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.
Bobby Shafran and Eddy Galland met in 1980. When Shafran arrived at Sullivan County Community College in upstate New York (now SUNY Sullivan), students greeted him with pats on the back, and girls kissed him as he walked around campus. But they all called him "Eddy." He didn't know what to make of it, but soon he met Galland and it was like looking in a mirror.
Galland dropped out of school the previous semester, but his best friend, Michael Domnitz, arranged for the 19-year-olds to meet after he learned they had the same birthday. Galland and Shafran assumed they were twins, as they were both adopted as infants.
The story of the reunited siblings received a lot of media attention in New York. Bobby Shafran and Eddy Galland's photos were featured in several newspaper articles. David Kellman saw one of these pictures in a local paper. He, too, looked just like them.
Kellman reached out to Galland and the three boys soon met. They discovered they were born to a single mother at Long Island Jewish Hospital. They checked the records and discovered a fourth infant, who passed in childbirth, was born to the same mother, making them quadruplets.
The story of the three boys got national attention. They made numerous television appearances, got interviewed by Phil Donahue and Tom Brokaw, were featured in magazine photo shoots by Annie Leibovitz, and even made an appearance in the 1985 movie Desperately Seeking Susan. Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman appeared wearing matching outfits. They spoke in tandem, which highlighted their similarities and connection to one another. They took advantage of their fame and opened a restaurant together in New York called Triplets.
Shafran, Galland, and Kellman struggled to establish connections with their new family members, however. They said they loved each other, but after the initial glow of reconnecting wore off, according to Kellman, "the bickering began" because they "never learned how to argue and then make up."
Galland reportedly struggled the most; he was "so obsessed with being part of this family that he used to... follow [Kellman and his wife] wherever they moved." Kellman says Galland moved with the pair three times.
In 1995, New Yorker author Lawrence Wright exposed that the boys were separated at birth as part of a secret scientific study. After they met, the triplets tried repeatedly to learn details about their adoptions, but the agency refused to give them any information. The triplets' adoptive parents had no prior knowledge of their sons' siblings. Doctors and researchers visited the boys' homes for years after their adoptions, but their parents were simply told the children were the subjects of a "child development study."
Wright's article not only revealed the true nature of the study, but also contained details about many other sets of multiples involved in the same research project. The truth about their adoptions - that they were triplets sent to three different homes with a specific agenda attached - became public knowledge two months after Eddy Galland ended his life in 1995.