Literature / When Rabbit Howls
When Rabbit Howls
is a 1987 autobiography by "The Troops" (the collective name for the author's multiple personalities) writing for Truddi Chase.
From the age of two until the age of eighteen, Truddi endured horrific sexual and physical abuse
at the hands of her stepfather and her mother, finally managing to escape to the city, where she becomes a highly successful real estate mogul and a freelance commercial artist with a husband and child of her own. Yet beneath her outward normalcy, the woman who calls herself Truddi is consumed by both intense, unnamed fear and a sense of emptiness. Her explosive anger and unpredictable nature causes her husband to take their daughter and divorce Truddi. Designing and moving into her own house, she continues her work in commercial real estate, but is beset by free-floating fear, periodic blackouts, flicks of terrible memories, and extreme startle reactions from seemingly minor events. Finally, fearing the worst, she seeks help from a hypnotherapist, who discovers that Truddi is not really a person, but a "shell" created as a unified front
for the ninety-two selves
or personalities who present themselves through her. Together, they reveal a shocking truth: the original personality ceased to exist decades ago. The Troops are all that remain.
From the beginning, the Troops want their story made public and insist on filming each therapy session to be shared with the psychologist's students and with abuse victims and perpetrators
. Knowing intellectually about the abuse is not the same as going back and reliving it in detail, and the Troops are stunned and enervated by the process of "evidencing" — revealing themselves and the abuse memories to each other. At the same time, the S&L scandals of the Reagan administration take place, and Truddi's real estate business suffers badly. She gives up her work and goes into a period of hiding in a warehouse she owns — what amounts to an abandoned building. By the end, she's turned this place into a home and is beginning to communicate with her selves and see them as independent persons, each with their stories to tell.
The novel details the Troops' therapy as they begin to share their memories with each other and with the outside world in order to reveal the devastating impact of child abuse. Artist Sam Greenwald created this map/family tree of the Troop Formation
which may help the reader keep track.
Truddi Chase et al. lived most of their life in the Washington, DC area and in Dallas. They never remarried but had a caring partner, Mr. Daniel Davis. The Troops were reunited with daughter Kari (Page in the book) who trains service animals. At the time the book was published, they were a legal secretary for Southland Corp., which owns 7-Eleven. A lifelong heavy smoker, Truddi& died of COPD in 2010. Dedicated to preserving her mothers' memory, Kari completed editing on the Troops' second book, The Creature of Habit: A Journey
, and self-published it. It is lavishly illustrated by the Troops themselves.
This novel provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: The Stepfather, although the Mother dished out a fair share of physical and emotional abuse.
- Action Girl: Ten-Four tends to be this. Going into the commercial real estate business was her idea, although it's a team effort with Catherine, Nails (another Action Girl) and Elvira. She uses the Troops' romantic partner Morgan by gambling and talking with him to learn how his mind works. At one point she offers to get a job as a truck driver.
- Alpha Bitch: Catherine was created to be a strong, dominant personality who could force the Troops into line.
- Arc Words: "For you, there isn't any more" - the Troops often say this to the woman. "It won't be long now" — the stepfather used to say this and the Troops regard it as a loathesome phrase.
- Awesome McCoolname: Many of the personalities have these—Ten-Four, Nails, The Seventh Horseman, The Zombie, and Miss Wonderful, among others.
- Calling the Old Man Out: At the end of the novel, the Troops arrive en masse on the Stepfather's doorstep, in their own bodies, to deal out their revenge. Turns out it was All Just a Dream, or rather All Just A Story written by elder Troop member Ean and read lovingly to the Children.
- Cigarette of Anxiety: Various Troop members smoke heavily all the way through the book.
- Creepy Children: The little ones in the Troop formation are very damaged, very angry, and hungry for revenge.
- One child manifests as an eyeless creature frozen in a block of ice. Another child presents herself to The Woman by slipping up and silently staring at her. The second of two Olivias is seen in reflections; she was hung down a well and pelted with live snakes.
- Many of these children are dead. The woman experiences either their "essence" which goes on after they die, or their mirror-images.
- Disability Superpower: One of the most controversial aspects of the book is Chase's apparent ability to interfere with electronic devices with her mind, handwaved as the electronic feedback of many minds coming and going at once. She also allegedly displayed mild precognitive and mental domination abilities. Truddi& were the model for Crazy Jane in The Doom Patrol, who had a different superpower for each person in her system.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": None of the Troops will refer to the stepfather or the mother by name.
- Eye Color Change: Frequently occurs when a different personality emerges. The selves look taller or shorter, have a slightly rounder or thinner face, etc. depending on their posture and muscle tension/relaxation. You can see this in films of their television appearances.
- Fighting Irish: Ean presents himself as the reincarnation of an ancient Irish warrior and is implied to be a remnant of one of Chase's past lives. The less mystically minded interpret Ean as an internalized version of Truddi's beloved Irish grandfather.
- First Father Wins: In contrast to their feelings toward the stepfather, most of the personalities remember Truddi's biological father as a warm, loving man.
- Genki Girl: Elvira/The Outrider, a laidback sarcastic personality who loves loud music and partying. She's named for the Oak Ridge Boys song. She is the adult mirror-image of the first of the two Olivias, who died at age three.
- Good Bad Girl: Sixteen was created to deal with the normal sexual feelings of adolescence that under the circumstances were horrifying and distasteful to the other Troops. She is described as a teenage girl with "enough sexual knowledge to run a bordello" but who also manages these feelings in a rational, normal way. Rachel is similar to Sixteen in these things.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Grace the Zombie is the literal embodiment of this, functioning as a personality who emerges in times of extreme physical or emotional stress to deal with situations in a plodding, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other manner while the other Troops adjust and recover. In spite of her "deadened" nature, Grace is very much capable of expressing emotion and preferences just as any other Troop member (as evidenced in a rather charming scene where she informs The Woman how she likes her coffee).
- Mental World: The Troops have the Tunnel, where the many selves live and communicate. As they progress they are able to see one another as independent persons outside the shared body. This is not uncommon for multiples. As the Troops reiterate throughout the book, many things that would be considered irrational or hallucinations for a singlet are perfectly normal for multiples.
Stanley, I know you're comfortable telling the woman that she lives in two separate worlds, ours and reality, the latter of which I assume is your reality, too. But have you ever wondered how real your world actually is? As you sit there, you perceive things in a certain way and assume all of it is real
. That's only natural; it's your frame of reference. But how can you be sure that another world
doesn't truly exist wherein your reality, as you perceive it, is just as ridiculous, or at least as strange, as you perceive ours to be?
- Multi-Gendered Split Personalities: The Troops have male and female selves of different races, ranging in age from preverbal toddlers to ancient Ean. Some, like the Seventh Horseman (a woman), seem to have come from outside the original mind in "walk-in" fashion.
- Must Have Caffeine: Most of the adult Troops love coffee.
- My Nayme Is: Little Lambchop variously spells her name as Lambchop, Lamb Chop, and Lamchop.
- Nobody Poops: Lampshaded in the strangest way: partway through therapy, The Woman suddenly realizes that she has no memory of ever using the bathroom because other Troops have always handle those functions (possibly due to specific incidents of abuse related to bathrooms).
- One Steve Limit: Subverted. There's Catherine, Lady Catherine Tissieu, Sister Mary Catherine, and Black Katherine.
- Papa Wolf: Mean Joe. A huge black man, he's very intelligent and along with Ean helps to parent the Children. The Troops in general perceive black men as safe and nurturing. Dan Davis, the Troops' later partner, was also black.
- Product Placement: 7-Eleven is mentioned many times, as the Troops like to go there. (They later became a legal secretary for the Southland company.) The first time the woman notices two selves (Mean Joe and Miss Wonderful) using the body at the same time, they're heading to 7-Eleven for coffee. Later, Page hopes she can get a Slurpee on the way home from a custodial visitation. Page and the Troops order chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP. Both Stanley the therapist and Truddi's friend Jeannie gift the young Troops with Crayolas (only the iconic yellow-and-green box is mentioned). Mean Joe likes Grey Flannel cologne, which makes the woman worry that she might sometimes "smell like a man." The Children like Yoo-Hoo and send the woman out in the middle of the night to get some. Lambchop loves chocolate and is seen nibbling a giant Hershey's Kiss, while other child personalities remember fondly the rich chocolate cake the mother made from the recipe on a Hershey's cocoa box.
- The Ingenue: Twelve is a savvy twelve-year-old genius who is able to comprehend and explain the Troops' internal mechanisms in plain language, as well as being artistically and socially gifted.
- Scenery Porn: Of the saddest possible variety. As the Troops remember their horrifying childhood, they also recall how beautiful the farm really was and how happy they might have been there if things hadn't been spoiled for them. There are a few heartbreaking descriptions of bees humming amid the apple blossoms and lush winter snowscapes, in which the sense of resentment and loss is palpable.
- Shark Pool: As a punishment her sadistic stepfather lowers her into a well infested with snakes. This incident kills the second of the two Olivias, an artistically gifted little girl who manages to communicate ideas for paintings long after her death. Catherine is her adult mirror-image.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: The appropriately named Sewer Mouth, who vents her anger through loud, frequent, and extremely creative cursing.
- Split Personality: Truddi has been multiple since the first time she was raped, at the age of two.
- Split-Personality Merge: The Troops refuse to do so. Like many multiples before and after them, they view so-called integration as murder. As the barriers between them come down, they communicate and live their best lives as a Mind Hive.
- Social Services Does Not Exist: Justified, as at the time of Chase's abuse (the mid-to-late 1930s through 1950), social services and child welfare agencies as we know them really didn't existed.
- Spell My Name with a "The": As the "original" personality no longer exists, and since most of the Troops will not acknowledge the original child's parents as their own, all of her relatives are referred to as "the" (i.e. the stepfather; the father; the mother). Some of the Troops do say "my".
- Many of the personalities themselves have this sort of name: The Outrider, The Junkman, The Seventh Horseman, The Weaver, The Collector, etc. It's suggested that they each have proper names (The Outrider is Elvira, The Zombie is Grace), but as Black Katherine points out, giving a name gives another person some measure of power over you.
- Split-Personality Team: Many of the Troops have specific responsibilities. Some, such as the real estate "team", have been cooperating without knowing it. Through the course of the book they learn to communicate and work together. The Troops also describe having more than one self "up front" (operating the body) at once, and about selves who hang around and watch what's going on from "inside" while someone else is front.
- Stern Nun: Sister Mary Catherine seems to have been created both as a response to The Mother's hypocritical Irish-Catholic religion and as a manifestation of the Troops' own guilt and self-blame. She is rarely seen, but "evidences" as the sound of rosary beads clicking.
- Talking to Themself: The author's various personalities have internal conversations with each other.
- There Are No Therapists: Subverted twice. Not only is Chase's therapy an important part of the overall narrative, but we learn that The Woman has sought out therapists multiple times over the course of her life, only to either be misdiagnosed or so frightened by what she learned that she quit.
- Unable to Cry: Several Troop members can't cry. Catherine is one of them, although she sometimes experiences tears in her eyes when she's writing about the past.
- The Voiceless: Rabbit only screams in pain and horror. Toward the end of the book she begins to communicate with the others.
- Void Between the Worlds: The space where The Woman exists when the other Troops assume the consciousness, it is described as a White Void Room of perfect, blissful peace, completely empty of internal or external input. At one point the Troops deliberately withdraw all their memories at once, allowing the woman to experience the Void for the first time while conscious. It's so beautiful that she's reluctant to come back.
- The Watson: The police detective with whom Stanley discusses the case was created for the book as a way to discuss both therapy details and information about child abuse. He did not exist in real life. Same with Dr. Marshall Fielding, who is a fictional character meant to embody all that the Troops learned about multiple personality and their own experiences being plural. These characters are so carefully detailed that some readers have mistaken them for actual persons.