They call it “folie à deux,” French for “madness of two,” a condition more commonly called shared psychosis, shared psychotic disorder, or induced delusional disorder among psychiatric specialists. It’s a rare condition, and seldom has it been more dramatically realized than in the bizarre case of Ursula (pictured above in green dashing onto oncoming traffic) and Sabina Eriksson (pictured in red). Originally from Sweden with no criminal records or history of mental instability, the Eriksson twins seemingly went mad at the same time, on the same day, resulting in a string of attempted suicides and the murder of one unfortunate bystander.
The Eriksson twins were born in Sweden in 1967 and lived seemingly normal lives until one Friday in May of 2008. Ursula, who was living in the United States at the time, had gone to visit Sabina, who was living in County Cork, Ireland with her partner and two children. The precise moment that the folie à deux began is difficult to pin down, but the two sisters left Sabina’s house in the middle of the night and traveled to Liverpool, where they immediately stopped in to the St. Anne Street Police Station. There, they claimed that they were concerned about the safety of Sabina’s children, who had been left behind in Ireland. The police learned that Sabina had been in a fight with her partner the night before, and reached out to authorities in Dublin to investigate, but by 11:30 that same morning, Sabina and Ursula had already boarded a bus bound for London.
Police reports would later state that the twins left the bus because they were not feeling well, though the driver wouldn’t let them back on due to their erratic behavior. The manager of the service station also thought the two women seemed suspicious, and he called the police. The officers who arrived on the scene found the women to be harmless enough. Sabina and Ursula departed the service station and started walking along the road before abruptly deciding to cross it. That was where the real chaos began.
Both women sustained minor injuries in their initial attempt to cross the motorway, and the police were once more called to the scene. This time they were accompanied by a camera crew who happened to be filming an episode of the show Motorway Cops. What happened next was caught on film, as Ursula broke away from the officers and ran into traffic without warning, followed shortly by Sabina.
Both were struck by speeding vehicles and badly injured. Ursula’s legs were crushed by a lorry, while Sabina was unconscious for 15 minutes. However, this didn’t stop them from resisting paramedics’ attempts to treat them. Ursula is said to have spit and scratched the officers in her efforts to get away, shouting at one of them, “I recognize you—I know you’re not real.” When Sabina regained consciousness, she began screaming as well, warning her sister,“They’re going to steal your organs”, and calling for the police, seemingly unaware that the police were exactly the people who were attempting to calm her down.
Both women were ultimately restrained, sedated, and taken to the hospital. In spite of her earlier behavior, Sabina soon became calm and lucid and was released from the hospital five hours later into police custody. She was sentenced to one day in jail after pleading guilty to charges of trespassing and striking an officer in the face during her struggles.
The following Monday, Sabina was released from jail and began wandering the streets looking for her hospitalized sister. At some point during the day, she started a conversation with two men, Glenn Hollinshead and his friend Peter Molloy. Though Molloy later said that Sabina had seemed nervous and paranoid, Hollinshead offered to let her stay at his house while she searched for her sister.
The following evening, Hollinshead stumbled bleeding out of his house and told his neighbor, “She stabbed me.” Soon after, he died, due to the five stab wounds that Sabina had apparently inflicted on him with a kitchen knife. Sabina took flight from the house, carrying a hammer that she used to hit herself repeatedly in the head. When a passing motorist saw her and attempted to tackle her and stop the hammering, she assaulted him. Paramedics soon arrived and attempted to restrain Sabina, who jumped from a bridge at Heron Cross, breaking both of her ankles and fracturing her skull.
Sabina ultimately pled guilty to a charge of manslaughter with diminished responsibility but offered no explanation for her extraordinary actions. She was sentenced to five years in prison, and after her release in 2011, she and her twin sister largely disappeared from the public eye.
Over the years since, numerous theories have been put forth to explain the bizarre and seemingly unmotivated behavior of the two sisters. Their own brother told a Swedish newspaper that they were fleeing from “maniacs” at the time. No illicit substances were found in their bodies to explain their sudden behavior, and according to the records of the court, Sabina was simply the “secondary sufferer” of a folie à deux, an unexplainable madness brought on by the presence of her twin sister, the “primary sufferer.”
Other, more fanciful explanations for the bizarre case abound online, including theories that the twin siblings were possessed by demons, or were the subject of a secret mind control experiment like MKULTRA. Whether it simply was a “madness of two” or something more sinister that claimed the life of one man and nearly killed the two sisters will probably never be known, but the strange case of the Eriksson twins isn’t one that will soon be forgotten.
Featured photo: NaziUAF / YouTube