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Meet Karen Overhill, The Woman Who Has 17 People Living Inside Her Head

Updated October 11, 2018 382.0k views10 items

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  • Initially, Baer Thought Overhill Was Depressed

    Photo: Karen Overhill / via Switching Time / Fair Use

    In 1989, when Overhill first came to the practice where Dr. Richard Baer, fresh out of medical school, offered psychotherapy counseling, he did not expect the extent of her mental illness. He told Chicago magazine

    She had chronic pain resulting from surgery, from delivering her daughter by cesarean section. People who have chronic pain often have depression. I knew from her manner that her depression was serious and had to be dealt with before anything else. [...] With this patient, I thought she was just a depressed woman who needed medication. Obviously, I was wrong.

    He admitted to at first feeling impatient with the new client, not understanding why she seemed so unsure of herself and her life. However, he recognized “character traits” in Overhill indicating medication alone was not the answer. 

  • It Took Close To Three Years For Overhill And Baer To Identify Her Disorder

    Baer initially believed Overhill suffered from secondary depression as a result of chronic pain. His understanding of her circumstances changed as she began to reveal several “little tidbits of things that were odd.” For example, she told Baer she fainted three times during her wedding ceremony. There were also several instances in which Overhill was unable to respond when he asked what she did the day before.

    Baer was hesitant to diagnose her condition because he wanted to be sure she had multiple personalities before moving forward. He recognized her description of “dissociative episodes,” but could not identify the nature of the episodes until after extensive therapy. 

  • Overhill’s Father and Grandfather Allegedly Led A Cult That Assaulted And Tortured Children

    According to Overhill, she was just one of the victims of a cult her father and grandfather founded. According to her, throughout the 1960s, her father collected a variety of men - including a police officer, a teacher, and a priest - who actively participated in the “ritual abuse” of children.

    Dr. Baer explained to reporters how acting as a “detective” wasn’t the way to cure Overhill. In his book, Baer documented a letter from “Miles,” one of Overhill’s personalities. In the letter, Miles explained how he and “Elise,” another personality, went to the “rituals” and kept “cult and non-cult things separate” from Overhill.

    When Baer researched the claims years after Overhill’s treatment, he discovered several stories that seemed to corroborate her allegations. In 1993, the courts convicted her father on 19 counts of sexual abuse. Reportedly, he assaulted Overhill’s niece.

  • She Was Subjected To Physical Abuse, Like Needles In Her Abdomen

    Over the years, Overhill’s accounts remained reliable. He described her as "completely consistent in all her memories, in all the alters, over 10 years." He further explained how "she never gave [him] reason to doubt her." Baer eventually met all 16 of Overhill’s alternate personalities.

    Throughout their therapy sessions, the personalities allegedly “revealed different pieces of Karen’s frightening childhood […] satanic rituals, torture, and rape.”

    In one account, a personality told Baer how Overhill's father and the cult took her to a funeral home after hours and placed her on an embalming table. According to the alter, her father then jabbed her in the abdomen with needles while strangers “caressed” her. In other memories, personalities recounted several instances of torture, such as "being pierced with coat hangers and fish-hooks, carved with knives, and beaten with hammers and baseball bats."