So I’ve had the last few days off from my 9 to 5. And this has lead to what some might call an unreasonable amount of television. I’m binging Legion as I write this, and frankly, its fantastic. If you’ve watched much of this show, you’re aware that they spend alot of time delving into each other’s minds. I love strange fiction, but what I love more are strange realities. So it got me thinking about cases of Shared Delusions.
Sometimes know as Folie a Deux, or Shared Psychosis. Shared Delusions are rare, and usually occur between two very close individuals, almost always family members – though I did read an interesting tale of a shared delusion between an elderly woman and her dog. So without further ado:
These are 7 Strange Cases of Shared Delusions
7. Margaret and Michael
Margaret and Michael are the first recorded case of a shared delusion. They were a couple in their 30’s in France in the 1800’s. The psychosis they shared was less exciting than some of the others on the list. It’s important however to take note that they were the first. They shared the delusion that someone was entering their home and spreading around dust and dirt, and wearing down the soles of their shoes.
6. The Three Sisters – Folie A Trois
Three sisters in South Carolina – Ages 21, 22, and 23 – moved in together to assist the youngest of the three with child care. She had become paranoid that her children were in danger from her mother, who had a history of mental illness. The sisters became increasingly enamored with their religion, praying together for hours and holding bible studies in their home.
The youngest sister began to believe that God was speaking with her and had a special plan for the sisters. It didn’t take long for the other sisters to believe as well. The real trouble began when they came to believe that God had given them a new house – one that was currently occupied.
They approached the homeowners, asking if their room was ready, and started to become violent when they were turned away. After breaking several windows and trying to force themselves into the home, the police arrived. The sisters then attacked, and attempted to kill the officers.
Once in custody the sisters were placed in the same cell, they disrobed, held hands, and chanted. They became increasingly paranoid about the officers in the jail, and eventually attacked them as well. At this point the sisters were separated and involuntarily hospitalized. The youngest sister was found to have schizophrenia, and faired well with treatment. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The other two sisters delusions subsided after being separated from one another, with no other diagnosis aside from sharing a delusion with their sister. They were also found not guilty by reason of insanity. All three sisters were however court ordered to have no unsupervised visitations with one another.
5. Pauline and Juliet – Heavenly Creatures
15 year old Juliet Hume and 16 year old Pauline Parker were best friends. So close in fact, that their parents became concerned about their relationship, which they feared may have been sexual in nature. The girls spent their time together writing novels and singing opera – they shared what some would call delusions of grandeur. Believing they would go on to Hollywood and have their novels turned into motion pictures. They created their own religion, naming famous Hollywood stars as saints. They even created a parallel dimension – The fourth world.
Things took a turn for the dark however, when Juliet’s parents divorced.
Juliet’s parents thought to send her to South Africa to live with an aunt. They told the girls that Pauline would be permitted to live with her if her mother agreed. The girls knew however, that this was not something Pauline’s mother would allow.
That’s when the girls hatched a plan to murder Pauline’s mother. And on June 22nd 1954, they beat her to death with a brick.
While their insanity plea did not hold up in court, the girls only served about 5 and a half years in prison. The now both live in the UK under assumed identities. There has been a movie, and several books written about the murder.
4. A Case of Shared Delusion with a Pet
An elderly woman, in her early 80’s, lived alone with her dog for quite some time after her husband passed away. She complained about her upstairs neighbor making loud noises in the night, moving furniture and the like. Then became increasingly paranoid of his behavior. She began to believe he was attempting to scare her out of her home, and was using ‘violet rays’ to do so. The woman attributed the rays as a cause of various health problems, and was concerned for her dogs safety as well. She created a makeshift shelter for herself and one for her dog that she encouraged it to sleep in. The dog became so acclimatized to this, that it would run into its ‘shelter’ and hid anytime it heard a noise from upstairs.
In all of the cases of shared delusions i’ve read about, this is the only one I could find involving anything other than human.
3. The Tromp Family – One of the rare Cases of Shared Delusions involving 5 people
The case of the Tromp family is certainly stranger than fiction. A normal family of 5 flee from their family farm in fear for their lives. Two Parents and their 3 adult children, with no history of mental illness, pick up and leave all their technology behind. Not just their technology was left behind, but also their passports, credit cards, and any sort of paper trail. They took only cash and left the rest behind.
The son, Mitchell, was the only family member to bring along his phone, which the family promptly made him throw from the vehicle. They were convinced they were being tracked. Mitchell parted ways with the family somewhere along the road on day one.
During a stop on day two, the remaining sisters decided to part ways with their parents as well. They stole a car to do so, and headed into town to report their parents as missing persons. Shortly afterwards the sisters parted ways with each other. Ella, returned home to the family farm, as did Mitchell the next day. Riana was found in the back of a utility vehicle (she had crawled aboard) in what was described as a catatonic state – she could not remember her name or how she had gotten there. She was hospitalized due to her mental state
Husband and Wife Mark and Jacoba continued on without the children, but they also separated from one another. Jacoba was found wandering and upset the next day, and was taken in for psychiatric treatment. Several days later Mark was found on the side of the road heading towards an airport, he was released into the custody of his brother (a police officer).
Police do not believe that there was ever any threat to the family.
2. The Eriksson Twins
This is one of the stranger cases of shared delusions. A set of twins in their late 30’s, Sabina and Ursula Eriksson, traveled together to Liverpool. Sabina had lived in Ireland, and Ursula in the US – and the two came together for what was seemingly a vacation to reconnect.
Not long after arriving in Liverpool they stopped at a local police station to report concerns about Sabina’s children back in Ireland. After the police agreed to look into the matter, the twins headed towards London. The driver of their coach requested to search their backs at one of the stops, due to some suspicious behavior, and the twins refused. The police were then contacted, as the driver and service manager became alarmed that the twins might be carrying explosives in their luggage. Police chatted with the twins and concluded they were not dangerous and let them be on their way.
Shortly after Sabina and Ursula were spotted walking along side the highway, and Sabina was swiped by a vehicle in an attempt to cross the road. Officers arrived at the scene, with a local crime show Traffic Cops in tow. While the officers we being brought up to speed on the situation, Ursula lunged into on coming traffic and hit the side of a truck. Sabina followed suit and was hit by an on coming car. Both twins sustained injuries from the incident.
When the ambulance arrived Sabina had a full scale melt down — Screaming at officers (worried they would steal her organs) and attacking them. They eventually subdued and arrested her. Ursula headed to the hospital with two broken legs.
Sabina’s Story Continues:
Sabina was released after one night in jail with time served – she was only sentenced to one day in custody. She left on foot and came across a couple of guys out walking their dog. She mentioned that she was looking for a place to stay and one of the men, Glenn Hollinshead, offered his house. The night didn’t go entirely smoothly, Sabina became paranoid about ‘poisioned cigarettes’ . She did however stay for the night. The next evening she stabbed her host to death. His neighbor notified police of the situation and Sabina took off. She was found later on the side of the highway, hitting herself in the head with a hammer.
When police attempted to take her into custody, she lept off a bridge and onto the highway 40 feet below. She suffered two broken ankles and a fractured skull.
1. The Papin Sisters
Christine and Lea Papin grew up in France in the early 1900’s. Despite their 7 year age difference they were very close. This is likely due, in part, to the abuse they endured in their youth. Unlike some of the more spontaneous cases of shared delusions, the sisters did spend some time in a mental institution in their youth. They were always together, but unusually silent, leading some to believe they were communicating telepathically.
In the mid 1920’s the sisters became live-in servants for René Lancelin. They lived in his mansion with Rene, his wife, and their adult daughter. The Papin sisters isolated themselves, spending their time working and with each other. They were uninterested with the world outside. This continued for 7 years without incident.
One evening in February of 1933 Rene had dinner plans with his wife. He waited some time for her to arrive. When she didn’t show up, he returned to their home to look for her. Union his arrival, he found himself locked out of the home, and contacted local authorities.
Police entered the house to a gruesome scene. Rene Lancelin’s wife and daughter had be brutally murdered. Blood spatter covered the home, the women’s faces had been smashed beyond recognition. The Papin Sisters were found soon after. They laid sans clothing on their bed, and confessed nonchalantly to the murders. The sisters showed no signs of remorse.