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Blonde Swedish Identical Twins, but not what you were hoping for.
October 29, 2010 9:39 PM   Subscribe

Madness in the Fast Lane. Part 1, 2, 3, 4 (YT -- videos include footage of human-car collisions and some NSFW language). On May 17, 2008, the identical twins Ursula and Sabina Eriksson ran into traffic on the UK's M6 motorway, apparently for no reason whatsoever (original article & footage). Despite the first being run over by a lorry and the second hit head on by a car, both sisters survived, even cursing and struggling against the police who tried to help them. That's when things got weird.

Back in 2008, many saw the footage of the apparently suicidal dashes into oncoming traffic, but the rest of the story couldn't be released for two years:

Sabina, who suffered only minor injuries, was taken into custody, charged with assaulting a police officer, and released 2 days later. Glenn Hollinshead, local resident of Trent-on-Stoke, took her in when he found her wandering the streets. The next morning, she fled Hollinshead's house after he stumbled out and died from several stab wounds in the presence of a neighbor. As she ran, she beat herself in the head with a hammer, and she jumped from a 40 foot bridge, again into oncoming traffic, in an attempt to elude the police. She survived.

Sabina refused to comment to police about either the event on the M6 or the murder of Glenn Hollinshead. Defense psychiatrists diagnosed her with Induced Delusional Disorder, or "a madness shared by two." In this rare disorder, one person is "infected" by another's delusions. Prosecution psychiatrists diagnosed her with Acute Polymorphic Psychotic Disorder, or "a puff of madness," a condition characterized by the sudden onset of severe delusions, hallucinations, etc.

Sabina eventually pled guilty to manslaughter, but no one knows for sure why these events happened. The sisters are still in communication, and Sabina is up for parole in a year.
posted by Saxon Kane (50 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
I appreciate the graphic description of your links, and will pass (its Friday night, I'm anticipating a pleasant weekend) , thanks anyway. I do like, however, the concept of a "puff of madness", I shall use that often in the future.
posted by HuronBob at 9:52 PM on October 29, 2010


It's disturbing, but not overly gory -- but I know that some people are not able to stomach seeing any sort of physical trauma. If you can get past that, though, it is worth watching. It is a fascinating and bizarre story, and the idea that one person can transfer their delusions to another is all sorts of weird.

BTW: the nicknames for the disorders comes from the French colloquialisms for them: "folie a deux" and "souffle a folie," respectively.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:58 PM on October 29, 2010


Reminding me of the Gibbons girls.
posted by bonefish at 10:15 PM on October 29, 2010


Excellent post, I remember this being on the news back at the time and just being taken back by the sheer weirdness of the events. I believe some of the later details got out, such as the escape, but everything else was kept very quiet indeed... It's a fascinating look back at a notable event. I'll steel myself later to look at the footage, but I'm going over the other links now.

That said, there is a problem with the post: Trent-On-Stoke should be reversed to Stoke-On-Trent. I know that it's a forgettable place, but it should be at least written correctly so people know where to avoid.
posted by Inner Universe at 11:12 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Very odd. Just got through watching it all and it is just . . . odd. The fact that Ursula is somewhere, undefined, in America sent a instinctual shiver down my spine.
posted by arnicae at 11:29 PM on October 29, 2010


Mental illness is weird. My mentally-ill son took his life this year, and a friend's ill daughter is wandering in limbo. It puts everyone else in the spectator seat, even when they try to help. Very, very painful.
posted by anadem at 11:34 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Genuinely eerie and spooky stuff the sorta underlying helplessness of the Psychiatrist trying to diagnose the disorders isn't helped by his pulling out mysterious 19th century terms like Bouffee delirante, and Folie a deux that simply seem to deepen the weirdness of it all and suggest an almost spiritual aberration or possesion of some sort. And the director goes off the deep end with the visual allusions to Blair Witch Project, especially at the end when the audience is shown what Sabina was probably seeing (Sppooky...). Anyhow, if I don't see any intentionally blurred video images for a long while while it would be a good thing. The technique gets old real fast.

Anyhow, at the beginning I was watching thinking, hmm...I wonder if a Ballard novel is missing a couple of supporting characters (Perhaps Crash or Atrocity Exhibition or Concrete Island..)

I might have some bad dreams about these two crazy women.
posted by Skygazer at 11:38 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


That documentary was really nicely done. Such a sad and frightening tale in so many ways. So many others affected because they just happened to be nearby living their regular lives (Hollingshead walking his neighborhood), or doing their job that day (the transit police, the lorry driver). How tramatic.
posted by dog food sugar at 11:44 PM on October 29, 2010


Life in the fast lane

Sure to make you lose your mind.
posted by Tube at 12:24 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds like a bad M Night Shymalan plot. THE TREES MADE THEM DO IT
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:34 AM on October 30, 2010


Anadem, that's awful.
posted by joost de vries at 2:29 AM on October 30, 2010


I thought that judgment was very unlikely. A person who has clearly shown high levels of delusional and murderously dangerous behaviour repeatedly gets five years? The primary purpose of the prison system surely is to protect the public from potentially dangerous people. How do you know they are dangerous? Past behaviour. The fact that psychologists are so unsure surely shouldn't SHORTEN the confinement?
This indicates strongly that blond swedish women are a privileged group in the UK.
posted by Catfry at 3:32 AM on October 30, 2010


The audio on all the clips is garbled for me- all other youtube clips sound fine. Anybody else having the same issue?
posted by ryaninoakland at 4:49 AM on October 30, 2010


Glenn Hollinshead, local resident of Trent-on-Stoke,

Erm...Stoke On Trent.

/Britishpedant
posted by Jofus at 4:55 AM on October 30, 2010


Tsk. Trent-on-stoke.
As if you'd say Tauber ob der Rothenburg. Or ─▓ssel aan de Krimpen. Or Douro do Santa Cruz.
posted by joost de vries at 5:22 AM on October 30, 2010


Sounds like a bad M Night Shymalan plot.

You make it sound like perhaps there is a good M Night Shymalan plot
posted by the noob at 6:02 AM on October 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Got my audio working. It was interesting that the psychiatrists made these diagnoses based on seemingly so little information. I wonder if inquiries were even made back to Sweden regarding past treatment, or if they even spoke to their friends and family. The video makes it sound like these women appeared out of nowhere, when obviously they had 40 years of past before this event occurred.

I was also confused by the lack of a diagnosis for the sister that was hospitalized. If the jailed sister was to have "caught" the other's mental illness, what was that illness that she suffered from? I know mentally ill patients often slip through the cracks but I can't help but feel that for such a high profile case there were an awful lot of balls dropped here.
posted by ryaninoakland at 6:07 AM on October 30, 2010


They escaped from a mind control testing laboratory.
posted by TheCoyote23 at 6:17 AM on October 30, 2010


You explained a heck of a lot in your [MORE INSIDE] but you also left out huge chunks.

but the rest of the story couldn't be released for two years

Why two years? And what happened to Ursula?

I'm not saying everything should be explained without clicking links. But you were willing to explain some things in detail and some things not at all. It read kinda random.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:22 AM on October 30, 2010


How sad. It was nice to see such an understanding and forgiving attitude from Glenn's brother. I am completely baffled how someone that deliberately ran into traffic would be released (apparently with no stable local housing situation) after only two days in custody.
posted by saucysault at 7:07 AM on October 30, 2010


One of the things that got me amazed from the motorway incident was that the girls seemed invulnerable, it was like a sci-fi plot.
posted by samelborp at 7:30 AM on October 30, 2010


I'll just be plugging all this into my Call of Cthulhu campaign. Thanks, MeFi.
posted by word_virus at 7:34 AM on October 30, 2010


That said, there is a problem with the post: Trent-On-Stoke should be reversed to Stoke-On-Trent. I know that it's a forgettable place, but it should be at least written correctly so people know where to avoid.

Well, they do have a good soccer team...
posted by josher71 at 7:35 AM on October 30, 2010


folly, adieu
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:38 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the things that got me amazed from the motorway incident was that the girls seemed invulnerable, it was like a sci-fi plot.

Certainly Sabina, I still am unsure of how many car impacts she survived, I think a total of three times, and finally she survived hammering herself in the head with a hammer and a drop of 40 feet into yet more traffic.
Ursula 'only' survived the truck, but with both legs crushed.
posted by Catfry at 7:52 AM on October 30, 2010


So very sorry, anadem - I can't think of anything worse for a parent.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:54 AM on October 30, 2010


uncanny hengeman: "Why two years?"

I imagine that was how long it took for every to pass through the court system, before details germaine to the trial could be made public.

The rest of your questions are, indeed, explain in the videos... Ursula wasn't charged with anything, was released when she'd recovered from her collision injuries and is now back in the US (presumably with her partner).
posted by benzo8 at 8:31 AM on October 30, 2010


That was very, very interesting. Thank you for sharing.
posted by janelikes at 10:40 AM on October 30, 2010


So what happens next? Does Sabina get released in 2011 after her sentence is up, or does she get committed to a psychiatric facility? And what about Ursula -- is she now free to continue running out into freeways, endangering innocent motorists? It all seems very unsatisfying.
posted by phliar at 10:59 AM on October 30, 2010


Supervillains, obviously.
posted by SkinnerSan at 12:42 PM on October 30, 2010


Thanks for this. I have a deep interest in folie a deux and fantasy-prone personalities, and I had never heard about this. I wish we knew more about the actual delusions at hand, but I doubt we ever will, unless Ursula's freedom eventually leads to an even worse situation.

I was going to post a joke about how, if everybody joked about my hot Swedish blonde twinness and suggested that the central relationship of my life would serve as an ideal erotic incest fantasy for most men, I'd probably go mad and start murdering too. But after hearing about poor Glenn . . .
posted by Countess Elena at 1:24 PM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apologies to my neighbors across the pond for the Trent-on-Stoke/Stoke-on-Trent mistake!
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:46 PM on October 30, 2010


Oh, and I believe Sabina was only hit once by a car, then got up and ran across to the other side of the M6, but managed to avoid getting hit again. One of the most bizarre and disturbing parts of the initial footage is how Ursula runs out and is hit by the lorry, and Sabina seems to have no reaction to it at all. Then, a minute later, she repeats her sister's actions almost identically. Truly creepy.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:50 PM on October 30, 2010


As horrible as it is sad as it is incrompehensible. Great post though, thanx Saxon Kane.
posted by ouke at 3:32 PM on October 30, 2010


Saxon KanePoster: "the idea that one person can transfer their delusions to another is all sorts of weird."

This happens every day.

I am always amused when I am checking the precise DSM definitions to find the "exception" clauses for popular mass beliefs and cultural practices to remove them from a "delusion" consideration. My favourite moment was when the in-patient unit had not one but *two* guys who proclaimed they were Jesus. Of course everyone with any interest in this anticipates great things from an interaction between people like this, but it was more of a damp squib: mutual disinterest. That's what makes the transmission and sharing of a congruent failure of reality testing that ramifies into a shared psychosis so interesting: it's happens so often between close couples, but not so often that it becomes routine, and the big mystery is really why it *doesn't* happen more frequently.
posted by meehawl at 4:28 PM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


the idea that one person can transfer their delusions to another is all sorts of weird.
It is actually common - exhibit A the Teabaggers. I mean Tea Party. I suppose something can be common and weird however.
posted by jcworth at 4:51 PM on October 30, 2010


Heh. Point taken. I guess it's just the seemingly non-verbal, almost psychic nature of the (apparently) shared delusions in this particular case that's so fascinating.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:59 PM on October 30, 2010


Serious question- can someone that understands the British constabulary system explain why in the hell they didn't subdue these idiots? Specifically, when one of them is up after getting hit a second time, shakes off the female officer, and is running around in the other lanes of traffic, and the officer is using strong but lite language as his primary means of subduing the woman?
posted by docpops at 6:48 PM on October 30, 2010


can someone that understands the British constabulary system explain why in the hell they didn't subdue these idiots? Specifically, when one of them is up after getting hit a second time, shakes off the female officer, and is running around in the other lanes of traffic, and the officer is using strong but lite language as his primary means of subduing the woman?

What would they have subdued them with? Standard police equipment is pepper spray and a truncheon clipped to a belt (until recently only firearms officers carried tasers) neither of which would have likely been of much use in the situation and these were traffic cops so it's quite possible they did not have either on their person in any case. Physical restraint, as they did here, is normal practice.
posted by tallus at 9:03 PM on October 30, 2010


Just torrented this and watched it. One classic copper comment from the scene, early on: "Are they Irish?"

Comedy gold.
posted by meehawl at 9:05 PM on October 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I guess it didn't occur to me that they were "traffic" officers. The sheer traffic carnage potential would make me think they would at least carry zip-ties.
posted by docpops at 9:14 PM on October 30, 2010


I was puzzled by the Irish comment as well. I assumed it was the fair skin.
posted by docpops at 9:14 PM on October 30, 2010


I was puzzled by the Irish comment as well. I assumed it was the fair skin.

docpops, don't underestimate the likelihood of bigotry.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:03 AM on October 31, 2010


Twins are funny like that, and I shall share a story which is completely unrelated to carnage of any kind.

I have a set of fraternal (non-identical, although they really, really look alike) twins in one of my composition classes. The class had a paper due this past Thursday, and when I collected them, the twins were shoving each other aside to get to my desk. The reason? It turned out that they both (independently, as was proved) wrote about the same exact topic, and they JUST THEN realized it. I know, you're thinking they collaborated, but they didn't. So here we have Twin A, all like, "Listen! I came up with it first! I will show you the time I saved it and it's earlier than him!" And then Twin B pushes his brother aside and says, "No! I did my outline before him and I'll show you when I saved it! I printed my final copy put before him, too!" A shoves B aside and says, "You have to make him do it over!" B responds with, "No, HE has to do it over!" And then I finally can contain my hilarity no more, and I look at the times on their documents, because they both REALLY wanted me to know that their twin sucks ass! They just seriously happened, being twins and all, to come up with the EXACT SAME TOPIC, for a free-for-all type of argument paper, but they came at it from utterly and totally opposite directions. It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. They didn't write it together, but had they, it would have been the most perfect example of "YOU suck! No, YOU suck!" ever seen.

They didn't run out in traffic, though, they're just some cool twin boys who like to fight each other and hang out. I had trouble telling them apart for about two days longer than it took me to tell the rest of the class apart. "Are you Jessica? No, you're Diane. Who sits next to Dylan...no, you sit next to Mike. Mike? Fuck. There are WAY too many of you. And some of you are twins."
posted by deep thought sunstar at 1:25 AM on October 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was puzzled by the Irish comment as well. I assumed it was the fair skin.

docpops, don't underestimate the likelihood of bigotry.


I went back to look in context: the camera's on something else when its said. I'm not familiar enough with the BBC to know: were I watching a show produced in the United States, I'd consider it an editing choice, something spliced from elsewhere. Would it be weird to pull an Irish ID off a Swedish national? Wouldn't seem like it, but I'm not nuanced in the details of trans-EU dox. I thought the answering officer was going through purses or pockets or something; Captain Bob answering Officer Jones as he fills out paperwork at the scene, officer Jones recognizing the ID by sight.

I always find myself culturally distracted by the English: the police officer suggesting the victim/perp "chill" was one of the weirder ones, though "freaked out" was kind of anachronistically interesting as well. I have this misconception that ever since the Pilgrims headed west we've been on a culturally divergent path, as can be evidenced by the absolute torrent of modern terminology that went on in that film that we don't agree on: lorry, flexi(/bendi) truck, motorway. Hearing recent slang sort of trips me out, though given our increasing globalization I don't doubt we'll all be talking in slang soup in short order, if we're not already.

I was also touched that the Beeb has an "action line". The Britons: so caring.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 7:02 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ogre Lawless: "Would it be weird to pull an Irish ID off a Swedish national? Wouldn't seem like it, but I'm not nuanced in the details of trans-EU dox."

Ireland has no national identity card or requirement to carry ID (the closest thing is an age card that proves you're over 18, to buy alcohol). As Swedish nationals they would be carrying Swedish EU passports. Maximally charitably, maybe an Irish DL? But I think the racist sterotyping is most likely.
posted by meehawl at 8:20 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the Irish thing may have also been because they were speaking English clearly and without any obvious usage differences that would indicate that it was their second language, but they had an unusual accent that the officers couldn't place. So, perhaps they just thought, "Speaks English perfectly, but sounds odd. Irish?"
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:59 AM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jaw-dropping. Really excellent television. having grown up on Cops and violent movies, I'd have thought I'd be immune to being straight-up shocked at this kind of thing. Not the case. I was horrified and capitvated, and still don't quite understand what in the hell was the deal with these women. Delusional I get; Being hit by three cars and still fighting off the restraining efforts of six men I do not get.

I clicked the first YT video without reading much of saxon kane's commentary because I got the sense it was going to be a good one and I wanted as little context as possible. I had watched two of the four parts before I was sure it was based on documentary footage, and not a convincing fiction in documentary format, like District 9. I am still having trouble believing my eyes here.

Also, as an American, I wasn't aware of the extent to which the eye in the sky has pervaded Great Britain. I'd read about privacy concerns and pervasive cameras in big cities, but Jesus that's a lot of CCTV. (Also: blah blah blah Orwell blah blah blah encroaching power of the state blah blah but did you see those fucking superhuman sisters crash into all those cars? Where can I sign away my privacy rights so we can get more of this kind of footage?)
posted by andromache at 11:55 AM on October 31, 2010


[maybe] they had an unusual accent that the officers couldn't place.

Sorry but no English police officer would have any trouble recognising an Irish accent. Since one of the twins lived in Ireland the officer probably found id that showed residence in Ireland while immediately afterwards the other officer found the swedish/EU passport that they can be seen flipping through.
posted by saucysault at 2:47 PM on October 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they didn't remotely sound Irish.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:28 AM on November 1, 2010


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