Netflix's 'Monsters Inside' Tells the Story of Billy Milligan

The four-episode documentary series, which debuts today, explores Milligan's multipersonality tale.

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Billy Milligan leaves the Franklin County Hall of Justice after being found innocent by reason of insanity of a series of Ohio State University-area crimes in 1968.

The sensational saga of Billy Milligan has long intrigued filmmakers. James Cameron flirted with it for several years. Leonardo DiCaprio wanted to produce and star in a film about it. But theatrical plans never came to fruition—that is, until now.

On Wednesday, Sept. 22, Netflix debuted "Monsters Inside: The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan" about the man at the center of one of Central Ohio’s most notorious crime stories. In 1977, Milligan was charged with kidnapping, robbing and raping three women near the Ohio State University campus, but he claimed he was innocent. Instead, the real culprits were two of his other personalities—a 23-year-old Yugoslavian named Ragen and a 19-year-old woman named Adalana. He said both took over his body and consciousness during the crimes.

In 1978, a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge declared Milligan not guilty by reason of insanity. At the time, Milligan was believed to be the first person in U.S. history to successfully use multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder) as a defense. The criminal proceedings drew widespread publicity, including a February 1979 Columbus Monthly cover story.

Milligan, who was diagnosed with 24 personalities, was institutionalized in Ohio mental hospitals until 1988, when experts found that his personalities had fused. He then moved to California to work with movie directors—including Cameron and Joel Schumacher—on possible film adaptations of his life. None worked out, however, and Milligan ended up suing Cameron and a producing partner, according to a 1993 Variety story. Milligan declared bankruptcy in the late 1990s and moved back to Columbus, where he died in 2014 from cancer at the age of 59.

According to a trailer, Netflix’s four-episode series, directed by Olivier Megaton, features a few familiar Columbus faces, including former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and veteran defense attorney Terry Sherman, who was an assistant county prosecutor assigned to the Milligan case.

Meanwhile, another Milligan project is apparently in the works. In April, Deadline reported that Spider-Man star Tom Holland will play Milligan in the first season of a new Apple TV+ anthology series called The Crowded Room, written and produced by “A Beautiful Mind” filmmaker Akiva Goldsman. The season is inspired by “The Minds of Billy Milligan,” a 1981 book by Daniel Keyes.