A New Documentary Looks at the Landmark Case of Billy Milligan and His 24 Personalities

Billy Milligan

Trigger Warning: This article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering for some. Please read with caution and exercise self-care. 

One of the latest true-crime offerings from Netflix revolves around the highly publicised and extremely controversial case of Billy Milligan, who was arrested and charged in 1977 for committing a series of rapes at Ohio State University.

Milligan claimed he had no recollection of the crimes and became the first person ever acquitted of a major crime based on his legal team’s argument that he suffered from a dissociative identity disorder — or multiple personality disorder as it was called at the time.

Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan examines the case and poses the question of whether Milligan was genuinely sick or if he was simply a master manipulator.

In a press release, Netflix revealed that the Milligan family, as well as friends, doctors, and the law enforcement professionals who’ve tried to untangle the truth, are interviewed in the series.

40 years on, people still wonder whether Billy’s multiple personalities were indeed controlling his actions or if they were a convenient cover for a brilliant narcissistic sociopath. To what extent should charismatic criminals benefit from their notoriety? And were Billy’s most violent crimes still to come?

Who Was Billy Milligan?

According to the documentary’s official synopsis, Milligan was “an aimless young man with a traumatic childhood and a criminal record.”

He was diagnosed by a group of psychiatrists as having as many as 24 distinct “multiples” existing within his mind and was subsequently found innocent of the rapes by reason of insanity.

The court essentially ruled that while he had indeed committed the crimes he was accused of, he was not responsible for them occurring due to his condition.

What Was His Childhood Like?

It would appear that mental illness certainly ran in Milligan’s family. His father, who suffered from depression and alcoholism, died by suicide when Milligan was just 4-years-old.

During his psychiatric evaluations ahead of his trial, Milligan alleged that his stepfather had persistently sodomised him and torture him by burying him alive and hanging him by his toes and fingers. Psychiatrists argued that this trauma had caused Milligan’s personality to splinter.

During his junior year of high school, he was committed to a state mental hospital and diagnosed with hysterical neurosis.

What Were His Alleged Crimes?

Already a registered sex offender from a 1975 rape and robbery charge, Milligan was arrested again in October 1977 for the rape of three women on the Ohio State University campus.

One of his victims was able to identify him from his previous mug shots while his fingerprints were found on another of his victim’s cars.

Having used a gun during the crimes (which were then found at his home), he had violated his parole too. He was indicted on “three counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated robbery and four counts of rape” and incarcerated in the Ohio State Penitentiary.

What Were His Different Personalities?

Milligan was diagnosed with his first ten personalities over the course of his stays at various state-run hospitals.

Later, a psychiatrist named David Caul discovered an additional 14 personalities including Arthur, an uptight 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 and Adalana, a 19-year-old shy and lonely lesbian who Milligan alleged had committed the rapes “because she wanted to feel close to someone.”

Where Is He Now?

Milligan died of cancer in Columbus, Ohio, on December 12, 2014, at the age of 59.

Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan premieres on Netflix on September 22, 2021. Watch the trailer below.


If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, please contact the Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line on 1800 Respect (1800 737 732) or head to The Australian Human Rights Commission for a list of state by state resources.

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