The Double Life of Howard Winham, Age 4
It is axiomatic that twins have a unique connection. The paranormal literature is full of cases of geographically separated twins falling ill with the identical malady at the same time or a twin knowing that their sibling has broken a leg or has passed away. Studies of twins separated at birth often reveal striking coincidences between their lives even though they knew nothing of the other’s path. Some twins die within hours of each other. Small wonder then that such bonds might not be broken by death, as in this story of a child whose twin died a few days after birth.
A STRANGE CASE
[New York Cor. St. Louis Republic.]
Abnormal development of the brain is believed to account for the peculiar behavior of Howard Winham, 4 years old, son of Mr. and Mrs. George Winham, of No. 131 Brook avenue, almost since his birth. Howard was born a twin, and his brother lived only three days. His parents declare that Howard was aware of the death of his twin brother, because of his strange actions at the time. He is said to have cried and moaned for several days.
As he grew older the boy acted as if he thought the dead brother was still alive. Even now he refuses to sleep in the afternoon and at night unless he is placed in a double bed. When he awakes he reaches over to the other side of the bed, as if he expected to find his brother lying there. At each disappointment he cries bitterly. He will not eat unless a plate, knife and fork, a glass of water and food are placed for the dead child.
Several physicians who have examined Howard confess themselves puzzled by the case. Lack of money has prevented the boy’s father from taking him to specialists, but he expects to be able to do so as soon as the result of a suit he had pending against the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company for injuries received while working in the Harlem River yards on October 16, 1903, has been settled. Winham was under a locomotive drawing the fire, when a man in the cab started it. Four of Winham’s ribs were broken. The injured man at once brought suit against the road through his lawyer, George Bristol, of No. 29 Broad street. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 18 November 1904: p. 6
DOCTORS ARE PUZZLED BY BOY’S STRANGE ACTIONS
New York, November 23. Spiritualists, Christian Scientists, hypnotists, men of medicine and church folk are working together in an attempt to fathom the strange case of four-year-old Howard Winham, who appears to be grieving himself into a state of melancholia over the loss of a twin brother who died a few hours after birth. Waking suddenly at night little Howard is found by his parents groping strangely about the big double bed in which he demands to sleep, wailing in a tone so plaintive that those who have heard it declare it can come of no earthly motive. Muskegon [MI] Chronicle 23 November 1904: p. 5
This article announces the arrival of the inevitable advice from Spiritualists.
Lately the boy has awakened every night at 12 o’clock and cried loudly. This new symptom of his disease became known to some spiritualists, and Mrs. Winham has received many letters offering advice on the case. One letter from the National Spiritualist headquarters at Washington says that the boy cries because he sees the spirit of his dead twin. The writer advises the parents to enter the room directly they hear the cries. He assures them that they will then see the spirit for themselves. The Winhams followed this advice. Mr. Winham even hid under the bed in order to be present at the exact instant when the cries began. They have not as yet seen the spirit and always find their child asleep. Another letter says that the boy will grow up a great spiritualist and that a medium should be consulted at once.
The Winhams have seven children, all of whom except little Howard are normal. The family has been badly frightened by the letters and the children are afraid to stay in the house with their brother.
Mr. Winham says that he will devote all his money and energies to solving the problem of his son’s dual personality. New York Sun. Galveston [TX] Daily News 27 November 1904: p. 2
This next article is the most detailed, but it makes some dubious statements such as “he lives as if he were two boys,” and labeling Howard as having an “alternative personality,” when it seems more as if young Howard is reacting to his dead brother’s presence. But, of course, we cannot rule out the possibility of hallucination or of Capgras’s or Cotard’s Syndrome—where the sufferer does not recognize himself. There is also a conflation of Howard’s behavior with the “dual life” led by a German student, who may have had what is now called “Dissociative Identity Disorder.”
Strange Dual Life led by a Three Year Old Boy
The strange dual life led by Howard Winham of 143 Brook avenue, Borough of the Bronx, in New York City, is exciting the interest of students and professors of psychology in the universities and colleges of the east.
Howard Winham is only 3 ½ years old and is one of twin boys. His twin brother, however, died within a few hours of his birth. From that hour little Howard seems to live in a strange world. In fact, he lives as if he were two boys.
The peculiar phenomenon of his life was not particularly noticeable until he was able to walk. That was some time after he was a year old.
Demands Duplicates of Gifts.
From that time he never seemed to be alone. If he was given a stick of candy he invariably insisted on having two. This, at first, was attributed to his love for candy. But after awhile his parents noticed that he never ate but one piece of the candy. The other he laid aside. To test his peculiarity they would offer him three sticks of candy. Either he would take only two or would insist on having four. If given four he would eat tow and lay the other two aside.
As the little boy grew older and could sit at the table in a high chair he would not eat unless an extra plate and an extra spoon were laid beside his own, and more than that he would cry until a vacant chair was placed beside his own. He would not touch the extra plate or spoon, but would not eat unless they were provided.
Little Howard was and is a precocious child. He could talk quite readily at 2 years and even at that age knew the purchasing powers and possibilities that lay in a penny—that universal gold of childhood. When given a penny he would insist on another one. “No, no, no, two, two, two,” he would cry. If he could not have two pennies he would not take one. If given two he would run to the grocery store and spend one for candy, but would not spend the other one.
Howard’s parents are poor and they cannot afford many pennies or many toys. His first toy was a hoop taken from a barrel and wound with bright colored cloth. His mother taught him how to roll the hoop along the sidewalk with a stick. As soon as he learned the joys of rolling the hoop he promptly demanded another hoop and refused to be comforted until it was made for him, but when he got it he laid it aside and continued to play with his old one.
It was the same way with his first top, his first ball. Everything has to be given him in duplicate, and yet he never plays with more than one.
The child, however, does not insist upon a double supply of wearing apparel. He is content with one cap, one pair of shoes.
Undeterred by Punishment.
For a long time his parents failed to fathom Howard’s peculiar mental humor. At first they attributed his peculiarities to selfishness and to whimsicality and they even punished him when he insisted on having duplicates of everything. The child’s extraordinary peculiarity finally became known in the neighborhood. It is generally believed by all who know and have observed the child that his life is intimately bound up with some unexplained knowledge of his twin brother. His parents, however, laugh at this theory, and his mother even spanks him in a vain effort to break him of what her neighbors call a “sympathy” for his dead brother.
Of course, little Howard does not know of the little twin brother that died. He is not old enough to realize what it means or would mean even if he were told. His mother has listened to the pleadings of her friends and neighbors to the extent of promising to keep the knowledge of his twin brother from him as the boy grows older. Even when he becomes old enough to be told and to understand he is to be kept in ignorance of the fact that he ever had a brother.
In the meantime the peculiar mental traits of little Howard Winham attracted the attention of students of psychology at Columbia university and the University of New York. They give it the scientific name of “alternative personality.” From their study of psychology they say that as little Howard grows older his tendency to alternative personality may diminish and disappear. In that event he will be of no further interest to psychological science.
If, on the other hand, the boy’s tendency to alternative personality increases rather than diminishes, he will present an instance of which there have been few in the history of “soul science.”
Radical Change in Alternative Personality
There are only a few well authenticated cases of alternative personality, but these few have excited the keen interest of students of psychology in all countries of the world. Among the more notable cases is that of Herr Straussmann of Alsace, who for years before his death lived unconsciously as two men. Like the little New York boy, Straussmann had a twin brother who died at birth. There is no record of Straussmann’s earlier years, and his peculiar mental characteristic was not recognized until he was 13 years old and at school in Strassbourg. He was a particularly headstrong, vicious boy careless of dress and manners and indifferent to study. His tutors had almost reached the point where they intended to urge his expulsion from the school.
One day young Straussmann entered the classroom, neatly dressed and with modest demeanor. He knew his lessons perfectly. His tutor was astonished and complimented the youth upon his marked improvement. The boy expressed unmistakable surprise and denied with unusual earnestness that he had ever been anything else than a diligent student. The tutor let the matter rest.
For six months Straussman was the model boy of the school and bade fair to carry off the honors of his class. Then, the day fixed for the school examinations, he appeared in the classroom as unkempt, as insolent as ever. More than that, he was entirely ignorant of everything he had studied for six months.
Solved by Scientific Study.
Prof. Hertzogg, the principal of the school divined that there was something mysterious in young Straussmann’s mentality and he proceeded to make a close study of the boy. He took him into his own family in order to be able to make closer observations. At the end of three years of careful study Prof. Hertzogg revealed to the scientific world one of the strangest cases of alternative personality ever known. Young Straussmann vibrated unconsciously between two personalities. The changes in his character were irregular as well as involuntary. Straussmann the brutal, insolent, ignorant youth would become Straussman the gentle, considerate, well learned, almost in an instant. In his better moods Straussmann was a musician, a linguist, a gentleman. In his opposite mood he was an ignorant lout. In neither mood did Straussmann recognize himself in the other. In his later years he came to know of his own strange dual character. In his gentler mood he sought to study his other self, but while he realized that part of the time he had another existence, he could not recall even for than instant any of the peculiarities of his other self. He never knew when his mood changed.
Phenomenon Made Famous by Stevenson. Alternative personality is by no means an unrecognized phenomenon even by those who do not know it by that name. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote one of his most notable books with alternative personality as its motive and every theater-goer in the United States knows the book, for no play is of more common knowledge than “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Herr Straussmann of Alsace Lorraine was only the forerunner of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and little Howard Winham of New York may live to supply fiction and the drama with another character equally strange and mysterious. Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 22 January 1905: p. 29
It is interesting that the parents think that Howard does not know about his twin and do not plan to ever tell him. In all likelihood, they were deluding themselves. Little pitchers have big ears.
All but one of the articles all make it seem as though Howard was an only child, but in fact his father George, a laborer, and his mother, Jessie, had seven children before Howard was born, the eldest, a boy named Leon, who was 12 in 1900. Even if the parents did not speak of the baby, there were enough other siblings and possibly other relatives whom Howard could have overheard discussing his dead twin. The article from the Galveston paper says that the other children were afraid of their brother. And there the story ends, as far as I have discovered.
By 1920 Jessie was a widow, living in Passaic, New Jersey with several of her children, including Howard, age 19, working as a machinist; his brother, one year younger; and Jessie’s widowed father. After these articles were published, Howard does not seem to have done anything newsworthy.
So do we put young Howard’s obsession down to a garden-variety imaginary playmate? It might have begun as an attention-getting device after hearing something forbidden about his brother. (Everyone knows that shushing a speaker is a great way to inspire curiosity in a child.) Another theory is that the ghost of his twin brother really was haunting the child. In ghost lore, it is axiomatic that children are more “open” to the things of the unseen than adults and that they gradually lose their power to “see” as they grow. Another theory, as seen in the following story, is that the twin had come to try to lure Howard away with him.
An officer of the Seventy-first Regiment, during war time, and now a very practical business man, told me that in his childhood he had had a most curious experience.
He had little twin brothers, with whom he was very fond of playing. He used to sit on the floor with them and throw pillows at them, and they, as well as they could, at him. He used to have all sorts of romps, in which pillows played a part, with the little ones, and they were very happy together.
But, alas!—one day one of the twins fell ill, and in a short time died. The remaining twin was unhappy without him. The larger boy grieved deeply and for some time romps were suspended. However, at last, the two children began their games again, and one day the little boy had just rolled the baby over on the pillow, while it crowed with glee, when he saw standing, close beside it, the other twin, exactly as he was in life, as solid and palpable to all appearances as his brother; but as the elder child sprang toward it, it vanished.
A servant—an old nurse, I believe—interpreted this vision to mean that the child had “come for its brother,” and in two weeks the little creature was also “on the other side.” The Freed Spirit, Mary Kyle Dallas, 1894
As for Herr Straussmann, I have not been able to locate any more information than appears in the newspaper story above. If you know something new about him, or about Howard Winham, send in duplicate to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com