Edmund Orville Gurth's story has a peculiar origin. In the early 00s, I began composing a story in my head about a prison-worker overseeing a prisoner who was not quite what he appeared to be. The setting wasn't the Eternal Dungeon, but when it came time for me to write Sweet Blood, I decided that this prisoner was too interesting to leave behind, so I transformed him into Gurth/Or.
At least, that was where I thought the origins of his story lay. But around the time I began writing "Split," I was sorting through a box of news clippings left behind by my late mother. I began reading an article that I had the feeling I'd read before, even though the clipping was thirty-five years old. Then I reached this passage:
When Wilbur first summoned up Billy, Milligan jumped off his chair and said, "Every time I come to, I'm in some kind of trouble. I wish I were dead."
—"The Man with Ten Personalities: Experts unravel the psyche of an Ohio rape suspect," Time (23 October 1978).
Apparently, Gurth/Or's origins lay a lot further back than I had thought.
"Split" is set in 1882. The phenomenon of split personality, currently known as Dissociative Identity Disorder, was only just beginning to be studied intensively by the medical world in the 1880s. The idea of split personalities became popularized to the public in 1886 through Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Today, controversy continues over whether such an illness actually exists.