In psychology, Folie à deux (French for “a madness shared by two’) is a rare psychiatric syndrome where delusional beliefs are shared between two people. Featured in this article is a mugshot from the case of Ursula and Sabina Eriksson, two Swedish twins who are believed to be a perfect example of the frightening illness. Born in the idyllic town of Sunne, the twins grew up with their older siblings Björn and Mona where they lived relatively normal lives. By the year 2000, Ursula was living in the USA and Sabina lived in Ireland with her partner and two children. There was no history of juvenile delinquency, criminal convictions, or even reported mental illness. So why, in 2008, did they decide to embark on a suicide mission by running down the M6 Motorway into oncoming traffic?
The reported timeline of the case is sketchy, with many sensationalist media sources adding aspects that have no certain truth behind them. The generally accepted version of events is that on Friday the 16th of May, 2008, the sisters decided to meet up. Ursula boarded a plane to County Cork where her sister was living, and the pair got on the ferry to the city of Liverpool. What seems strange, is that nobody on that boat remembered the twins. This seems particularly unusual — The ferry is a popular, relatively cheap way, to get from Ireland to Liverpool and thousands of people use the service every year. Why had nobody seen them? Furthermore, nobody knows where they planned on staying during their family reunion, as neither of them had family or friends in Liverpool. On the 17th, it was clear that things were beginning to get weird: At approximately 8:30AM, Ursula and Sabina frantically ran into St. Anne Police Station after Sabina claimed her children were in danger. Being over 340 miles away, and with no actual contact with her partner and children, this definitely seemed to be the starting point of this mysterious case. Despite her erratic behaviour, police made contact with Dublin police officers who followed up on the complaint only to discover that Sabina’s family were perfectly alright, albeit a bit confused by the random visit. After the reassuring news, police were keen to inform the Eriksson sisters, but they were baffled upon discovering they had boarded a coach down to London.
While on the coach, both twins now displayed erratic behaviour. According to the unnamed coach driver, they would stand up at random intervals, clutching onto their bags with dear life. For some reason, they were refusing to put their luggage in the luggage-hold, and the driver had understandably had enough. Fearing the paranoid individuals may become violent on such a busy coach, they were asked to leave. He dropped them off at the nearest coach station and made sure a manager escorted them off the premises. It was at this point where people began to get suspicious; the fact that these strange women were very reluctant to let go of their bags seemed a clear indicator that they twins terrorists, carrying some sort of explosive device. After a long conversation with police, they were remarkably allowed to leave. Whether the twins had somehow feigned sanity, or it was negligence on the police’s part, the twins left on foot. What happened next proved to be one of the most shocking police incidents televised on British television.
In the afternoon of the same day, Motorway police officers monitoring CCTV noticed that two women were walking down the central reservation of the M6, Britain’s longest and busiest motorway that runs all the way up to Scotland. A road block was issues, but the pair still tried to run across, and were consequently ran down by several motorists. Miraculously, they were never seriously injured. When police arrived, the sisters switched back to being calm again, much like the incident back at the coach station. However, whilst officers were distracted, Ursula ran into the path of a lorry travelling at 56mph. The speed of the collision should have proved fatal enough, let alone the sheer weight of such a vehicle, but somehow Ursula survived. Attention was now turned to Sabina, who seemed to follow her sister in a daze. A Volkswagen Polo collided with her, and she was unconscious for over 15 minutes. She too, survived. In an almost unsettling way, the twins were proving to be superhuman in terms of their physical resistance to usually fatal injuries.
Resisting, biting, screaming and clawing, both girls did everything they could to get away from at paramedics and police officers at the scene, who were the enemy in their delusional state. At one point, Sabina shouted “They’re going to steal your organs” and “I recognise you – I know you’re not real”. While sobbing on the floor she turned to a female officer and asked: “Why do you kill me?” Apart from some kind of mental illness, another thought that crossed the minds of the police was of possible psychedelic drug use. Nightmare stories of “bad trips” have been shared on the Internet many a time, and common symptoms range from intense anxiety to straight up paranoid delusions that can last weeks. However, no substances were found in the twins’ systems.
Unfortunately, this bizarre case doesn’t just stop there. After she was released from hospital and given a clean bill of mental and physical health, Sabina approached Army veteran, Glenn Hollinshead who became very concerned for her. The kindly father of two invited her back to his house where he made them both a cup of tea and they both smoked cigarettes, which a paranoid Sabina claimed were poisoned and suggested that they stop smoking them. In spite of her demeanour, Sabina was allowed to stay the night until Glenn could find a family member to contact. After all, she was clearly unwell and needed his help. If Glenn had heard about the incident on the M6, then perhaps he would have had second thoughts, as this would be his last good deed.
At around 7PM the next day, Sabina stabbed her rescuer. He had managed to crawl to his neighbours house to ask him to “look after the dog” before perishing from his wounds. After his slaying, Sabina ran down the road and began hitting herself on the head with a hammer before jumping off a 40 ft bridge, and again, she survived with just broken ankles. She was charged with manslaughter due to her insanity. She was sentenced to five years in prison but was paroled in 2011; her whereabouts are currently unknown and no one has seen or heard from either of the sisters since– a frightening fact when you know what they are both capable of. As is such with these mysterious cases, the Internet is full to the brim with conspiracy theories, from government experiments, MK-Ultra, (a research conducted in the early 50’s by the CIA, where unwitting test subjects were fed LSD) to them being possessed by demons. One thing is for certain, this is a truly chilling and disturbing tale.