William Stanley Milligan known as Billy Milligan, was an American citizen who was the subject of a highly publicized court case in Ohio in the late 1970’s. After having committed several felonies including armed robbery, he was arrested for three rapes on the campus of Ohio State University. In the course of preparing his defense, psychologists diagnosed Milligan with multiple personality disorder. His lawyers pleaded insanity, claiming that two of his alternate personalities committed the crimes without Billy being aware of it. Billy Milligan was the first person diagnosed with multiple personality disorder to raise such a defense, and the first acquitted of a major crime for this reason, instead spending a decade in mental hospitals.
Milligan’s life story was popularized by Daniel Keyes’s award-winning non-fiction book The Minds of Billy Milligan
The Childhood of Billy Milligan
Milligan’s mother, Dorothy Milligan, grew up in Ohio farm country, and lived in Lancaster, with her husband. They divorced, and Dorothy eventually moved to the Miami, Florida area, where she worked as a singer. There she began living with Johnny Morrison, a historian who was still unmarried.
Dorothy and Johnny had a son, Jim Milligan, in October of 1953. In February of 1955, in Miami Beach, they had a second son, William Stanley Milligan, later known as Billy Milligan. Dorothy and Johnny had a third child together, Kathy Jo Milligan, born in December of 1956.
At this time, Johnny was 36 years old. According to biographer Daniel Keyes, “Meeting the medical expenses overwhelmed Johnny. He borrowed more, gambled more, drank more. He was eventually hospitalized for acute alcoholism and depression in 1958. In what appeared to be an unsuccessful suicide attempt, according to Keyes, Dorothy found him slumped over the table, half a bottle of Scotch and an empty bottle of sleeping pills on the floor. A few months after this attempt, on January 17, 1959, Johnny succeeded in committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Dorothy took her children and moved away from Miami, eventually returning to Lancaster, Ohio, where she remarried her ex-husband. This marriage lasted about a year. In 1962, she met Chalmer Milligan. Chalmer’s first wife Bernice divorced him on “grounds of gross neglect”. He had a daughter, Challa, the same age as Billy, and another daughter who was a nurse. Dorothy and Chalmer married in Circleville, Ohio on October 27, 1963.
At his later trial, Chalmer was blamed for abusing Billy. Keyes claimed that Billy had multiple personalities from a much earlier age, however; his first three personalities (no-name boy, Christene, and Shawn) appearing by the time he was five years old.
The Arrest of Billy Milligan
In 1975, Billy Milligan was imprisoned at Lebanon Correctional Institution in Ohio, for rape and armed robbery. He was released on parole in early 1977. He was also forced to register as a sex offender. In October 1977, Billy Milligan was arrested for raping three women on the Ohio State University campus. He was identified by one of his victims, from existing police mug shots of sex offenders, and from fingerprints lifted from another victim’s car. One of the victims said that he was quite nice and that he acted like a 3-year-old girl.
Since he had used a gun and guns were found in a search of his residence, he had violated his parole as well. He was indicted on three counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated robbery and four counts of rape. He then stayed in the Ohio State Penitentiary.
In the course of preparing his defense, he underwent a psychological examination by Dr. Willis C. Driscoll, who diagnosed Billy Milligan with acute schizophrenia. He was then examined by psychologist Dorothy Turner of Southwest Community Mental Health Center in Columbus, Ohio. During this examination, Turner concluded that Billy Milligan suffered from multiple personality disorder. Milligan’s public defenders, Gary Schweickart and Judy Stevenson, pleaded an insanity defense, and he was committed until such time as he regains sanity.
The Incarceration of Billy Milligan
Billy Milligan was sent to a series of state-run mental hospitals, such as the Athens State Hospital, where, by his report, he received very little help. While he was in these hospitals, Billy reported having ten different personalities. These ten were the only ones known to psychologists. Later on an additional 14 personalities, labeled “The Undesirables”, were discovered. Among the first ten were: Arthur, a prim and proper Englishman; Allen, a manipulator; Tommy, a con artist; Ragen Vadascovinich, a Yugoslav communist who Billy Milligan claimed had committed the robberies in a kind of Robin Hood spirit; and Adalana, a 19-year-old lesbian who craved affection and who had allegedly committed the rapes.
Billy Milligan received treatment from psychiatrist David Caul, who diagnosed the additional fourteen personalities.
The Release of Billy Milligan
Billy was released in 1988 after a decade in mental hospitals, and discharged from the Ohio mental health system and the Ohio courts on August 1, 1991. In 1996 he lived in California where he owned Stormy Life Productions and was going to make a short film (which apparently has never been made). His location thereafter remained for a long time unknown, his former acquaintances having lost contact with him. Billy Milligan died of cancer at a nursing home in Columbus, Ohio on December 12, 2014. He was 59 years old.
The Alters of Billy Milligan
These ten are the alters whom personalities “Ragen” and “Arthur” decided were not “undesirable.” They freely shared consciousness, and doctors quickly learned of their existences.
Billy Milligan (William Stanley Milligan) is the core personality.
Arthur is an extremely sophisticated and educated Englishman. An expert in science and medicine, with a focus on hematology. He is in “the spot” – that is, in charge of the shared body – during times that required intellectual thinking. Arthur is one of only two personalities who could classify a person in the group as an undesirable.
Ragen Vadascovinich is the “keeper of hate”. His name comes from the words “rage again”. Ragen describes himself as Yugoslavian, has a Slavic accent, can write and speak in Serbian and is extraordinarily strong. He controls the spot in dangerous times and can designate group members as “undesirable”. He admitted committing robbery in order to support “the family”, but had no knowledge of the rapes.
Allen is a con man and a manipulator. He is the most common person to talk to the outside world. He plays the drums and paints portraits. Also the only right-handed self. He is the only personality that smokes cigarettes.
Tommy is the escape artist; he is often confused with Allen. He plays the tenor sax and is an electronics expert. He is also a painter, specializing in landscapes.
Danny is afraid of people, especially men. He only paints still life and never paints landscapes. He says this was because Chalmer made him dig his own grave and buried him in it.
David, age eight, is the “keeper of pain”. He comes to the spot to take the pain of the others.
Christene, age three, was the one who would stand in the corner in school when “Billy” would get in trouble. She has dyslexia, but Arthur taught her to read and write. Ragen has a special bond with her.
Christopher, Christene’s brother, plays the harmonica.
Adalana, a lesbian, cooks and cleans house for the others, and writes poetry. Milligan’s attorney claimed that Adalana had admitted to committing the rapes without the knowledge of Billy Milligan or the other alters.
The Undesirables : These people were labeled “undesirable” after breaking the rules laid down by Ragen and Arthur. These alters were no longer allowed “on the spot” (that is, to hold consciousness) and only revealed themselves after Billy Milligan was sent to the hospital.
Phil is a thug and took part in planning some small time crimes. Has a Brooklyn accent. Marked “undesirable” due to him being a criminal.
Kevin is a criminal planner; he helped devise a plan to rob a drug store. Labeled also because he is a criminal.
Walter is Australian. He calls himself a big-game hunter and has an excellent sense of direction. He was often used as a spotter. He was labeled because he shot and killed a crow.
April only has thoughts about destroying Billy’s stepfather. Declared an “undesirable” when she convinced Ragen to kill Chalmer. Arthur was able to talk him out of it just before the tragedy.
Samuel is a Jewish person and the only one who believes in God. He was marked because he sold some of the other people’s personal paintings.
Mark is the workhorse. He is often referred to as the zombie because he does nothing unless he is told, and will stare at walls when bored.
Steve is the impostor, he uses imitations for comedy. Steve never accepted that he was an MP. He was made to be “undesirable” because his comedy caused the family problems.
Lee is the prankster and his practical jokes normally get the family into trouble. He does not care about consequences for his actions. He was made an “undesirable” because one of his jokes put them into solitary confinement.
Jason is the pressure valve. He was used at the beginning to release tension for the family, but he caused them to get into too much trouble and was marked as an “undesirable”.
Bobby always dreams of leading some adventure or fixing some global crisis, but he has no ambitions and was labeled due to that fact.
Shawn, who is four and deaf, makes buzzing sounds so he can feel the vibration in his head. He was labeled an “undesirable” because there was no benefit from being deaf later on in life. (Even though he is an undesirable he was never cast into the shadows beyond the spot; he was just never allowed to take the spot.)
Martin is a snob, from New York. He wants things just handed over to him without earning them.
Timothy worked in a florist shop until he encountered a gay man who flirted with him. He went into his own world after that.
The Teacher (Not an Undesirable): The Teacher, was by far the greatest milestone to helping Billy Milligan achieve fusion. He is the sum of all 24 people put together, and has almost total recall of all the other people’s actions and thoughts.
The life of Billy Milligan was in part the inspiration for the film Split.