The Strange Case Of Billy Milligan And His 24 Personalities

The following article includes descriptions of sexual assault and mental health issues.

Crimes are committed every day in every corner of the world, and criminals do their best to stay out of the law's hands. They'll make up excuses, run from the police, or try to throw the authorities off their trail in any way they can. Billy Milligan, however, wasn't your usual criminal. Milligan had been accused of or found guilty of multiple crimes throughout his life, ranging from robbery to sexual assault. In traditional criminal fashion, Milligan denied having ever done such things, which is thought to be at least partially true. As the world would learn during his trial for the assault of two women, the Los Angeles Times notes, Milligan was only one of several personalities inhabiting that particular body. Or so it was believed by both psychiatric experts and the courts.

Now, not everyone believes Milligan was mentally ill or, at least, they don't necessarily believe he had dissociative identity disorder (DID), called multiple personality disorder (MPD) at the time he was diagnosed. Instead, some think Milligan was simply a bad guy with a superhuman level of talent in manipulation, which is exactly what the upcoming Netflix documentary "Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan" is aiming to figure out. But, apparently, a jury believed him, and it's why his story has become so popular over the years.

Some of his personalities committed violent crimes

Most criminals deny their crimes when being questioned, but for Billy Milligan, his denial was both true and untrue at the same time. According to The Latch, the personality known as Billy Milligan wasn't the one who committed the crimes, but instead they were carried out by two others: Ragen Vadascovinich and Adalana. WBNS says the Ragen personality, a Yugoslavian who was in control of Milligan's body when there was danger, is the one who committed Milligan's robberies. The sexual assaults were supposedly committed by Adalana. This personality was a 19-year-old lesbian, and she is claimed to have sexually assaulted women because she was shy and wanted to feel close to another person.

It's likely that many of Milligan's victims didn't believe he had the controversial mental illness he was diagnosed with, and who could blame them? What those victims went through was a terror beyond merely traumatic, and any reasonable person in their position would have doubts too (at the least). The diagnosis surely didn't give them the closure that a more proper justice in the form of a long prison sentence would have. That is if, in fact, Milligan had been expertly faking his condition from the beginning.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Trauma is what fractured his personality

Billy Milligan's younger years weren't exactly a pleasant string of picnics in the park. It's believed by many specialists who interviewed Milligan that his unfortunate past, one filled with terrible abuse, is what first shattered his psyche, a Columbus Monthly article explained. The alleged abuse young Milligan was forced to endure was on par with the crimes his alleged split personalities would later commit on others. Sexual abuse, being buried alive, having been hung from his fingers and toes in a barn were just a few of the atrocities among the abuse Milligan and his family claimed the boy was forced to go through. Even worse, all of these acts were purportedly committed by someone who Milligan should've been able to trust, or so it's alleged by Milligan and his family. According to them, it's his former stepfather who's to blame, not just for Milligan's treatment in his youth, but for the mental illness that followed since. As those experts claim, it was this treatment that caused Milligan's DID in the first place. Of course, the stepfather denies these claims.

It could be this trauma that had Milligan in and out of mental health facilities and the penal system before his famous case made headlines. As the Dispatch detailed, Milligan was first committed to a psych facility when he was a junior in high school, but they kicked him out shortly after. From there, he'd be expelled from school, booted from the Navy, and arrested multiple times.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

The first person to successfully use an identity disorder as a legal defense

Billy Milligan didn't become famous in crime and psychology circles simply because he had dissociative identity disorder. He blew up 1970s media because his legal teams used DID as Milligan's defense, and they won.

As Backdrop Magazine explains, Milligan had been arrested for the sexual assault of two women and stood trial in 1978. Due to his claims of having multiple people in his head, who at different times had control of his thoughts and actions, he was examined by several psychiatrists. In the end, those psychiatric specialists diagnosed him with multiple personality disorder, while others believed the condition was a myth. The courts deemed him unfit to stand trial because of his mental state, and he was shipped off to Harding Hospital for seven months. There, they worked on fusing Milligan's fractured personality back together. When they thought their work was done, he appeared back before the judge, but the treatment he'd gone through at Harding didn't hold, and the judge decided it wasn't jail time Milligan needed, but rather more psychiatric treatment.

According to Rolling Stone, Milligan was officially found not guilty. The insanity plea had worked, and instead of serving time in the pen, he was sentenced to psychological rehab at Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, which some thought was a far worse fate had he actually spent any time there.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Hard times followed him for the rest of his days

Things didn't exactly get better for Billy Milligan after he was found not guilty of the sexual assault charges in 1977. Lima State Hospital was known for providing poor care to patients, according to Backdrop Magazine, so Milligan's legal team worked to get him into Athens Mental Health Center instead. This didn't turn out much better in the long run. The Dispatch says Milligan was shipped back and forth between hospitals, one of which he escaped from in 1986. He left videos for the press while he was on the run that detailed the poor treatment he'd received within the facilities.

The media circus surrounding Milligan since his case first came to light didn't help either. Some of those treating the DID patient believed the unwanted fame made it difficult for Milligan's personality to become and stay whole, but they managed to help him get all fused up by 1988 despite it. Then, Milligan basically disappeared, only to resurface in 1996 when he was deemed unfit to handle his own affairs. At this point, the state of Ohio sued him for his royalties from his biography, "The Minds of Billy Milligan."

In 2014, Milligan died of cancer, according to WBNS.

The 24 people inside Billy Milligan

With a personality fractured into 24 parts, each piece had its own persona and some even had talents or proclivities the others didn't possess. He was truly shattered. The 24 were split into two categories, "desirable" and "undesirable," with the "Teacher" being the summation of them all, according to WBSN.

The "desirable" personalities were "the family" that was allowed to be in control of Milligan's self from time to time. In which were Ragen and Arthur. The two are the ones who classified the others. The "undesirables" were all the personalities who caused problems for the rest and who weren't allowed to see the light of day through Milligan's eyes. Ragen got control in sketchy situations. Arthur was the intellectual. David appeared to take all the pain. There were 10 desirables in total, and they all looked out for each other.

Only two of the personalities didn't fit into the dichotomy. Shawn was a deaf 4-year-old who couldn't function in the body. He wasn't cast out like the undesirables, but they weren't letting him in control either. Then, there's the Teacher. The Teacher was the fused personality. Unlike Milligan, the Teacher held all the memories of the others. Milligan was the original, but not the whole of the parts. What a terrible fate that must've been, to be a bunch of pieces but never whole.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.