The triplets became a media phenomenon after they met at age 19, but things began to shift in the 1990s
Robert, David and Eddy were born in a suburb of New York in July 1961.
They were separated at birth and given to adoption for three different families. The three grew up unaware that they were identical twins, until, by a coincidence, they finally got to know each other.
At age 19, Robert Shafran went to university for the first day of school when he realized that several students were confusing him with someone else. They called him Eddy Galland.
Out of curiosity, Robert decided to contact Eddy. “His eyes were my eyes,” says Robert as he remembers the moment he saw his brother.
The last piece of the puzzle (or the trio of twins) came when David Kellman saw the picture of the two students in a newspaper and realized that he was also the face of the characters in that story.
The story is portrayed in detail in the documentary Three Identical Strangers , Tim Wardle’s film, currently in the United States.
A controversial scientific experiment gave rise to the acclaimed documentary “Three identical unknowns”
Separated in scientific experiment
The documentary reveals that when the three young people first saw each other personally, they were very excited.
“For the first time, we swam together in the sea or we rode together on a roller coaster,” David told the BBC, explaining how different the feeling of experiencing day-to-day leisure with the ” new “brothers.
“We felt like children because we did not have a childhood together. It was so much fun.”
The trio became a media phenomenon in the 1980s. It has appeared on several television shows and a scene from a movie starring Madonna. They even opened a restaurant called “Triplets”.
Robert, David and Eddy met at age 19
Secret experience … and controversy
Everything seemed to go well until it came to the surface that the separation was not accidental. Quite the contrary: the young people were part of a social experiment secretly architected.
The now defunct adoption agency Louise Wise has designated a different family to each newborn for children to participate in a study developed by the Child Development Center, an institute that later merged with the Jewish Board organization.
Families would not have been informed that the babies had siblings. When the triplet parents asked the adoption agency to explain that they had omitted this information, they were informed that the separation was kept confidential because of the difficulties of finding people willing to adopt three babies at one time.
But the real purpose was to make possible a project of the Austrian psychiatrist Peter Neubauer, who at that time worked for the Child Development Center.
His plan was to investigate how genetics influence the development of twins growing in different socioeconomic environments. After all, what has the most impact? Genetics or socialization? Are humans shaped by the environment in which they live or is it the DNA that determines who they are and who they will become?
To answer these questions, Neubauer and his team monitored the youth over the years without ever revealing to the families the true motives of the investigation.
The psychiatrist Peter Neubauer studied the development of twins growing in different socioeconomic environments
When the triplets finally discovered the psychiatrist’s secret plan, from an investigation of a New Yorker journalist , they criticized him harshly, calling the study “cruel” and comparing research to social experiments promoted by the Nazis during World War II.
“They followed me when I was a baby and as a child. One day I told my mother I did not like having these people asking me questions,” said Robert. Researchers told his parents that the research was about foster children, not about twins.
“I do not know why they decided to do it, I can not face it as a human thing, you can not play with human lives like that, we had to be together and they separated us for scientific reasons,” Shafran criticizes.
Before his death in 2008, Neubauer left the details of the research stored in archives at Yale University, with restricted access until 2065.
The director of the triplet documentary says the experiment was initially kept secret to ensure the effectiveness of the results.
One of the brothers, Eddy, killed himself in 1995 before discovering the truth. When the first information on this research surfaced, a few months after Eddy’s death, “there was a lot of shame among those who participated in the study, who started to try to hide it,” says Wardle.
Robert Shafran criticizes the research they did with him and the brothers
the relationship between the two brothers that remained has cooled over the years. When they were approached by Wardle to participate in the documentary, they hesitated to accept it. It took four years for the producer to gain the trust of Robert and David.
The result seems to bear fruit. The documentary won special recognition from the jury at the last Sundance festival.