The true story behind Three Identical Strangers, a documentary about multiples separated at birth, is undeniably disturbing. It reveals how a number of siblings were torn from each other at a young age in the name of scientific research. In the past, many identical-twin studies were conducted to understand the links between these unique siblings, but the man behind the separation of the triplets in Three Identical Strangers pushed social experiments on children to a new level.
Robert "Bobby" Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman reunited by chance almost 20 years after their birth. If that wasn't shocking enough, they soon learned they were involved in a secret study into identical siblings. At least 13 children were separated from their brothers and sisters, then studied from infancy to adolescence. They became pawns in the nature versus nurture debate, without scientists considering the experiment's impact on its own results. Their story is told in a documentary that has received attention from audiences around the world for its tragic details and gut-wrenching twists.
As The Triplets Got To Know Each Other, They Realized How Much They Had In Common
Despite some ups and downs in their relationships, David Kellman, Bobby Shafran, and Eddy Galland discovered they were alike in a variety of ways. They wore similar shoes and clothes, as well as had the same haircuts. They all smoked Marlboros, enjoyed wrestling, had identical birthmarks, scored the same IQs, and even lost their virginity at the same age.
They had some of the same medical ailments as well, including a visual condition called amblyopia. All three also struggled with mental illness. They each spent time in a psychiatric facility during their teen years. Galland was eventually diagnosed with manic depression.
At Least Three Of The Study's Subjects Have Ended Their Own Life
The exposure of the study led to outrage from the subjects, their adoptive parents, the adoption community, birth parents, and medical professionals. But it also led to the reunions of several sets of twins. Louise Wise Services adoption agency contacted and reunited three other sets of twins who were part of the study.
Many of the test subjects suffered from mental health issues throughout their childhoods and into adulthood. In the film, David Kellman reveals he used to beat his head against his crib, most likely as the result of separation anxiety. Many of the children struggled with anxiety and depression and, at least three of the study's subjects, including Eddy Galland, ended their own life.
The Triplets' Troubled Pasts Could Be Explained By The Experiment
Each of the triplets had difficult teenage years, some of which may be attributed to their separation. The media surrounding Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman played up their newly-minted triplet status and kept relatively quiet about each of the boys' pasts, including Shafran's involvement in a 1978 slaying. He pleaded guilty to charges related to the passing of an elderly woman, but his lawyer-turned-agent Jack Solomon largely kept it out of the news.
Galland's passing in 1995 perhaps was related to the trauma of his childhood and to his struggle to make connections with others. Galland and his adoptive father, who according to documentary director Tim Wardle "had a different idea of what men should be," fought often.
Dr. Peter Neubauer Enlisted The Louise Wise Services Adoption Agency To Find Multiples He Could Study
Dr. Peter Neubauer and his colleague Dr. Viola Bernard headed a study at Manhattan's Child Development Center that sought to study nature versus nurture. Neubauer and Bernard, a Freudian psychiatrist and psychologist, respectively, got their subjects for the study from the now-closed Louise Wise Services adoption agency in New York City. It's unclear exactly how many sets of twins the study observed, but at least 13 children - five sets of twins and one set of triplets - were identified as part of their work.
Neubauer defended separating the twins and triplets in 1997, claiming they would have been split up for adoption regardless. He said the adoption agency approached him, and he used their policies as an opportunity to conduct his study.