Resources available in Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case

by Debbie Nathan

(blog post by Jeanette Bartha)

Publisher: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY, NY, 2011

If multiple personalities, false memories, dissociative identity disorder, human memory, questionable child-abuse recall, false confessions, or repressed memories pique’ your interest, then you likely know about the infamous case of Sybil that splashed the American book market and cinema in the early 1970s.

According to Amazon Book Review, “Sybil Exposed draws from an enormous trail of papers, records, photos, and tapes to unearth the lives and passions of these three women whose story exploded into an epic movement with consequences beyond their wildest dreams. Set across the twentieth century and rooted in a time when few professional roles were available to women, this is a story of corrosive sexism, bold but unchecked ambition, runaway greed, utter human vulnerability, duplicity and shared delusion, shaky theories of psychoanalysis exuberantly and drastically practiced, and how one modest young woman’s life turned psychiatry on its head and radically changed the course of therapy—and our culture, as well.”

If you are interested in investigating the life of Shirley A. Mason AKA Sybil Dorset, Sybil Exposed is a one stop-shopping treasure of resources. The book has:

  • Acknowledgements, 6 pages pgs. 239-246.
  • Notes on chapters, 35 pages from pgs. 247-282.
  • Index, 14 pages from pgs. 283-297.

Author Debbie Nathan, is an award winning journalist who conducted massive research  throughout the United States for Sybil Exposed.

Ms. Nathan is the recipient of national and regional awards, including:

  • The H.L. Mencken Award for Investigative Journalism
  • PEN West Award for Journalism
  • Texas Institute of Letters Award for feature journalism
  • John Barlow Martin Award for Public Service Journalism

With over 30 years of reporting and publishing experience, Ms. Nathan specializes in sexual politics, sex panics particularly in relation to women and children, as well as immigration and the U.S. – Mexican border. She appears in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Capturing the Freidman’s, the story of accused child molesters, Arnold (now deceased) and his son, Jesse Friedman.

Ms. Nathan serves on the board of the National Center for Reason and Justice (NCRJ), a non-profit organization of advocates for intelligent and humane approaches to preventing child abuse and dealing with accused offenders. See About the NCRJ

More about the author on Amazon.com Book Review

Below is a list of resources used by the author including print media, professionals in the mental health field, professors, libraries, laypersons, former psychiatric patients, and films.

Shirley Ardell Mason (1923-1998) pseudonym, Sybil Isabel Dorsett

Mason was born and raised in Dodge Center, Minnesota, USA. The only child of Walter Mason (a carpenter and architect) and Martha Alice “Mattie” Hageman.

Resources used by author Debbie Nathan:

  • Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen, scholar
  • Peter Swales, historian
  • David Eichman, grandson of Shirley Mason’s step-mother, Florence Eichman Mason and David’s wife, Bonnie Eichman
  • Dan Houlihan, University of Minnesota at Mankato (where Shirley attended as an undergraduate)
  • Muriel Odden Coulter, the daughter of a dorm mate of Shirley
  • Dodge Center residents (Sybil/Shirley’s home town)
  • Miranda Marland, daughter of Shirley’s best childhood friend, Robert Moulton
  • Cousins of Shirley: Patricia Alcott, Lorna Gilbert, Arlene Christensen, Marcia Schmidt
  • Dr. Ronald Numbers, University of Wisconsin, an expert on Seventh-Day Adventism (Shirley’s religion)
  • T. Joe Willey, scholar
  • Jean Lane, Shirley’s best friend during college
  • Robert Rieber, John Jay College, NYC, emeritus psychology professor taught with Sybil author, Flora Schreiber
  • Dr. Herbert Spiegel, psychiatrist and hypnotherapist (worked briefly with Shirley)
  • Marcia Greenleaf, psychologist

Psychiatrists practicing in or near New York City during 1950’s & 1960’s when Shirley’s psychoanalyst, Cornelia Wilbur, M.D. was there:

  • Dr. Ann Ruth Turkel
  • Dr. Sylvia Brecher Marer (Rhode Island)
  • Dr. Nathaniel Lehrman
  • Dr. Arthur Zitrin

Dr. Cornelia Wilbur (1908–1992). Born, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, University of Michigan, 1939, M.D. (medical doctor)

Resources for life of Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, M.D.

  • Robert Schade, cousin
  • Deborah Brown Kovac, a niece of Dr. Wilbur’s second husband
  • Neil Burwell, nephew
  • Warner Burwell. great-nephew
  • Douglas Burwell, great-nephew
  • Brenda Burwell Canning, great-niece (lived with Dr. Wilbur in the 1970s)
  • Ruth Barstow Dixon, cousin
  • Dr. Richard Dieterle
  • Caroline Dieterle
  • Dr. Robert Dieterle, psychiatrist (Dr. Wilbur’s professor and mentor), 1930’s
  • Harald Naess, historian of Scandinavian immigration

Others who knew or worked with Dr. Cornelia Wilbur:

  • Dr. Arnold Ludwig, worked with Dr. Wilbur at University of Kentucky, 1970s
  • Dr. Lon Hays
  • Dr. Rosa K. Riggs
  • Dr. German Gutierrez

Others

  • John and Patsy McGee – lived on same street in Dr. Wilbur’s neighborhood
  • Roberta Guy – Shirley Mason’s and Dr. Wilbur’s home-care nurse
  • Mark Boultinghouse – Shirley’s art dealer
  • Dr. Joseph Bieron, chemist and archivist of historical records of his profession

Libraries and Organizations:

  • State Historical Society, St. Paul, MN, USA,  – archival research
  • New York Academy of Medicine
  • American Society for Journalists and Authors, Director Alexandra Owens
  • Society for Magazine Writers
  • University of Iowa Library, special collections department
  • Historical Society in Dodge County, Minnesota, past Director, Earlene Kinga
  • Seventh-Day Adventist Church General Conference, Maryland
  • National Library of Medicine, Maryland
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Special Collections Department
  • Ellen Belcher, Head Archivist, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Tania Colmant-Donabedian, Assistant Archivist, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Larry Sullivan, Director, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Peter Tytell, research assistant to Ms. Nathan
  • Dr. Leah Dickstein, holds several files and papers which belonged to Dr. Wilbur

Scholars, writers, professionals in the mental health field, former-psychiatric patients, and activists

  • Sherrill Mulhern
  • Dr. Harold Mersey, DM FRCP (London) FRCP(C) FRCPsych
  • Evan Harrington
  • Pamela Freyd, Ph.D.
  • Mark Pendergrast, author/journalist
  • Ben Harris
  • Jan Haaken
  • Jeanette Bartha, B.S., psychology, journalist, blogger
  • Bill Dobbs
  • John Bloise
  • Those wishing to remain anonymous

Former Hollywood Celebrities regarding the film, Sybil

  • Stewart Stern, screenwriter for Sybil telemovie
  • Diana Serra Cary – actress who played “Baby Peggy”

International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD)

  • Kathy Steele, former Director
  • Dr. Richard Kluft, M.D. (grateful to him, but he declined to discuss his work with Dr. Cornelia Wilbur) Dr. Kluft permitted Ms. Nathan to attend his presentation at ISSTD Conference
  • Barry Cohen
  • Dr. Vedat Sar
The above information was taken from the text of Sybil Exposed. Errors may be those of blogger rather than the author, Debbie Nathan.

updated: 9-26-14

 

 

 

 

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