Night Shyamalan movies have frankly been a little flat lately. He had some great films with Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and a smattering of others (Check out his 2010 film Devil) but for the most part in his recent history it has been flub after flub. However, I am extremely intrigued and interested in his new movie Split which is about a man navigating through a life of 23 multiple personalities. This film is loosely based on the life of William (Billy) Stanley Milligan who was also an influence for the 1996 thriller Primal Fear. Mulligan is the first person to be acquitted of multiple major crimes by claiming that his other personalities – and therefore, other people – committed the crimes.
Billy Milligan was born in 1955 in Ohio to Dorothy Milligan and Johnny Morrison. The unwed couple had three children and did not create a good environment for their little family. Johnny drank a lot, was in gambling debt, suffered from severe depression and had at least one failed suicide attempt before completing the task with a vehicle and a closed garage. Dorothy Milligan moved with her children to Miami and went through a number of different men who were abusive and neglectful to her and her children. To deal with a traumatic early life, Billy started fractioning his mind into different personalities as early as five years old. By the time Milligan was on trial, he was housing 24 vastly different people in his mind. All with different names, ages, accents, interests, sexualities, roles, as well as their own mental and physical disabilities (such as dyslexia and deafness).
By the time 1975 came around, Billy was arrested for multiple accounts of rape and armed robbery. One of his four rape victims commented that Billy not only acted as lesbian female, but a child as well. He was captured due to witnesses and fingerprints left at almost every scene of his crimes.
Prior to his trial, Milligan was diagnosed by Dr. Willis C. Driscoll with severe schizophrenia. This diagnosis was changed to multiple personality disorder by psychologist Dorothy Turner of Ohio’s Southwest Community Mental Health Center. Billy Milligan was acquitted due to insanity and was sent to a slew of mental hospitals. At these hospitals, Milligan’s personalities were unravelled slowly and he was finally released after accomplishing what his doctors called fusion in 1988 and lived in California as a small business owner until cancer overtook him in 2014.
The vastness of Milligan’s personalities is terrifying and mind boggling! They are in categories of good and evil and each created for a different purpose. Milligan did have relationships where he was able to keep his personalities from is partners, but as soon as stress, anger, discomfort or fear appeared, so would whichever person was needed in the situation. Billy Milligan’s core personality was buried deep and protected from his mind-breaking environments.
- Billy Milligan (William Stanley Milligan) is the core personality.
- Arthur is an extremely sophisticated and educated Englishman. An expert in science and medicine, with a focus on hermatology. He is in “the spot” – that is, in charge of the shared body – during times that required intellectual thinking. Arthur is one of only two personalities who could classify a person in the group as an undesirable.
- Ragen Vadascovinich is the “keeper of hate”. His name comes from the words “rage again”. Ragen describes himself as Yugoslavian, has a Slavic accent, can write and speak in Serbian and is extraordinarily strong. He controls the spot in dangerous times and can designate group members as “undesirable”. He admitted committing robbery in order to support “the family”, but had no knowledge of the rapes.
- Allen is a con man and a manipulator. He is the most common person to talk to the outside world. He plays the drums and paints portraits. Also the only right-handed self. He is the only personality that smokes cigarettes.
- Tommy is the escape artist; he is often confused with Allen. He plays the tenor sax and is an electronics expert. He is also a painter, specializing in landscapes.
- Danny is afraid of people, especially men. He only paints still lifes and never paints landscapes. He says this was because Chalmer made him dig his own grave and buried him in it.
- David, age eight, is the “keeper of pain”. He comes to the spot to take the pain of the others.
- Christene, age three, was the one who would stand in the corner in school when “Billy” would get in trouble. She has dyslexia, but Arthur taught her to read and write. Ragen has a special bond with her.
- Christopher, Christene’s brother, plays the harmonica.
- Adalana, a lesbian, cooks and cleans house for the others, and writes poetry. Milligan’s attorney claimed that Adalana had admitted to committing the rapes without the knowledge of Milligan or the other alters.
- Phil is a thug and took part in planning some small time crimes. Has a Brooklyn accent. Marked due to him being a criminal.
- Kevin is a criminal planner; he helped devise a plan to rob a drug store. Labeled also because he is a criminal.
- Walter is Australian. He calls himself a big-game hunter and has an excellent sense of direction. Was often used as a spotter. He was labeled because he shot and killed a crow.
- April only has thoughts about destroying Billy’s stepfather. Declared an Undesirable when she convinced Ragen to kill Chalmer. Luckily though Arthur was able to talk him out of it at the last second.
- Samuel is a Jewish person and the only one who believes in God. Was marked because he sold some of the other people’s personal paintings.
- Mark is the workhorse. He is often referred to as the zombie because he does nothing unless he is told, and will stare at walls when bored.
- Steve is the impostor, he uses imitations for comedy. Steve never accepted that he was an MP. He was made to be undesirable because his comedy caused the family problems.
- Lee is the prankster and his practical jokes normally get the family into trouble. He does not care about consequences for his actions. He was made an undesirable because one of his jokes put them into solitary confinement.
- Jason is the pressure valve. He was used at the beginning to release tension for the family, but he caused them to get into too much trouble and was marked as an undesirable.
- Bobby always dreams of leading some adventure or fixing some global crisis, but he has no ambitions and was labeled due to that fact.
- Shawn, who is four and deaf, makes buzzing sounds so he can feel the vibration in his head. He was labeled an undesirable because there was no benefit from being deaf later on in life. (Even though he is an undesirable he was never cast into the shadows beyond the spot; he was just never allowed to take the spot.)
- Martin is a snob, from New York. He wants things just handed over to him without earning them.
- Timothy worked in a florist shop until he encountered a gay man who flirted with him. He went into his own world after that.
- The Teacher, was by far the greatest milestone to helping Billy achieve fusion. He is the sum of all 24 people put together, and has almost total recall of all the other people’s actions and thoughts.