Deirdre Sargent, Contributor, Lookie-Lookie
With the age of individualism, comes the decline of religion, disaffiliation of political parties, the dawn of post-family, and post-patriotism. With ideological isolationism sweeping into the stance of rising generations, increasing distrust develops towards the people who are personally unknown. Surveys have shown that while the contemporary generation of new adults are more politically and socially open-minded, they are exceedingly more suspicious of others. Societies’ growing abandonment of unified belief systems presents an inquiry into the demise of the entrusted community. At the core of individualism, do we find deliverance from oppressive, authoritative control or the pulverization of community leaving it divided into countless pieces?
Transportation is a societal mechanism built on the individual’s dependence of nearby strangers. The highway is a landscape that demands conformity, positioning it as the path of least resistance. The rebellious road-traveler becomes the ultimate outsider in violation of one of the most sacrosanct tenets. The highway acts as a main artery that we all have access to and we are entrusted to abide by the rules of the game. There is little room for error or expression; an intentional, foul move can send the offender and those nearby down in flames.
In July of 2009, a 36-year-old woman named Diane Schuler left a campground driving a minivan with her 5-year-old son, 2-year-old daughter, and her brother’s three daughters aged 5, 7, and 8. They were returning home after a family camping trip in Parksville, New York. Her husband was also headed back in a pickup truck with their dog. Diane stopped at a gas station for Advil and a McDonald’s to purchase breakfast for the children.
That morning, several motorists reported a minivan driving aggressively by zigzagging in and out of traffic, forcefully tailgating, flashing headlights, and honking the horn. Other people recalled a minivan on the side of the road with a woman outside the vehicle hunched over as if vomiting. She was seen in this position again near the Ramapo rest stop. Diane called her brother to tell him they were going to be late due to traffic. One of Diane’s nieces used the cellphone to call her father again and tell him that her aunt was having difficulty speaking and seeing clearly. He tried calling them back repeatedly, but the phone was later found on the side of the road near the Tappan Zee Bridge tollbooths.
Two drivers saw a minivan edging onto the exit ramp of the Taconic State Parkway. Within the next minute, the van was speeding at 75-85 mph against oncoming cars. The van sped for 1.7 miles before colliding into a Chevrolet Trailblazer carrying three people. Everyone died except Diane’s son. None of the children were in car seats or wearing seatbelts. Diane’s blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit not including the 6 grams of vodka found in her stomach that had yet to be absorbed into her blood. This led people to question if she had continued to drink after allegedly being seen vomiting twice. She had high levels of THC indicative of smoking within ten to fifteen minutes of the time of death. The family left the campsite at 9:30am and crashed at 1:35pm.
Diane’s husband has consistently denied the possibility of his wife’s intoxication. He has made multiple media appearances to defend her and demand further investigation into medical causes for her driving. He wants to exhume her body for retesting. Toxicology expert, Alan Donelson, believes the effect of her THC levels with ten shots of vodka would be totally debilitating for the average woman. Following an appearance the husband made on Larry King Live, a brother to one of the victims in the Trailblazer issued a statement saying, "I want Daniel Schuler to know that he keeps inflicting more pain on all concerned once again [by] going to the media to try [to] paint a picture of a perfect wife and mother."
In early 2008, Ursula went to visit her identical twin sister, Sabina. The two are originally from Sunne, Värmland in western Sweden but Ursula resided in the United States and Sabina lived in Ireland with her husband and two children. At 2am on May 16th, 2008, the sisters left the house unannounced. They made it to England by the following day and told authorities at a Liverpool police station that Sabina’s husband and another man kidnapped her children. The police followed up but the husband said she had just left after an argument. The twins got on a coach bus headed for London. They were acting suspicious and wouldn’t let the driver put their bags in the luggage compartments so he grew concerned. They began to act erratic and he kicked them off the bus at the next station where a manager called the police. She was concerned that there was a bomb or drugs in their bags. The police found a laptop and multiple cellphones and let the women continue on their way.
Shortly after, staff monitoring closed-circuit television cameras at a highway agency control center saw two women walking down a center median. They alerted the highway agency’s patrol unit to take the women to safety. The nearest police unit was also dispatched and happened to have a camera crew with them from the BBC One’s show, Motorway Cops. As the women saw the highway patrol approaching from afar, the CCTV monitoring staff saw them hop over the guardrail and run into oncoming traffic. One of women dodged through but the other got clipped by a vehicle and was violently tossed aside. The control center notified the cops that a woman had been struck in the fast lane. The police thought they would be pulling up to a casualty, but by the time they arrived, oddly, they found both women standing calmly on the side of the highway smoking cigarettes.
As one of the highway patrol officers stood with the women, another briefed the cops who had just arrived. The cameraperson was filming the briefing between the three officers then, in the background, shockingly Ursula (dressed in a green) leaped from where she was standing and sprinted into the side of an 18-wheeler truck going 55 mph. The camera’s view of the impact is obscured by an officer’s head as we hear him shout, “NO! NO – BITCH!”
Seconds later while the cops stared in complete shock, Sabina (wearing red) bolts into the fast lane and was violently hit head-on by a car. Her body shattered the windshield then she was tossed up into the air like a rag-doll before hitting the ground rendering her unconscious for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Ursula was immobilized because the truck had crushed her legs. She was refusing medical aid and the officer who attended to her later recalled, “What I couldn’t understand at the time is that I have a person who is smashed from the waist down but from the waist up, is violent, aggressive, and was spitting.” As her top half struggled to get away, he told her, “We’re policemen, we’re here to help.” She replied, “I recognize you, I know you’re not real.”
Sabina regained consciousness, yelled to her sister, “They’re gonna steal your organs!” and roused herself to standing. She was pulling away from the officer who was holding her by the arm. She broke free and knocked the officer to the ground with one powerful punch. Sabina dashed to the median and effortlessly vaulted over the guardrails running onto the other side of the highway where traffic was still going at full speed. The cars came to a halt and cops ran over to her. She lifted her fists ready to fight and was doing a boxing bounce step with her feet. She looked energized and strong. It took three officers and three civilians to capture her. Her strength was phenomenal and it took all six of them to restrain her. As they carried her to safety it was as though she saw the cameraperson for the first time and began to scream, “HELP!” repeatedly into the camera. Like her sister before, she yelled, “HELP! CALL THE POLICE!” despite there being police all around her.
They were both taken to the hospital where Ursula’s severe leg injuries were treated for weeks before she was released. The sisters showed no trace of drugs or alcohol. Sabina spent just five hours there seemingly unharmed before being transferred to the police station where she told an officer, "We say in Sweden that an accident rarely comes alone. Usually at least one more follows – maybe two." She was sentenced to a day in custody when she pleaded guilty to trespassing on the highway and assaulting a police officer. She wasn’t given a psychological evaluation but deemed healthy for release by multiple doctors, a social worker, and a psychiatric consultant. By the evening, she walked out onto the street and within two blocks she met a couple men, Peter Molloy and Glenn Hollinshead, walking a dog. They went to a nearby house and hung out until midnight when Peter left. Sabina spent the night and the following morning, Glenn walked outside to ask his neighbor for a few tea bags. He replied that he would get some after he finished washing his car. A moment later, Glenn came back outside and said to the neighbor, “She stabbed me.” He collapsed to the ground and died from five stab wounds from a kitchen knife.
Then, a motorist saw Sabina running down the street periodically hitting herself in the head with a hammer. He tried to tackle her to the ground but she struck him with a broken tile. Paramedics on their way to Glenn’s house spotted her and a chase began. It ended when she leapt from a bridge and dropped forty feet below onto a highway. She survived and during the trial the defense suggested she suffered “folie à deux,” translating as, “madness for two.” It is a psychiatric phenomenon where delusions and hallucinations are transmitted from one person to another. Sabina pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility. She served two and a half years in prison then moved to Norway. Both women have since lived remarkably quite lives.
In the aftermath, the Detective Superintendent expressed that the reasons for these events may never truly be known. Sabina and Ursula have never offered any explanation. A flurry of excitement quickly spread through the conspiracy communities when the videos went online in 2008. The twins’ story remains a hallmark conspiracist example of alleged undercover operations and alien hybrids. A large group believe this was the surfacing of indestructible humans with inconceivably high pain thresholds from a Super-Soldier program or MKULTRA test subjects.
Project MKULTRA was the CIA’s mind control program that began in the early 1950s and terminated in the 70s. Drug experiments where conducted on test subjects to identify ways to weaken individuals into confessions during interrogations through mind control. The program, at times illegal, utilized isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, torture, hypnosis, and sensory deprivation with drugs, primarily LSD. With an interest in data collected outside of a laboratory environment, involuntary test subjects were unknowingly dosed with LSD such as high-ranking officials before a big meeting or speech. Willing volunteers were put in radical experiments such as a group of seven people in Kentucky who were given LSD for 77 days straight.
Their Behavior is “SELF TERMINATE,” “Don’t get Captured.”
An iconic image from the highway accident shows Sabina’s red visor resting on the pavement after it was thrown off when she was hit. The text, “Time to Believe,” is stitched across the front. Many forum users firmly assert that Ursula and Sabina are Gray-Reptilian Human-Alien Hybrids. This is wrapped in utter disbelief that a woman could be so invincible as to get hit by cars twice on the highway, attack and kill a large man, hit herself repeatedly with a hammer, and jump from a bridge onto the motorway below while maintaining a superhuman athleticism. It is also claimed that their looks and behavior are congruent with Hybrids.
The story of Ursula and Sabina had become increasingly mysterious as more time went by since their incident. It seemed as though they had disappeared from the face of the earth until an Internet search returned Ursula’s name and picture on a small Catholic church’s website in Bellevue, Washington. She is an active member of Sacred Heart Church and reportedly underwent an exorcism in April 2011 “to be illuminated and healed by Christ and delivered from emptiness, illusions and death-prone effects of evil” as worded by the congregation.
In the story of Diane, we have the demise of a woman who was undoubtedly inebriated but this still fails to fulfill our understanding of what happened. If her family and friends truthfully declared that she had never showed signs of struggling with substance abuse, then becoming debilitatingly intoxicated at 10am while driving five kids down the highway begins to appear decisive. If she wasn’t an alcoholic nor a morning drinker, the substances become an apparatus instead of a cause.
In the events that now define Ursula and Sabina’s lives, we see two women who have committed an act so accessible to all of us yet so radical that it is unheard of. If such upending psychosis is possible for two people with no psychiatric history nor a second offense in the nine years since the incident, their insanity lacks a purity. Considering the extremity of their break, in a more sensible narrative the Eriksson twins would have a lifetime of battling deranged behavior, not a weekend.
Diane, Ursula, and Sabina cannot be fathomed as sane because their actions were of the utmost severity. However, they can neither be settled as insane because if a person of sound mind can become maniacal at a moment’s notice, we are unable to trust ourselves and everyone around us with what will happen tomorrow. In order to accept the stories of these three women, they become positioned in an alternate reality. Conspiracy theorists claim them to be acid-tripping Super-Soldiers and alien hybrids. Society forces them out of the realm of humanity by deeming it inexplicable. Here then, the freeway opens as the landscape for the arrival of the alien and the breakdown of the human.
In Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the highway begins as a symbol for freedom as an older man, Humbert, and a 12-year-old, Dolores, accommodate their taboo relationship by becoming cross-country automotive travelers. They become moving targets freeing themselves from the watchdogs of stationary, traditional society. As Humbert develops paranoia of being followed, his mindset transitions to one of a fugitive. Dolores eventually flees from Humbert with the help of another man. Two years later, she writes Humbert saying she is married, pregnant, and desperately needs money. He visits her and her husband and gives them $4,000. He stills loves her and asks for the name of the person who took her away from him. Humbert finds the man and shoots him dead.
As the cathartic apex of the novel, Humbert deliberately drives against traffic on the highway:
The road now stretched across open country, and it occurred to me - not by way of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a novel experience - that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this enhanced by the thought that nothing could be nearer to the elimination of basic physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong site of the road. In a way, it was a very spiritual itch. (Nabokov, 278-79).
Despite Humbert’s claim that this isn’t an analogous act, this “novel experience” becomes drenched in symbolism as he thrives in this final carnal thrill before going to prison.
Highways, streets, bridges, drivers, and pedestrians – these networks function on a pact between us and complete strangers. The agreement is that when we enter into the flow, we will never go against the current or deliberately disrupt the movement. The final journey taken as a pedestrian-saboteur or the terminal joyride purposively driven with complete deviance, is of sheer defiance to the pact with humanity in the shape of all-out amplification. Rebellion on the highway is the ultimate act of protest against human life.
When an individual disregards mass societal interests and exercises fringe behavior, they position their own freedom as the focus of importance. The unrestrained life and experience of the singular person becomes the priority. For individualism to be sustainable, the individual’s right to self-realization must not interfere with the freedom of a stranger. The freedom for one to access their full individuality must not sacrifice the individuality of another. Despite polar beliefs, unification can be found through the mutual conviction in the freedom for everyone to give personalized meaning to their own life and to live it fully and truthfully. Trust and respect for the alien, for the absolute “other,” must always be achieved. A society absent of ideologically diverse yet trusting communities is a culture circling the drain.