“Sybil Exposed” Exposes Disinformation Campaign by Supporters of Multiple Personalities & Dissociative Identity Disorder

Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case, by Debbie Nathan, Free Press an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Since the book’s release, posts, blogs, articles and other news venues have chattered about the inaccuracies of Nathan’s research methods. Negative comments & opinions have flown around the Internet at warped speed beginning shortly after (and some before) the book’s release.

Nathan spent years pouring over archives written by Shirley Mason, known as Sybil, her psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, and Flora Schreiber the author of the book Sybil.

What opponents of Debbie Nathan’s work either do not know, or will not divulge- is that hundreds of original resources were used and interviews conducted to complete the true story of Shirley Mason’s life.

Below are excerpts of the first few pages of the acknowledgments section of Sybil Exposed beginning on page 239:

  • Conversations with Mikkel-Borch-Jacobsen (scholar) who, along with with historian Peter Swales uncovered the true identity of Sybil (Shirley Mason) in the early 1990s.
  • audio tape (sent from Borch-Jacobsen to Debbie Nathan) of an interview with Virginia Flores Cravens, a childhood neighborof Shirley’s.
  • David Eichman, grandson of Shirley Mason’s stepmother, Florence Eichman Mason. Eichnan inherited old correspondence between Shirley & her father – and Shirley and her step-mother. Eichman also had some of Shirley’s artwork, photographs of her as a young woman.
  • Dan Houlihan, psychology professor at the University of Minnesota at Mankato – the school Shirley attended as an undergraduate. Houlihan was a student back then. He donated old correspondence between Shirley & her former teachers, legal documents about her father’s business affairs, college yearbooks, and registrar’s office records and the names and location of Shirley’s former roommates from the 1940s.
  • Muriel Odden Coulter, daughter of a dorm mate shared letters penned by Shirley
  • Stanley Giesel, Vadah Purtell, Frank Weeks, Vivian Beaver, Roy Langworthy and Joan Larson people who grew up in Shirley’s home town of Dodge Center, Minnesota.
  • Dennae Ness Wilson who was residing in the Mason’s old home offered Nathan a tour.
  • Janet Kolstadt Johnson, Roger Langworthy, Melanie Wheeler Langworthy – had conversations about growing up in Dodge City.
  • Conversations with Shirley’s cousins: Patrica Alcott, Lorna Gilbert, Arlene Christensen, and Marcia Schmidt
  • Members of the Seventh-Day Adventist (the Mason’s church)
  • Shirley’s baptism papers
  • Jean Lane, Shirley’s best friend during college
  • Robert Rieber, emeritus psychology professor at John Jay College in New York City. Taught with author of “Sybil”, Flora Schreiber
  • Robert Rieber shared an audio tape of Shirley’s therapy session
  • Interviews with Dr. Herbert Spieger, who worked with Shirley in the late 1950s & 1960s. He and his wife, psychologist Marcia Greenlief, showed Nathan Shirley’s treatment records.
  • Robert Schade, cousin of Dr. Connie Wilbur
  • Deborah Brown Kovac, niece of Connie Wilbur’s second husband
  • Neil Burwell Connie Wilbur’s nephew
  • Warner & Douglas Burwell, Connie Wilbur’s great-nephews

Negative opinions flared, in part, from Dr. Patrick Suraci. His opinion & refutation of what he perceives as Nathan’s inaccuracies and research, in favor of his own, is being reposted by people claiming to have survived ritual-sexual abuse, members of fringe survivor groups, and by proponents of multiple personalities and dissociative identity disorder. The speed of distribution and repetition of opinions generated from this one source makes my head spin.

There is little evidence that the most out spoken critics have read the book. In one instance, a reviewer at Amazon Book Reviews admitted to not having read the book. In another the reviewer said she would not buy it, yet published many scathing posts.

Publishing disinformation about Sybil Exposed and repeating it over and over and over serves one main purpose – an attempt to discredit the author – Debbie Nathan. By attempting to discredit this author, one must also agree to discredit the publisher, Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, as well as the literary agent, editors, legal fact-checkers, members of the editorial staff, and employees at Free Press. In addition one must either discredit, or ignore, the hundreds of people interviewed, including family, who knew Sybil during her lifetime. Most profoundly, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur and Shirley Mason (Sybil) must be discredited because their own correspondence was used as source material.

The politics behind the admonishment of Sybil Exposed is clear. Many who think they have multiple personalities and their supporters view the fictitious story of Sybil, as a positive force because it tells their story and is an affirmation of their beliefs despite evidence to the contrary.

Thanks to authors and journalists like Debbie Nathan, the fictional character of Sybil was finally exposed.

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Book Release: “Sybil Exposed” Exposes Supporters of Multiple Personalities & Dissociative Identity Disorder by Jeanette Bartha is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.mentalhealthmatters2.wordpress.com.
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originally published 11-21-11.

Leave a comment


  1. Hey Jeanette,

    I saw you signed up for my blog. Any special reason? I was kind of taking a hiatus from it as I feel I’ve been shouting in a vacuum to those who follow the ISSTD method of healing this disorder and I wonder if I’m doing any good. Do you get a similar feeling?

    Anyway, back to your post, if someone asked all the people in my wife’s life if she had d.i.d. other than me, our son and her therapist, NOT ONE other person has ever spoken to the little girls. Now I have told some of my relatives, but she has told NONE of her family. And my wife regularly questions if this is all a dream or if she has simply been duped by her therapist. So Sybil’s “confession is a NON-issue.” I know lots of other people with d.i.d. who wonder the same thing.

    I didn’t read the book, but I read a rant review of it on the Wall Street Journal. If the book was half as partial as the review I’d never read it. It’s unfortunate there doesn’t seem to be people in the middle that can articulate the strengths AND weaknesses of each side’s positions. The truth often lies somewhere in the middle.



    • Hi Sam. I signed up for your blog as I do with a lot of blogs. I didn’t realize you offered it until recently.

      Remember, people who associate themselves with the ISSTD want you to think you are shouting in a vacuum. It’s a political tact, Sam. They want to think you are ignored and hope over time you will get tired and go away.

      I will not tire, or go away.

      What the International Society for the Study of Trauma & Dissociation (ISSTD) offers patients is wrong. Simply wrong. They are pro-therapist, not patient focused.

      A word about Debbie Nathan’s Sybil Exposed. If you can get your hands on a copy you will find at least 6 pages of resources naming people she interviewed – these people knew Sybil and her family. Opponents of the book, in many cases, have not read it. Presenting Sybil’s story using the hand written correspondence by Sybil and her doctor leave little need for bias opinions. Debbie Nathan allowed Sybil to speak for herself – finally.

      Again, opponents would like you to think that Sybil Exposed is a bias account of this amazing story. Not true. Again, a political maneuver that, if exposed, shows the shameless behavior of the writers.

      Take a read yourself. Don’t take my opinion or anyone elses about the quality of this work.


  2. Jeanette Bartha did NOT insist that Debbie Nathan’s book is completely accurate. What Jeanette Bartha did is offer the vast amount of resources Debbie Nathan used to write Shirley Mason’s story. – Jeanette Bartha


  1. Sybil Exposed | DCS Library Lady
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