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Literature / When Rabbit Howls

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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 real estate mogul and a freelance commercial artist with a husband and child of her own.

Yet beneath her outward success, the woman who calls herself Truddi is beset by free-floating fear, periodic blackouts, flicks of terrible memories, and a strange sense of distance from her own day-to-day life. Her explosive anger and unpredictable nature causes her husband to take their daughter and divorce Truddi, finally driving her to seek help, even as she fears the worst. Her therapist discovers that Truddi is not really a person, but a "shell" created as a unified front for the ninety-two "Troops" who present themselves through her. Together, they reveal a shocking truth: the original personality, the "first-born child", ceased to exist decades ago. The Troops are all that remain.

As the Troops' begin to share their memories with each other, they make the collective decision to tell their story to the outside world in order to reveal the devastating impact of child abuse, insisting on filming each therapy session to be shared with the psychologist's students, as well as with abuse victims, law enforcement, and perpetrators. The Troops will remain silent no longer—except for a tiny child named Rabbit, who can no longer speak, but only howls in pain.

    Partial List of the Troops 

Some of the 92 Troops live permanently in the shadows and never come forth. Some are dead and rely on other Troops to carry their memories. Some manifest in therapy but never give their names as a way of keeping themselves safe.

  • Black Katherine: A woman filled with murderous rage, she only presents through a "mirror-image" individual — many of the Troops are partnered with both child and adult mirror-images for various reasons — through whom her anger can be safely filtered.
  • Brat: A child, presumably as bratty as her name implies.
  • The Buffer: A Troop who stands between the others and the world to absorb and blunt stimulus that might cause pain.
  • The Collector: A withdrawn blind person who prefers to collect beautiful words and poetry rather than to look out on the real world.
  • Catherine: A wry, savvy, dominant woman who helps keep the other Troops organized.
  • Ean: Claims to be (and certainly behaves like) the spirit of an ancient Irish warrior and hinted (by Dr. Phillips) to be a vestige of one of Truddi's past lives, he is a wise storyteller and a source of strength and encouragement for the others. The Troops use a Funetik Aksent to convey his speech pattern and cadence.
  • Elvira/The Outrider: A laidback, easy-going and sarcastic woman who uses her music to avoid pain.
  • The Gatekeeper: Determines which of the others may assume the body, or "front-run" as they call it.
  • Grace the Zombie: She appears when the system is overwhelmed; she is perpetually calm to the point of appearing zombie-like. Her name Grace is from "grace under pressure".
  • The Interpreter: Translates the sometimes complex web of emotions and associations for the other Troops.
  • The Junkman: Similar to the Collector, the Junkman turned his back on the world and now devotes himself solely to hoarding beautiful memories and images.
  • Lady Catherine Tisseau: A haughty, snobbish woman who insists on perfect manners and imposes them on others.
  • Lambchop: Often calls herself Lamb Chop or Lamchop, she is a tiny child; as with all the children, she's under the protection of Mean Joe.
  • Mabel: A professional-quality housekeeper, performing mundane chores quickly and perfectly so that the others will be free to pursue their creative endeavors. It's also hinted that she keeps the house clean in order to present outward normalcy that will keep people from snooping.
  • Me: A child of whom little is known, she appears to be a typical lonely, bored child demanding entertainment.
  • Mean Joe: AKA Mean Joe Green, he is a large, powerful black man who serves as the protector of the younger selves. He was likely based upon a kind young man who once rescued Truddi when she became lost in the family orchard.
  • Miss Wonderful: An innocent Pollyanna young woman under the especial protection of Mean Joe, she has no knowledge of anything sexual and believes that everything is always "just lovely." She takes her name from a joke by one of Truddi's friends who teased her about behaving like a professional hostess.
  • Nails: A tough, hardened woman who deals with both rejection and the painful loneliness that comes from the Troops' isolation.
  • Olivia I and Olivia II: The original Olivia "died" during the first rape when Truddi was two. Her identity was assumed by Olivia II, who became a child genius and brilliant artist. Olivia II was killed in an incident where the Stepfather hung her down a well and tossed a bucket of snakes on her. Catherine now assumes Olivia II's memories, but her ghost sometimes presents whole, context-less memories and ideas for art.
  • Rabbit: A voiceless child who can only scream in pain, the other Troops describe her as having "no skin." It's hinted that her name came from an incident in which the Stepfather stomped the family's pet rabbit to death in front of his children.
  • Rachel: A teenage girl similar to Sixteen, she is a young woman with enough sexual knowledge "to run a bordello."
  • The Recorder: Has a flawless and uninterrupted memory.
  • The Seventh Horseman: A mysterious person who appears as a soldier dressed in grey, riding a horse, they warn the others of danger and seem to provide a fantasy of rescue. The Seventh Horseman also does not appear to identify as any gender.
  • Sewer Mouth: An irritable woman who vents her rage safely through constant, creative cursing.
  • Sister Mary Catherine: A nun who represents both the Mother's Catholic faith and the Troops' own guilt, she regards all sexual feelings as abhorrent, but is notable as one of the few who directly resisted the stepfather.
  • Sixteen: A manifestation of adolescent sexuality, created to deal with normal sexual feelings in an appropriate manner. She also looks out for the other children.
  • The Suicidal Warrior: He has given up all hope, but is too lethargic and drained to commit suicide. Ean helps lay him to rest.
  • Ten-Four: A consummate professional who is always planning the next gig in order to keep the Troops free and financially independent, so that they'll never be chained to a partner or job. While Ten-Four is referred to as "she" in the narrative, Ten-Four states that they do not identify as any gender.
  • Twelve: A twelve-year-old genius capable of explaining the Troop's mechanisms and other ponderous philosophies in plain language.
  • The Weaver: Weaves the Woman's scattered "flicks" of memory into a single continuous veil.
  • The Woman: The "main" person, the supposed "host" and the one most commonly known as "Truddi," she was in fact created by the Troops as an empty vessel to present to the world and has no memories of her own.

Truddi& lived most of their life in the Washington, DC area and in Dallas. They never remarried, but had a caring partner, 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 edited and self-published the Troops' second and final book, The Creature of Habit: A Journey, lavishly illustrated by the Troops themselves.

Artist Sam Greenwald created this map/family tree of the Troop Formation which may help the reader keep track.

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 person 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 loathsome phrase.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Mean Joe and Lambchop. Joe watches over all the children with tender, loving care.
  • The Big Guy: Mean Joe Green, although his imposing presence is strictly mental; people do sense it, and he can be very intimidating until you get to know him.
  • Broken Ace:
    • Truddi& was a successful real estate entrepreneur and a talented artist, at the same time living with the emotional aftermath of a horrifying abusive childhood and severe DID.
    • Among the Troops, Catherine, who's sophisticated, glamorous, and accomplished, but also unhealthily perfectionistic and simmering with repressed rage.
  • 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 Child: 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.
  • The Cutie: Miss Wonderful.
  • 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. The Troops regard their ability to communicate with each other as a form of telepathy, and at least some of them really believe they are using 90% of Your Brain. They also allegedly displayed mild precognitive and mental domination abilities. Truddi& were the model for Crazy Jane in 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. One of them wrote the stepfather's name for Stanley though. In the film Voices Within, his name is Paul Schmidt.
  • Eye Color Change: Frequently occurs with changes in who's using the body. The selves make the body 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. In a 1983 article about the Troops, long before the book came out, Ean was described as "a heavy-set, short-tempered Irishman who lectures at length in a heavy brogue. Ian [sic] tends to surface around men and engages them in heated philosophical discussions. Chase grumbles that she hates driving after Ian has emerged because "he" always pushes the car seat back too far for her to reach the pedals."
  • First Father Wins: In contrast to their feelings toward the stepfather, most of the Troops remember Truddi's biological father as a warm, loving man.
  • Genki Girl: Elvira/The Outrider, a laidback sarcastic woman 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.
  • Grande Dame: Lady Catherine Tissieu.
  • Heroic BSoD: Grace the Zombie is the literal embodiment of this, emerging 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).
  • The Ingenue: Twelve is a savvy twelve-year-old genius who is able to comprehend and explain the Troops' internal mechanisms and other ponderous subjects in plain language, as well as being artistically and socially gifted.
  • 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. Smart therapists encourage this because it can help the selves communicate. 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, seem to have come from outside the original mind in "walk-in" fashion.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Most of the adult Troops love coffee. One of them tells Stanley that they drink thirty-two cups of coffee per day.
  • 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 (the stepfather used to spy on them going to the bathroom).note 
  • 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 but "keeps his own brilliance under wraps," 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,note  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. At another, unnamed restaurant (maybe Long John Silver's) Page has a Pepsi. There's a Waterford crystal punch bowl at the fundraiser party the Troops go to. Both Stanley the therapist and Truddi's friend Jeannie (also multiple, and integrated by choice) 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 (with Joe reminding her to brush before bed), while other children remember fondly the rich chocolate cake the mother made from the recipe on a Hershey's cocoa box.
  • 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. Elvira is the adult mirror-image for the first Olivia.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The appropriately named Sewer Mouth, who vents her anger through loud, frequent, and extremely creative cursing.
  • 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.
    • And then subverted, as later in life Truddi& speak with counselors at a center in Maryland called "A Woman's Place"note  that leads them to understand that attitudes toward child abuse have changed. Mrs. Greenwood (one of the characters the Troops made up for the book to embody the many tough but empathetic agency staff they'd consulted) tells Stanley that a billboard with a child abuse hotline number had to be taken down because they got swamped; 750 verified calls in the first 24 hours. Mrs. Greenwood also relates a heartbreaking fact; Truddi& told her they had visited a library looking for information about abuse, but were unable to find any books. The librarian tells them that abused children come and check out every book on child abuse in order to know they're not alone.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": As the "original" or "first-born child" 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 Troops 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.
    • The Woman may be the primary example of this, having no name of her own since it turns out she's only an empty facade to present to the world.
  • 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.
  • 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 Troops have internal conversations with each other. They believe this is "thought transference," an old-fashioned term for telepathy.
  • 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, Stanley uses hypnosis as he normally does and tries to communicate with Rabbit; the Troops deliberately withdraw all their memories at once, allowing the woman to experience the Void for the first time while conscious. Ean tells Twelve this is an opportunity to let the woman feel like she has choices. It's so beautiful that she's reluctant to come back.note 
  • The Watson: The police detective, Capt. Albert Johnson, with whom Stanley discusses the case was created for the book as a way to discuss both therapy details and information about child abuse. As with Mrs. Greenwood, 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.