Three Identical Strangers

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Why did the ‘three identical strangers’ all have sisters?

Who were the three identical strangers? You may have seen the film but if you need a memory-refresh, here’s the story. And unbelievably, it’s true. The story starts in the USA in the early nineteen eighties. Robert Shafran, aged nineteen, was experiencing something strange during his first day at college.

Although it was his very first day, and he knew no one, other students were acting oddly towards him. They were smiling, saying hello and some of the girls even came and hugged him. He knew none of them. Even odder, they kept calling him Eddy. It wasn’t long before someone figured out what was going on.

Robert, or Bobby as he’s known, was identical to another student, Eddie Galland, who had dropped out of that same college the term before. Yes, identical. Not only did they have that in common, it was discovered that they had both been adopted as babies.

Within days, the story was all over the news. Bobby and Eddy met, discovered that they were identical, they shared the same date of birth and found out that they were twins separated at birth. The two teenagers were delighted to have found each other and appeared on the TV and in the newspapers.

Another nineteen year old saw this and didn’t have to look in the mirror to realise that he too had been adopted and looked exactly like the other two reunited boys.

The news and media coverage became even more intense when it was discovered that in fact the three boys, now including David Kellman, were triplets born to the same unmarried mother. She had given them up for adoption. The press loved this fabulous feelgood story of the three identical brothers who were overjoyed to have found each other.

It was only later that the dark truth behind their adoption was discovered

The babies had been a few months old when they’d been adopted. But why? Why had the triplets been separated? Today, that simply wouldn’t be allowed. In those days it wasn’t against the law to split up a family but it was deemed unethical. Why did it happen in the case of these three boys?

The fact was that they were part of a study into the ‘nature or nurture’ debate. If these three babies were put into different homes, with different backgrounds, how would they develop? Would the ‘nurture’ mean that they ended up dissimilar? Or would ‘nature’ have its way?

This was done at the direction of psychiatrists Viola W. Bernard and Peter B. Neubauer.

The three families that adopted the boys were told that over the years, they and the boys would be examined to watch the development of the children. But they were NOT TOLD that their adoptive sons were triplets. As far as the new parents knew, their boys were from single births and the regular examinations were merely a new adoption procedure.

Creepy, eh?

It gets even creepier when you know that the adoption agency in question was a Jewish organisation and that Peter B. Neubauer, who was in charge of the experiment, was himself a Jew who had escaped from his hometown in Austria when the Nazis occupied his homeland.

This leads us into automatic comparisons between what he was trying to achieve with these experiments – five sets of twins were also separated and studied – and the notorious twin experiments conducted by the Nazis during the Second World War.

I don’t know about you but at this stage, learning about the story, I had the Ira Levin novel The Boys from Brazil, buzzing in the back of my mind. Do you remember that Mengele, who was trying to clone Hitler, was creating the same family backgrounds for the clones? Well, the three couples who had adopted on of the triplets had each, two years before adopting one of the boys, adopted a girl from the same agency two years before.

Just this fact in itself seems to indicate that the experiment was more than meets the eye…

Note that only two of the triplets survive. Eddy Galland took his own life at the age of 33. All three triplets suffered from depression.

The subjects of these experiments are, at time of writing, campaigning to have the documents released so that they can find out more about why they were part of this experiment and what it was designed to achieve. The documents are, at this time, sealed an out of reach until 2065.


Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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