Monday, July 6, 2015

The Real Sybil - Multiple Personalities - How did she die?

Shirley Ardell Mason
The inspiration for Sybil

Born January 25, 1923 – Died February 26, 1998

When Shirley Ardell Mason died in her modest Lexington KY home in 1998 only a few knew the truth about her. The unassuming neighbor and local painter on Henry Clay Blvd had lived in relative obscurity, but it wasn't long before the world learned that she was the "real" SYBIL.

Shirley Mason was the psychiatric patient whose story of multiple personality disorder had been told in the fictionalized best selling book by Flora Rheta Schreiber and inspired the Emmy-award winning 1976 two-night TV event starring Sally Field.

The TV-film had shown American audiences that their former "Gidget /Flying Nun" could really act - as well as proving that the exploration of multiple personalities (dissociative identity disorder) could make for creepy compelling drama. The film was laid out like a horror-mystery in which a savvy psychiatrist named Dr. Cornelia Wilbur learns that her patient Sybil Dorsett has developed separate personalities to cope with the sadistic childhood abuse dealt by a schizophrenic mother. Through therapeutic hypnosis Sybil's mother "Hattie" (chillingly played by actress Martine Bartlett) is revealed in flashbacks as inflicting her child with daily ritualistic abuse involving cold water enemas and sexual probing with kitchen utensils. 

Nobody will know if Shirley Mason ever truly received that kind of abuse from her Mother or if it was fabricated by Dr. Cornelia Wilbur? There is a great deal of controversy regarding Shirley's case - but more on that later.

Shirley Mason was born January 25, 1923 and raised in Dodge City, MN -  the only child of Walter Mason and Martha "Mattie" Atkinson. Her father was a carpenter/architect and the family were devout Seventh Day Adventists.

While the book paints mother Mattie as having clandestine lesbian orgies in bushes and defecating on lawns for kicks - the most that neighbors could muster about her in recent years was that Mattie was an odd bird: voyeuristic after dark and having a witchy screechy laugh. 

One factual childhood episode that caused Shirley trauma was used in the book. At age 7, Shirley was lured to the home office of Dr. Flores (in the  book, he's "Dr Quinones") to supposedly play with his daughter, but instead was given a needed tonsillectomy. The child was forced onto a table, held down by assistants and the town pharmacist and given ether (via cloth held on her face). The terrified Shirley kicked and flailed under the "flashlights" and looming people ("The People! The People!") and awoke terrified. 

Critics of psychiatrist Dr. Wilbur believe that she heard fragments of Shirley's story and assumed she had also been sexually abused and blamed the mother, assumed by Wilbur to be a paranoid schizophrenic.

Since the death of Shirley Mason, there have been NY Times articles, NPR stories, and books (SYBIL EXPOSED) claiming that remaining records show that Dr. Wilbur was not exploring the truth but rather planting the truth as she wanted it to be. They claim that she was planting false memories (via sessions with Thorazine and sodium pentothal injections) on an eager-to-please, highly hypnotizable hysteric who had a deep crush on her doctor.

There is another reported story that tells of Shirley Mason seeing another shrink named Dr. Spiegel when Dr. Wilbur was out of town, and Shirley asked him if he "wanted her to switch to other personalities?" When he asked where that idea came from, Shirley claimed Dr. Wilbur wanted her to do that. 

Shirley's fundamentalist sect in Minnesota had forbade reading fiction, and some theorize that the imaginative creative child was drawn to making up stories into adulthood. There are claims that Dr. Wilbur had an interest in multiple personalities and had suggested Shirley read up on the subject. Soon Shirley was revealing childlike "Peggy" (the name her mother called her, based on popular dolls of her childhood) and then later asked to be the subject of a book. 

Theories abound that Dr. Wilbur wanted the notoriety for a landmark discovery and had made a book deal with author Schreiber early on - and had to deliver the sensational goods. 

Fun fact: Joanne Woodward had won a 1957 Oscar for THE THREE FACES OF EVE , and later played Dr. Wilbur in the 1976 film.

Shirley later recanted her multiples in a letter to her doctor saying it was all a ruse for attention. This was dismissed by Dr. Wilbur (and included in the book/movie) as a manipulative ploy to avoid further treatment.

Nobody will know the 100% truth since patient, doctor and author are dead - but we do know that in the 25 years after the book and TV-movie, diagnoses of MPD went from dozens to 40,000 in North America alone.

Shirley Mason got a job teaching art at a college in Ohio. She later relocated to Lexington KY and began selling paintings from her home. Dr. Wilbur had relocated to that city as well. Shirley became more reclusive and depended on Dr. Wilbur for support. Shirley eventually nursed Wilbur in her final years with Parkinson's. Wilbur died in 1992 and left Shirley $25,000 and all SYBIL royalties.

Shirley Mason spent her final years painting, gardening (she was vegetarian) and taking care of her cats. She remained devoted to her Seventh-Day Adventist faith which helped her through a battle with breast cancer.

In 1997, the cancer came back and Shirley told her home health aide friend Roberta Guy that she was declining further treatment. She began giving away books and paintings and left most of her estate to a TV minister. 

Her friend Roberta said at the end of her life Shirley was peaceful and not afraid of dying. On February 26, 1998 she called for her friend who lived 10-minutes away - but by the time Roberta pulled up to the house, Mason had died. 

Shirley Mason was cremated.

Her paintings have been sold, auctioned and displayed in galleries. 

The Lexington KY home that she died in was sold a few years ago : these photos show the interiors and mailbox.

Have a nice trip!  See you next Fall!

Not the green kitchen.

Look!  It's the Mailbox!

By Mark Langlois

Monday, June 1, 2015

Dirk Bogarde 1921 - 1991 Findadeath Update

Dirk Bogarde
March 28, 1921 - May 8, 1999
"I love the camera and it loves me."

Dirk was a British stage and screen actor.  He turned down the role of the lead male in Gigi and was considered for Dr. Zhivago.  He never really reached "legendary status" in the States.  He made a couple of big budget films in the US, but they didn't perform well so he stuck with his success in Britain.

A list of his performances are on the IMDB

TV?  Never!  I don't want my audience going for a piss or making tea while I'm hard at work.

He was also an author and talked to music.

Truthfully, I knew very little about Bogarde and his career, so I looked up a few interviews on youtube.  One thing for sure, Dirk found himself absolutely fascinating.  I've spent a lot of time with older actors and while they do have very interesting stories to share, 90% of the time it's exhausting to listen to them.  


Wait, don't get up, I'm about to say something very interesting.

Dirk was a "lifelong bachelor".  He lived with a man name Anthony Forwood who used to be married to Glynis Johns.  

Dirk and Tony's London flat.

He had a stroke in November of 1987 after which he quit smoking.

Forwood died of liver cancer.

In 1996 Bogarde had surgery to unblock his arteries, after which he had a massive stroke.  He was paralyzed on one side of his body.  He spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.  His speech was also severely affected.  Can you imagine?  Him not being able to talk?  What?  How will they hear my interesting stories?!

But don't fret.  He managed to complete the final volume (VOLUME) of his autobiography which included information about his fascinating stroke and how he learned to live with it.

The day before he died was spent with the Angel of Death herself, Lauren Bacall. 

He died of a heart attack on May 8, 1999.  He was 78 years old.

His ashes were scattered over his home in the South of France.

Wanna see his mailbox?

Trivia:  Bogarde chose Brigitte Bardot as a co-star in Doctor at Sea, thus bringing her to the attention of the non-English speaking world.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dame Barbara Cartland Deathaversary 15th Deathaversary May 21, 2000

Dame Barbara Cartland
July 9, 1901 - May 21, 2000

One of the most wonderful things I learned about while living in Britain, is Princess Diana's step-grandmother, Barbara Cartland.

Diana's father was married to the most amazing looking Raine Spencer.  Diana referred to her as "ghastly" or "Acid Raine".

Apple - Tree - not too far.

Barbara was a romance novelist.  As a child, Lady Diana Spencer considered those books among her favorites.


Barbara's signature was wearing pink.  Oh my God, the pink.  Pink pinkity pink.  

She put Angelyne to shame.

Actually, everything puts Angelyne to shame.  Angelyne defines shame.

Cartland completed a book every two weeks, completing over 720 in her life and selling over 750 million over the period of her 300 years - fact some doubt.

This is Cartland dictating one of her many novels to her secretary Jean Smith.

This is Little Britain's take on it.  I wish I could find a bette quality one, but this is a fair example.

Clive James described Dame Barabara's eyes as, “Twin miracles of mascara, her eyes looked like the corpses of two small crows that had crashed into a chalk cliff.”

Cartland died in her sleep after "a short illness" in her home, Camfield Place in Hertfordshire.   Her sons were at her side.

She was placed in a cardboard coffin and buried on the grounds of her estate under a tree that was planted by Queen Elizabeth I.

Take a very dramatic trip to her grave.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It's Sammy Davis Jr.'s 25th Deathaversary! Let's SHAKE! (or dig him up... again.)

Sammy Davis Jr.December 8, 1925 - May 16, 1990
"Being a star made it possible for me to get
insulted in places where the average Negro
could never hope to go and get insulted."

I think "Being a star" is code for "hanging around Frank Sinatra".

Watch Sammy tear it up

I went to Forest Lawn the day after his funeral and took these photographs.

Then his wife went and dug him up.

After the funeral, Sammy’s wife Altovise went through all kinds of financial troubles with the estate.  The Samster, when buried, was FESTOOONED with valuable jewelry.  It cost her over $400, but she dug that shit up.  Here come 'da Judge.

For all the details check Sammy's death and exhumation read Findadeath

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Death of Gary Cooper -

Gary Cooper
May 7, 1901 - May 13, 1961

Coop had a long, long lengthy career that was admired by many.  

He was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won two.

If you were to write down a list of his lovers on a sheet of looseleaf paper, the list would be over a foot schlong, such the man-slut he was.

Patricia Neal, Lupe Velez, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Grace "the mattress" Kelly...

When he and Lupe were doing the do,  they were (I'm not kidding) living in the Happy Days house.

Lupe: "He has the biggest organ in Hollywood but not the ass to push it in."

At the end of his life, Gary Cooper was living in this home in Bel Air.

A mid-century masturbation fantasy.

In 1960 Cooper had surgery for prostate cancer and colon cancer.  Docs thought the treatment was a success but shortly afterward the cancer returned to his lungs and bones.  He refused aggressive treatment.

"We'll pray for a miracle but if not, it is God's will and that's all right too."

The Academy awarded him with an honorary Oscar in 1961, but he was too ill to show up.  Jimmy Stewart accepted it and gave an emotional speech, clueing in the world that something was wrong with Gary.  The next day, news broke that The Coop had the big C.

The photograph above shows where Gary's death bed was located in the room.

On May 12 he was given last rites.

He died on May 13, 1961.

He was 60 years old.

His funeral was held in Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills.

Pall bearers included Jimmy Stewart and Jack Benny.  Other attendees included Dean Martin, Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, Burt Lancaster, Jimmy Durante, John Wayne, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Fred Astaire, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra.

He was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.

Until he wasn't anymore.

In 1974 his family moved back east and brought Gary along with them.  He's now buried in 
Sacred Heart Cemetery in Southampton, NY.

"Cousin" Ginny Michaels snapped these quality photos for us to enjoy.  Thanks!

In 2000 his wife passed away as well.

Wanna see his mailbox?

Special thanks to Marla Brooks and her fab book Ghosts of Hollywood

Trivia from Kevin Hassell:  Bing Crosby named his son Gary Crosby after Coop.