Billy Milligan

William Stanley Milligan (February 14, 1955 – December 12, 2014) was an American citizen who was the subject of a highly publicized court case in Ohio in the late 1970s. After having committed several felonies including armed robbery, he was arrested for three rapes on the campus of Ohio State University. In the course of preparing his defense, psychologists diagnosed Milligan with multiple personality disorder. His lawyers plead insanity, claiming that two of his alternate personalities committed the crimes without Milligan being aware of it. He was the first person diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder to raise such a defense,[1] and the first acquitted of a major crime for this reason, instead spending a decade in mental hospitals.

Billy Milligan
William Stanley Milligan

(1955-02-14)February 14, 1955
DiedDecember 12, 2014(2014-12-12) (aged 59)
Known fordissociative identity disorder
Criminal chargeRape, armed robbery

Milligan's life story was popularized by Daniel Keyes's award-winning non-fiction novel The Minds of Billy Milligan.[2]



Milligan was born in February 1955, in Miami Beach, to Dorothy Milligan and Johnny Morrison.

Dorothy Milligan grew up in Ohio farm country and lived in Lancaster with her previous husband. They divorced, and Dorothy eventually moved to the Miami area, where she worked as a singer. There she began living with Johnny Morrison. Dorothy and Morrison had two other children: a son, Jim Milligan, in October 1953, and a daughter, Kathy Jo Milligan, born in December 1956.

Morrison struggled with fatherhood, and according to Daniel Keyes, "Meeting the medical expenses overwhelmed Johnny. He borrowed more, gambled more, drank more [...]. [He] was hospitalized for acute alcoholism and depression in [...] 1958." In what appeared to be a suicide attempt, according to Keyes, "[Dorothy] found him slumped over the table, half a bottle of Scotch and an empty bottle of sleeping pills on the floor." A few months after this attempt, on January 17, 1959, Johnny committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.[3]

Dorothy took her children and moved away from Miami, eventually returning to Lancaster, Ohio, where she remarried her ex-husband. This marriage lasted about a year. In 1962, she met Chalmer Milligan (1927–1988).[4] Chalmer's first wife Bernice divorced him on "grounds of gross neglect".[5] He had a daughter, Challa, the same age as Billy, and another daughter who was a nurse. Dorothy and Chalmer married in Circleville, Ohio, on October 27, 1963.[6]

At his later trial, Chalmer was blamed for abusing Billy. Keyes claimed that Billy had multiple personalities from a much earlier age, however, with his first three (no-name boy, Christene, and Shawn) appearing by the time he was five years old.


In 1975, Milligan was imprisoned at Lebanon Correctional Institution in Ohio for rape and armed robbery. He was released on parole in early 1977 and was required to register as a sex offender. In October 1977, Milligan was arrested for raping three women on the Ohio State University campus. He was identified by one of his victims from existing police mug shots of sex offenders, and from fingerprints lifted from another victim's car. One of the victims said that he was quite nice and that he acted like a 3-year-old girl.

Since he used a gun during the crime and guns were found in a search of his residence, he had violated his parole as well. He was indicted on "[...] three counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated robbery and four counts of rape". He then stayed in the Ohio State Penitentiary.

In the course of preparing his defense, he underwent a psychological examination by Dr. Willis C. Driscoll, who diagnosed Milligan with acute schizophrenia. He was then examined by psychologist Dorothy Turner of Southwest Community Mental Health Center in Columbus, Ohio. During this examination, Turner concluded that Milligan suffered from dissociative identity disorder. Milligan's public defenders, Gary Schweickart and Judy Stevenson, pleaded an insanity defense, and he was committed "[...] until such time as he regains sanity".


Milligan was sent to a series of state-run mental hospitals, such as the Athens State Hospital, where, by his report, he received very little help. While he was in these hospitals, Milligan reported having ten different personalities. These ten were the only ones known to psychologists. Later on an additional 14 personalities, labeled "The Undesirables", were discovered. Among the first ten were Arthur, a prim and proper Englishman who was an expert in science, medicine and hematology; Allen, a manipulator; Tommy, an escape artist and technophile; Ragen Vadascovinich, a Yugoslav communist who Milligan claimed had committed the robberies in a kind of Robin Hood spirit; and Adalana, a 19-year-old lesbian(shy, lonely and introverted) who cooked for all the personalities and craved affection and who had allegedly committed the rapes.[7]

Milligan received treatment from psychiatrist David Caul, who diagnosed the additional fourteen personalities.


Milligan was released in 1988 after a decade in mental hospitals, and discharged from the Ohio mental health system and the Ohio courts on August 1, 1991. In 1996 he lived in California where he owned Stormy Life Productions and was going to make a short film (which apparently has never been made). His location thereafter remained for a long time unknown, his former acquaintances having lost contact with him.[1]


Milligan died of cancer at a nursing home in Columbus, Ohio, on December 12, 2014. He was 59.[8]



Daniel Keyes authored a biographical non-fiction novel called The Minds of Billy Milligan (1981, available in fourteen[2] languages). His follow-up book, The Milligan Wars, was published in Japan in 1994, in Taiwan in 2000, in France in 2009, in Ukraine in 2018, but not yet in the United States, first owing to Milligan's ongoing lawsuit against the State of Ohio for the allegedly inadequate treatment he received in Ohio facilities, then to the desire to tie its release to an in-development film.


Several attempts had been made by Hollywood to adapt Keyes' book. In the early 1990s, James Cameron co-wrote a screenplay with Todd Graff for a film version he was to direct then-titled A Crowded Room. This adaptation never came into fruition because Cameron was sued by adaptation rightsholder Sandy Arcara, demanding "her salary should be raised from $250,000 to $1.5 million";[9] seeing the project stalled, Milligan also sued Cameron in 1993.[10] After Cameron left the project, Warner Bros. continued to develop it now slightly retitled The Crowded Room, with directors Joel Schumacher and David Fincher attached at various points. Actors courted for the role of Milligan included Matthew McConaughey, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and John Cusack. As of August 2014, the film remains in limbo.[11] In February 2015, it was confirmed that Leonardo DiCaprio would star as Milligan, with Jason Smilovic set to pen the script.[12] In 2021, it was announced that The Crowded Room would instead be adapted as a ten-episode television series, starring Tom Holland.[13]


  1. ^ a b "30 years later, multiple-personality case still fascinates", The Columbus Dispatch, 28 October 2007
  2. ^ a b As of August 2014, The Minds of Billy Milligan is available in at least in fourteen languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish.
  3. ^ Keyes, Daniel (1981). The Minds of Billy Milligan, Random House, p. 131-135. ISBN 0-394-51943-4
  4. ^ Ohio Death Index: "Chalmer J Milligan b est 1927, resident of Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio, died 14 Dec 1988 in Fairfield County"
  5. ^ Lancaster Eagle Gazette, June 21, 1962. Article states, "[...] they wed July 23, 1957."
  6. ^ Keyes, p. 135-139
  7. ^ Keyes, p. 54
  8. ^ Billy Milligan | 1955-2014: Man with famous insanity plea dies, The Columbus Dispatch, retrieved December 17, 2014
  9. ^ Brennan, David (2010). "A Crowded Room: The Abandoned Project" (Summary & Analysis of the Un-produced James Cameron Project, "A Crowded Room"),
  10. ^ "Cameron, partner sued over 'Minds'". Variety. Variety. 1993-08-02. Retrieved 2014-05-27.
  11. ^ "The Crowded Room Movie (Development): Mar. 17, 2015 - added true story as a genre - Movie Insider". Movie Insider. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Leonardo DiCaprio, New Regency Moving Ahead With 'The Crowded Room later on the movie Split Was released as the year ' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  13. ^ Goldberg, Lesley. "Tom Holland to Star in Apple Mental Illness Anthology From Akiva Goldsman". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 April 2021.