Mary Barnes” in A case of double consciousness, and A case of multiple personality, after treating her from 1895. By this time, she is aged 21 but mentally aged only a 16 year-old.
  • 1904: “Alma Z“, from 1894, is described by Boris Sidis and Simon P. Goodhart (also known as S. Philip Goodhart) in Multiple Personality: An Experimental Investigation into the Nature of Human Individuallty. as having three personalities. Alma Z’s personalities are referred to as No. 1, Twoey and The Boy, and have some co-consciousness. They describe the “dissociated personalities” as “well-defined”.
  • V.L., who was cared for in the late 1880s by Bourru and Burot, is also described by Sidis and Goodhart who ever to him as a “manifold personality”. V.L. is a 17 year-old boy with an unknown father, unmarried and promiscuous mother, who is wandering and begging on the streets from a very young age. V.L. becomes a thief and is sent to a reformatory as a child, develops conversion disorder with paralysis after a fright with a snake, and is then looked after in an asylum (a general term meaning place of rest). His is described as having 6 “states”, each with different memories, skills and a distinct personality.
  • 1904: Thomas Carson Hanna is described in the New York Times as an “Instance of Multiple Personality” being treated in New York by Boris Sidis, and Sidis’ book is referred to be the journalist. Hanna is described as developing a second personality after an accident with a head injury, and then switching between the two until they eventually merge.
  • 1904: Reverend Thomas Carson Hanna is described by Boris Sidis as developing a second personality after a head injury, they eventually merge
  • 1905: Prince publishes the book ”The Dissociation of a Personality’‘ about “Miss Beauchamp” describing three personalities
  • 1906: Burnett describes a 16 year-old American boy who has had problems since early childhood. He He attributes the different personalities to epilepsy.
  • 1906: Gordon reports a 19 year-old American with two personalities and a third state who struggle over control of the body. Gordon describes the boys “delusion belief” about having two ego states and calls it “epileptic psychosis”. Problems continue for at least 9 years despite epilepsy medication.
  • 1907: A young girl from London is reported to the British Psychical Research Society as having ten distinct personalities, and is mentioned in the New York Times in an article called ”A Girl’s 10 Minds” and ”A case of hysteria”. The personalities become apparent after she nearly dies from a severe case of flu, after ten years of treatment they fuse together, at age 22. She is treated by Dr Albert Wilson has presented the case to a skeptical Medico-Psychological Association, who come to believe it is genuine.
  • 1909: My life as a dissociated personality by B.C.A. – Morton Prince persuaded Clara Norton Fowler and her alters to write this
  • 1909: Charles van Osten is reported as having multiple personalities, with symptoms appearing after a head injury. Van Osten has gone missing from hospital. The New York Times quotes Prof. Diefendorf as saying that Van Osten was distressed by the Slocum disaster, and may be looking for his wife and child. ”HYPNOTIZED, FINDS HOMES.: Van Osten, Without Hesitation, Takes Doctor to New York Addresses. Special to The New York Times” (20 May 1909).
  • 1916: After around 12 years of treatment Doris Fischer‘s five personalities are described by Walter F. Prince and Theodore Hyslop (1915), Hyslop (1917), and Walter F. Prince (1923). Together they publish over 2,000 pages about her symptoms and treatment. Doris links her violent, alcoholic father to developing different personalities and describes her mother encouraging her to dissociate, with problems beginning at age three and a half, after an assault by her father. The case is reported in the press.
  • 1919, 1920: Grace Oliver and her alter personality “Spanish Maria” are described in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.


These years are the aftermath of World War I.

  • 1926: Bernice R. is described by Henry Herbert Goddard in “Two Souls in One Body?”; Bernice describes incest which Goddard regards as a hallucination.
  • 1926, 1927: A 19 year-old American woman “Norma” is described by Goddard with a four-year-old alter personality “Polly” and severe conversion disorder causing episodes of paralysis and mutism. Her history includes the deaths of her twin sister and three other siblings before age 11, paternal incest at age 14, the separation from her surviving siblings and emotional abuse by relatives, and the death of both parents by age 17. Goddard calls the incest a transference hallucination and believes her traumatic history has resulted in a daydream-like escape. The two personalities gradually merge.
  • 1933: John Charles Poultney is described in Persons One and Three: A Study of Multiple Personalities – Shepherd Ivory Franz, Poultney gets a severe head injury during World War I and starts switching back and forth between two personalities

1940 onwards

These years involve World War II, with further understanding of trauma and dissociative amnesia, the introduction of the American DSM psychiatric manual and the World Health Organization equivalent, and the impact of Vietnam war veterans leading to the creation of PTSD as a separate diagnosis.

All years

  • Multiple personality and dissociation, 1791-1990 : a complete bibliography – Philip M. Coons, George B. Greaves and Carole Goettman


Picture of a pile of old books with Dissociative Identity Disorder historical cases on the right

J8’s Book Review: Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

by guest blogger Jade Miller, at thoughtsfromj8.com

Book Review: Toxic Parents

In keeping with recent events in my life, I picked up Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, by Dr. Susan Forward, about a month ago.  The book was a quick and decent read, but I think it was a little lacking for me.  Probably what I really need is something more specifically focused on narcissistic parenting.  Anyhow, here is a quick synopsis on it, with some commentary.

Toxic Parents, as most books like these do, starts with Part 1, which is essentially an introduction of their take on the various types of toxic parents, with a brief description of each. They are labelled The Inadequate Parents, The Controllers, The Alcoholics, The Verbal Abusers, The Physical Abusers, and The Sexual Abusers.  The author expounds on the types of covert or overt manipulation employed by that type of toxic parent, and the physical and/or emotional wounds resultant not only of the offending parent, but of the role that the non-offending parent plays as well.  Often the passivity of the non-offending parent, and their failure to acknowledge or intervene in the situation, can create just as many wounds as the primary toxic parent’s actions.

Part 2 of the book is about various strategies for reclaiming your life.  It walks through the ethics involved with forgiveness vs. non-forgiveness (note: the author is not a Christian, and forgiveness is not promoted as essential in this text), and then moves on to dealing with the emotional fallout from being raised by the various types of toxic parents. It works through the factor of responsibility, since most adult children of toxic parents have been raised to feel overly responsible, even for things that are legitimately not their fault. It helps define who is now responsible for what, once you are physically independent from your parents and out on your own.

The big recommendation in this book, which didn’t really apply to me since I’m no longer in relationship with my parents, was a confrontation with them about how their behavior affected you as a child and continues to affect you, with the intent to let them know you will no longer engage with them when they do x, y, or z or behave in other ways that are detrimental to your relationship with them. The author suggested that the confrontation could be in person, ideally in a therapeutic setting with a counselor or therapist as a supporting person. Or it could be a written confrontation, since writing was a guaranteed way to be able to express all thoughts and feelings with no interruption, and with the ability to revise and edit until you are satisfied with the message you are sending.

Book cover of Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Dr Susan Forward.

Toxic Parents Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Dr Susan Forward.

Beyond the confrontation, Toxic Parents discusses ways to respond neutrally to emotionally charged situations with parents, and break the cycle of dysfunction.

I know my analysis all sounds rather dry, but that’s mostly because that’s the effect the book had on me… neither here nor there, really.  It was helpful to read something that marginally confirmed that I’m not crazy, but I feel like perhaps one of the types of toxic parents that wasn’t included (but should have been) was The Narcissistic Parent. Perhaps I will email the author and suggest a future revision.

My parents don’t really fit most of the categories of toxic parents discussed in this book. They were at times inadequate, at times controlling, with a little bit of covert verbal and/or emotional abuse here, a dash of neglect there, and heaping amounts of chaos and unpredictability everywhere.  My parents knew how to say a lot of the right words. But they only meant them about 24.8% of the time. The rest of the time, it was just empty words. But along those lines, they were good at building a false image of normality and the illusion of a loving, healthy relationship so no one on the outside would suspect how unhealthy things really were inside our house.

In keeping with their narcissistic tendencies, they tended to praise and/or give attention to the things I said or did that made them feel good as people or as parents. If I did something that resulted in positive feedback from others about myself or my abilities in a certain area, my parents congratulated themselves for having birthed/raised such a talented person, even if they didn’t understand or have any interest in said ability outside any vicarious attention they could attain from it through me.  They basically rode on my coattails, and worked hard to channel my interest and energy into things that ultimately benefited them. Any interests or successes I had that did not directly relate to them were either ignored, downplayed, outright punished, or slyly undermined until I let go of them on my own.  My life became about my image, or more to the point, their image as reflected by my successes or failures or strengths or weaknesses. I’ll likely write more about narcissism as it relates to my upbringing in a future post on my own blog.

Anyway, I can neither strongly praise nor sharply criticize this book. It was a bit “blah” for me, but hopefully for the reasons I described above, that might be understandable.  I’m glad I read it (I guess?) but I can remember nothing particularly memorable or supremely helpful about it.  Cheers. ~J8

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20 of the best mental health jokes and humorous quotes


Patients Verses Psychiatrists Q. What's the difference between the psychiatrists and the patients at the mental hospital? A. The patients are the ones that eventually get better and go home!

Patients Verses Psychiatrists
Q. What’s the difference between the psychiatrists and the patients at the mental hospital?
A. The patients are the ones that eventually get better and go home!


“Psychiatrists urge me to take my tranquilizers. When I don’t they become agitated. I take their pills to calm them down.”

Brian Spellman


“Talking to yourself is okay. Answering back is risky.”

Brian Spellman, If the mind fits, shrink it


“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at you 3 best friends. If they’re ok then it’s you.”

Rita Mae Brown


“1 in 5 people have dandruff. 1 in 4 people have a mental health problem. I’ve had both. ”

Ruby Wax


“My therapist told me that I over-analyze everything. I explained to him that he only thinks this because of his unhappy relationship with his mother.”

― Michel Templet


“A question that always makes me hazy is it me or are the others crazy? ”
Albert Einstein


“Ambien might have mentally just tossed my salad. WITH CROUTONS.”

Jen Lancaster


“I learned to smile, avoiding happiness advice. ”

Brian Spellman, The Cartoonist’s Book Camp


“I’m afraid to see a psychiatrist about the voices in my head. She might know who they are.”

Stanley Victor Paskavich, Stantasyland: Quips Quotes and Quandaries


“They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me.”

Nathaniel Lee


“The good part about having a mental disorder is having a valid reason for all the stupid things we do because of a damaged prefrontal cortex. However, the best part is seeing someone completely sane do the exact same things, without a valid excuse. This is the great equalizer of God and his little gift for all us crazy people to enjoy.”

Shannon L. Alder


“If you don’t belong in a mental institution, you must be a very boring person.”

Gala Siegel


“Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.”

C. G. Jung


“I decided early in graduate school that I needed to do something about my moods. It quickly came down to a choice between seeing a psychiatrist or buying a horse. Since almost everyone I knew was seeing a psychiatrist, and since I had an absolute belief that I should be able to handle my own problems, I naturally bought a horse.”

Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness


“There is, incidentally, no way of talking about cats that enables one to come off as a sane person.”

Dan Greenberg


“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”

Edgar Allen Poe


“I told my wife the truth. I told her I was seeing a psychiatrist. Then she told me the truth: that she was seeing a psychiatrist, two plumbers, and a bartender.”

― Rodney Dangerfield


“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.”

George Carlin

Generation X Delusions

by Dave Robinson, M.D.

Copyright Rapid Psychler Press http://www.psychler.com

I was the leading supplier of smoked salmon to the city’s restaurants until I inhaled too many fish-bits into my lungs.

I served in the regiment commanded by Colonel Sanders in the Great Chicken War.

The dots and dashes on the highways are a secret message in Morse Code that I alone must decipher.

Somebody urinated in my genetic pool.

There is a rotund man in a red suit who sees my therapist before I do. He has a fear of crawling down small chimneys on Christmas Eve – he suffers from santaclaustrophobia.

Every now and then I go to the driving range to hit a bucket of chicken.

My career as an arsonist came to an end when I was arrested for trying to start a fire in a rainforest.

My imaginary companion parlayed my childhood fantasies into a multi-million dollar burger franchise.

I was never happy being depressed.

I was the world’s most unfortunate Multiple Personality victim – each of my alters had its own Personality Disorder.

I lost a bet that I could quit gambling.

I do not recall being voted the Village Idiot, but my name was on the ballot.

They named a medical syndrome after me called the Generation X triad: substance ingestion, amnesia & priapism.

The bathtub test

During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director what the criterion was which defined whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.


“Well,” said the Director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”


“Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup.


“No.” said the Director, “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?


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50 Shades of Grey is like Twilight – Domestic Abuse is normalized

The mass marketing campaign that follows the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy seems unaware that it promotes non-consensual physical and sexual activity.

50 Shades of Grey is not portraying Safe, Sane and Consensual kink (BDSM) within a relationship… for instance Ana says “No” to sex, and Christian then rapes her. Some bloggers have also pointed out the undertones of pedophilia, despite Ana’s reported age of 21.

50 shades of abuse romanticized poster

50 shades of abuse romanticized from http://www.csc-scc.gc.ca

The level of emotional abuse and manipulative behavior includes stalking, isolation from others, and harassment,  paralleling criticism of the Twilight Saga, which ironically was written by a woman with very conservate views on relationships.

How many of the overt and covert signs of domestic violence and emotional abuse can you spot from 50 Shades? What counts as criminal activity where you live?

Read 50 shades of grey Warning Signs & The Cycle of Abuse.

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Book review: Denial A Memoir of Terror by @JessicaEStern

Recently I wrote a guest post on another blog, reviewing an unusual memoir of PTSD written by Dr Jessica Stern, an internationally renowned expert on terrorism.

Read the review here:


Some people's lives seem to flow in a narrative: mine had many stops and starts. That's what trauma does. It interrupts the plot. You can't process it because it doesn't fit with what came before or what comes afterwards. Denial: A memoir of terror

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