Being a twin commits you mentally and physically to a bond that is unparalleled in human interaction. Intricacies, secrets, blessings and curses: all are manifested with someone who looks exactly like you and, for better or worse, understands you the best. My identical twin sister and I have had our fair share of invented languages and supernatural mind-melds, but we've got nothing on the six legendary pairs below — each one embodying a common perception that we twins spend our lives embracing or dreading. Their stories testify to the fact that twins are partners for life; the other half that most people tirelessly search for, but may never find.
Perception: Double the Power
Twins: Johnny and Luther Htoo (1988 - )
People love to hypothesize about twins' mind-reading skills and the supposedly linked nature of our physical and mental well-being, particularly when we're separated. Delusions of grandeur and exaggerated power are not typical characteristics of twins in our eyes, but Johnny and Luther were some of the few who simply embraced the power bestowed on them by believers. At only ten years old, their dedication to winning independence for the Karen people of Burma brought them fame and rumored mythical powers, which evaporated as their surrender to Thai soldiers in 2001 became imminent.
Twins: Stewart and Cyril Marcus (? - 1975)
While this is not usually the case with my sister and me, we have known plenty of twins who curse the day they were born because of the impossibility of being viewed as anything other than a twin. David Cronenberg's 1988 film Dead Ringers showcases the rivalry between twin brothers Stewart and Cyril Marcus as they struggle to assume the dominant role in their shared existence. In real life, as identical twin gynecologists, they lived relatively unassuming lives until they were both found dead in their (shared) apartment from barbiturate overdoses. Their simultaneous death highlights the eternal struggle of forming an identity and the unrelenting bond that often stunts this growth.
Perception: One and the Same
Twins: Sabina and Ursula Eriksson (1967 - )
Imagine being a child and knowing that when your sister opens her birthday gifts, yours will be exactly the same. Why? Because twins share everything, even thoughts, and sometimes mental illnesses. The infamous Eriksson sisters' shared psychosis, and the murder of Glenn Hollinshead by Sabina Eriksson in 2008, is a testament to that. The twins committed several violent acts against themselves and others during a "folie a deux" episode; their shared psychosis is believed to be rare but possible among socially isolated individuals. After the incident, Sabrina was sentenced to five years of prison, but she kept in touch occasionally with Ursula, which just goes to show — even if your twin doesn’t have the greatest track record, you’ll always have their back.
Perception: Twin Speak
Twins: Poto and Cabengo (1970 - )
My sister and I used to pretend that we could read
each other's minds and start speaking gibberish/pig latin to confuse our
family and onlookers. We even changed our names: I would be Barbara and my sister Clara would be Rachel. Poto and
Cabengo not only gave themselves alternate names; they also invented and
primarily used their own language — a phenomenon known very remotely as
cryptophasia and specific to twins. Examples of their language:
"pintu" (pencil), "nieps" (knife), "ho-ahks" (orange), "toolaymeia" (spaghetti)
"Pinit, putahtraletungay." (Finish, potato salad hungry)
"Nis, Poto?" (This, Poto?)
"Liba Cabingoat, it." (Dear Cabengo, eat)
It wasn't until they were taken to a speech therapist that their parents
realized the girls' secret and made them a national sensation for some
time. Sadly, the family did not want the girls to be mistaken for
"dummies" and forbade them use the language ever again. It is unclear if
the twins still have the ability to speak it.
Twins: June (1967 - ) and Jennifer Gibbons (1967 - 1993)
single twin has suffered through a day
(or week, or month) of wishing he or she were a single, easily identifiable person. I was once asked if, when I looked in the mirror
some mornings, I thought I was Clara. Needless to say, many twins face
similar crises where drastic measures may be
weighed. June and Jennifer Gibbons, labeled "The Silent Twins," refrained
from speaking with anyone outside immediate family. Eventually, they agreed that the only way to exist in
the world would be to live without the other and abandon the twin title. Within hours of their release
from the psychiatric hospital where they had been committed for 14 years
for committing petty crimes, Jennifer died of a mysterious inflammation
of the heart.
Twins: The McGuire Twins (1946 - 1979 [Billy] and 2001 [Benny])
Introducing yourself as twins comes with a myriad of stupid questions and painful stares, but it can also make you feel like you’re a real-life science experiment. Luckily, sometimes there is monetary incentive for playing the part. Take Billy Leon McCrary and Benny Loyd McCrary, known to the world as the McGuire twins. Weighing in at 750 and 720 pounds, they were hailed by Guinness Book of World Records as the "world's heaviest twins." Proving that the entertainment world always loves a set of twins, they were known for their Honda motorcycles, their popularity as male wrestlers, and their carnival stunt gigs. Benny outlived Billy by 21 years, almost unheard of in the twin world.
story by Alta Swyers