A Classic Split Personality

A Classic Split Personality

There are many strange cases of multiple personality, but none more strange than that of William Brodie. He was a highly respected man, son of a wealthy cabinetmaker, a member of the city council, and deacon of the mason's guild. He led a most admirable life — that is, until August of 1768, when he began to lead two very different lives. By night Brodie was the leader of a vicious gang of thieves and murderers. His nighttime crimes were at times unspeakably sadistic. The man was absolutely without compassion, and he reveled in the misery of his victims.

By day it was a completely different story. Deacon Brodie, leading citizen, was kind and generous to most of the people he encountered. It is even doubtful if he was fully aware of what kind of man he became at night; in fact his most probable link with this late—night behavior was an occasional dreamlike, fleeting remembrance. Absolutely nobody knew of Brodie's secret night life — not even his two mistresses — and he maintained this dual existence for over eighteen years.

He was finally caught when he and his gang tried to break into the Scottish customs and excise office. The public was absolutely unbelieving that such a highly respected man was the almost legendary leader of a gang of cutthroats.

People came from miles around to attend his trial, mainly to see for themselves what Deacon Brodie looked like. They nearly always left in disbelief that such a kind—looking gentleman could be the leader of thieves and murderers. Evidently the jury had another opinion, because he was quickly found guilty and subsequently hanged.

In 1884 Robert Louis Stevenson and William E. Henley wrote a play based on Brodie's career called Deacon Brodie or The Double Life. Stevenson went a step further and used Brodie as the basis for a new book he wrote in 1886. He entitled it The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth