The Tale of the Silent Twins: June and Jennifer Gibbons

When an expectant mother finds out she is pregnant with twins, it’s usually a joyous occasion —where she can imagine dressing them alike and watching them grow up together into beautiful, kind, healthy people. Unfortunately for parents Aubrey and Gloria Gibbons, that wasn’t the case. Their identical twin daughters, June and Jennifer, were noticeably different from other kids. They had a secret language and were eventually dubbed “The Silent Twins” because they refused to speak to anyone but each other.

June and Jennifer Gibbons / Broadmoor Hospital
Source: Flickr / Photo by Associated Newspapers, Shutterstock

Their family thought they were distancing themselves due to bullying, but there were darker reasons. The girls had a powerful and rather eerie bond, but they didn’t care for each other as much as they led on. After ending up in an insane asylum, the girls realized one of them had to die for the other to live a normal life. At the end, the fate of the girls didn’t have such a fairytale ending.

This is the spooky case of The Silent Twins…

Military Brats

Aubrey and Gloria Gibbons moved from Barbados to Britain in the early 1960s as part of the Windrush generation. Aubrey joined the Royal Air Force and was posted overseas. On April 11th, 1963, the proud parents welcomed identical twin girls into the world, June and Jennifer Gibbons. The girls were born in a military hospital in the British colony.

June and Jennifer Gibbons
June and Jennifer Gibbons. Source: Flickr

Later on that year, the family returned to the UK when Aubrey moved to the RAF base in Linton, Yorkshire. The family settled in, and the girls seemed happy and normal, despite the fact that they were late talkers. No one could have ever predicted the eerie direction their life would go in.

A Twin Thing

June and Jennifer were often described as “inseparable,” but that’s pretty common when it comes to twins. Their teachers mentioned that they would only speak to each other and to their dolls. The twins didn’t like hanging out with the other kids and slowly started to withdraw from their family, too.

June and Jennifer Gibbons
June and Jennifer Gibbons. Source: Pinterest

Naturally, the more they distanced themselves from other people, the closer they got to each other. They also spoke in a “secret language” that no one else could understand. It’s only normal for twins to share a deep, strong bond, so at first, their behavior wasn’t too concerning. Still, there was something bizarre and creepy about the connection June and Jennifer shared.

A Couple of Copy Cats

As youngsters, the girls mirrored each other’s behavior. Apparently, the twins would walk side by side, taking steps with the same foot at the same time. But when anyone noticed and looked at them, they would just stop until the person looked away. (This seems like a classic twin horror movie.)

June and Jennifer Gibbons
June and Jennifer Gibbons. Source: Twitter

They chewed their bites at the same time and even coordinated their breathing. They even showed some psychopathic tendencies, like a lack of emotion. But for some reason, it didn’t raise any red flags… at first. Even though they didn’t speak to anyone other than each other, they loved literature and always expressed themselves through writing.

Bouncing Around From School to School

When they were eight years old, their dad was posted to RAF Chivernor, and they moved to Devon. Reportedly, the twins got bullied in school for their skin color, as well as their strange social skills. Of course, this made the girls even more reclusive and really separated themselves from the outside world. It was like they lived in their own little bubble.

June and Jennifer Gibbons
June and Jennifer Gibbons. Source: Imgur

In 1974, Aubrey was transferred once again to an RAF base in Pembrokeshire. The quiet 11-year-olds moved to the Furzy Park Housing estate in Haverfordwest with their family. The move wasn’t easy for them. They went to Haverfordwest County Secondary School with their big brother David, but they weren’t happy.

The Bullying Continued

Sadly, the bullying continued at their new school. In the 1970s, black twins weren’t often seen around Wales, so they were an easy target. The girls dealt with relentless torment and were frequently made fun of. The twins hated the school environment, and that’s when things got worse. Despite their love of literature, the girls refused to read or write in school.

African American twins
Illustrative Photograph. Photo by Viacheslav Lakobchuk / 123rf

Over time, they pushed away more and more people, including their parents. Eventually, they were detached from everyone and were alone in their silent world. Unfortunately, no one really paid attention to their troubling behavior. Their family just thought that they would eventually grow out of it.

Some Alarming Behavior

In 1976, everything changed. A medic came to give the students their TB jabs (vaccines). He was confused and concerned by the twins’ unemotional reaction to the injections and contacted a child psychiatrist. This was the twins’ first interaction with authorities, which ultimately led them to spend ten years in Britain’s most notorious secure mental institution.

June and Jennifer Gibbons.
June and Jennifer Gibbons. Source: Pinterest

The psychiatrist immediately noticed their problems with speech and sent them to a speech therapist at Withybush Hospital. Even though they rarely spoke to anyone other than each other, the therapist was able to record them speaking in their “secret language.” As it turned out, the language was just English mixed with Barbadian slang, spoken really quickly.

Splitting Them Up

After careful consideration, it was decided that June and Jennifer should be transferred to Eastgate Centre for Special Education in Pembroke. It seemed to be better than their previous school, but they remained silent during therapy sessions. They needed to do something to get these growing girls to start speaking.

African American twins
Illustrative Photograph. Photo by Blend Images / 123rf

In 1977, the family and therapists decided to try separating the girls to see if they would open up. June was sent to St. David’s Adolescent Unit, but it didn’t help. Not only did she not speak, she reportedly didn’t even move. She would often just lay in her bed at the residential center. Needless to say, the experiment didn’t work.

A Sinister Childhood Game

The staff who treated the sisters described their relationship as “controlling,” however, they couldn’t tell which twin was the more dominant one. It seemed like no matter what, nobody could get through to them. They remained silent, but what’s strange (and creepy) is that whenever they weren’t together, their movements usually mirrored each other’s.

June and Jennifer Gibbons
June and Jennifer Gibbons. Source: Flickr

Marjorie Wallace, a journalist and mental health campaigner got to know the twins and described their behavior as a “sinister childhood game.” She explained, “They had these rituals where they decided between them which one would wake first, which one would breathe first, and the other wasn’t allowed to breathe until the first one breathed. It was like some sinister childhood game that got out of control.”

Writing Their True Feelings

At 16, the girls left their school and went back to Haverfordwest. Their astonishing bond was as strong as ever, but now they had to face the difficulties of being teenagers. Even though they refused to speak to the outside world, the twins found solace in writing.

African American woman writing in a notebook
Illustrative Photograph. Photo by dolgachov / 123rf

Their only way of expressing themselves was writing diaries, essays, poems, stories, and novels. June wrote a book called Pepsi Cola Addict (which was self-published) about a student being seduced by a teacher. June also described her toxic relationship with her sister in her diary: “We have become fatal enemies in each other’s eyes.”

Getting Rid of Her Shadow

That wasn’t all June revealed in her journals. She also wrote, “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?” Obviously, their relationship wasn’t as loving as it seemed. But things only got darker.

June Gibbons
June Gibbons. Source: Twitter

The girls began thinking about what would happen if the other one died. June continued, “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.” We’ll get into all of this shortly.

A Life of Crime

In the summer of 1981, their behavior took a drastic turn for the worst. After years of self-isolation, the girls discovered drugs, alcohol, and boys. It didn’t take long for them to end up in a psychiatric hospital. In October of that year, the twins went on a five-week crime spree, which included burglary, vandalism, theft, and arson.

Two girls playing June and Jennifer in an Opera based off of them
Talise Trevigne and Alison Crookendale playing June and Jennifer in the Opera The Silent Twins. Photo by Alastair Muir / Shutterstock

They were eventually caught red-handed, trying to burn down the Pembrokeshire Technical College. June and Jennifer pleaded guilty to 16 counts of burglary, theft, and arson at Swansea Crown Court, and in May 1982, they were sentenced to indefinite detention at Broadmoor under the Mental Health Act.

Getting Locked Up

Journalist Miss Wallace later touched on the court case: “The unemotional legal pantomime went on around them without touching them.” She later wrote a book about the sisters titled The Silent Twins. They seemingly showed no emotion at their sentencing, but they did write about it.

A court case taking place
Illustrative Photograph. Source: Twitter

The girls enjoyed writing fictional stories and being imaginative, but they also wrote down their true feelings. Thanks to these journals, we got an inside scoop into their toxic relationship. Things between them didn’t get any better while they were institutionalized, and their mental health continued to decline. The girls started to resent each other, each one feeling like she can’t live a normal life with her twin.

Going Down as a Psychopath

A day after they were sentenced, June expressed her feelings in her diary: “Spinning in circles. Sick. Mental. Psychopathic. Imagine how I felt. Me? A mental psychopath? A dangerous evil, ruthless criminal! Me! At last, my torment, my self-consciousness, my violence is known. I am labeled! Ah! Now I know my fate! June Alison Gibbons, aged just 19, going down in history as a psychopath.”

An African American patient and doctor sitting at a table with a paper and pen
Illustrative Photograph. Photo by Andriy Popov / 123rf

She continued, “Please, God! Don’t let me suffer as much in my new life as I have here. Let me be bold enough to speak openly. Let me trust the doctors and nurses and no longer be afraid of people. For the past seven months, I have been a soul with no hope. Don’t let this disease paralyze me again, destroying my abilities, tying up my tongue like firewood.”

Getting Better?

It seemed that June truly did want to get better and start opening up to more people. While they were serving their sentence, they continued to express themselves through their diaries in prison notebooks. Jennifer also wrote about her complex relationship with her sister.

A woman sitting on a bench near a lake
Illustrative Photograph. Source: Twitter

In one of her entries, she wrote: “I really aim to be alone. Yet, I am deceiving myself. Can I stand being alone? My heart does not beat so fast now. It only beats fast when J is around.” Based on their journals, it seemed like the twins gave each other anxiety, and they were aware of their toxic relationship. So, why couldn’t they break away?

A Decade in the Hospital

Over the years, June and Jennifer made multiple attempts to get released. Apparently, they even sent the Queen letters to help them. Sadly, they were always rejected. The girls stayed in the asylum for over a decade. However, during their last few years there, the girls reportedly started talking to the hospital staff. Were things looking up?

Glanrhyd Hospital
Glanrhyd Hospital. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Jennifer wrote a diary entry saying, “What a senseless degrading havoc I have made of my poor sweet human life.” Despite their numerous journal entries, the twins were heavily medicated at Broadmoor, which dwindled their creativity, and their poetry and short stories suffered because of it.

Breaking the Bond

In 1993, the girls were finally moved to the Caswell Clinic at Glanrhyd hospital, a medium-security unit closer to home. On March 9th, the girls got in the car and headed towards Bridgend, but Jennifer appeared to be physically weak. After being rushed to the Princess of Wales Hospital, she died at 6:30 PM that evening.

Jennifer Gibbons
Jennifer Gibbons. Source: Twitter

Jennifer’s death was strange and unexpected; she was only 29 years old. In a post-mortem examination, it was discovered that her cause of death was undiagnosed myocarditis, a sudden inflammation of the heart. However, June later revealed in an interview that the pair actually had a death ‘pact.’

The Death Pact

Following her sister’s death, June remained at the Caswell Clinic for a year and then returned to West Wales, where she attempted to rebuild her life. According to Wallace, during their stay in the hospital, the girls started to believe that one of them must die for the other to be free.

June Gibbons
Source: Twitter

When Wallace interviewed the twins, Jennifer calmly stated that she chose to be the one to die so that June could have a normal life: “We said we weren’t going to speak to anybody… I’m going to have to die.” At this point, the journalist was alarmed: “I got very frightened because I could see that they meant it, and they said, we have made a pact.”

Jennifer “Chose” to Die

Wallace explained that after leaving Broadmoor and were free from the high-security hospital, she knew one of them would have to die in order for the other one to be free. “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 to visit June.”

Broadmoor Hospital
Broadmoor Hospital. Photo by Associated Newspapers / Shutterstock

So basically, Jennifer thought herself to death? The journalist went on: “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 the freedom that Jennifer had given her.”

One Must Die For the Other to Live

Wallace revealed that during her visit, June was reacting strangely to her sister’s death, saying things like, “I’m free at last, liberated, and at last Jennifer has given up her life for me.” If that wasn’t creepy enough, Jennifer reportedly told June that she was going to die the day before she actually did. It should be noted that there were no drugs or poison in her system.

A view out of the front window of a car while someone drives
Illustrative Photograph. Photo by Alena Ozerova / Shutterstock

Jennifer reportedly fell asleep on June’s lap with her eyes wide open in the van right before her death. (This story keeps getting freakier.) June wrote a poem on Jennifer’s headstone saying: “We once were two/We two made one/We no more two/Through life be one/Rest in peace.”

Living without Her Twin

June is still alive today and occasionally gives interviews about their lives, and is no longer under psychiatric surveillance. Sisterly bonds are strong and dramatic. No matter how much sisters fight, at the end of the day, they usually care about each other. At the very least, they don’t want (or “need”) their sibling to die. Unfortunately, June and Jennifer didn’t have that kind of bond.

A woman sitting alone on a park bench
Illustrative Photograph. Source: Twitter

Their relationship came with isolation, hatred, mental health issues, crime, and over a decade in a psychiatric hospital. They believed one of them needed to die for the other to truly live. At least June managed to build a new life for herself. Sadly, this tragedy had to happen to get her there.

They aren’t the only twins with a creepy connection. Meet the Jim Twins. After being separated at birth, they reunited and discovered some eerie coincidences.