LIFE

Separated Triplets Reunite In College Then Discover They Were Part Of A Secret Social Experiment

by Angela Andaloro

Anyone who’s seen The Parent Trap has probably wondered what it would be like to find out you had a twin you didn’t know existed. Three men who grew up apart in New York in the 1960s and ’70s experienced something quite similar to Lindsay Lohan’s Hallie and Annie, but their story, chronicled in the new documentary Three Identical Strangers, is much darker than the plot of any Disney film: While their initial reunion occurred under happy circumstances, the men’s search for the reasons why they were separated at birth and adopted by different families ends with a shocking revelation.

“This was a really bad thing,” said Bobby Shafran, one of the triplets, in a new interview with People.

Three Identical Strangers premiered to raving reviews at the Sundance Film Festival this past January, where it nabbed the program’s Special Jury Award for Storytelling. It opens in theaters nationwide on July 13. Keep reading to learn more about the very true, very disturbing story it spotlights.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman were born to a teenage mother in Long Island, New York, in 1961. They were then placed in separate homes by Louise Wise Services, a high-end adoption agency. Bobby was adopted by upper-class parents, whereas Eddy and David went to middle-class and working-class families, respectively.

Two of the boys met one another in college.

Two of the boys met one another in college.

Bobby and Eddy kept being mistaken for one another by their peers at Sullivan County Community College. They assumed they were twins upon meeting in person for the first time at age 19.

One day, David saw a photo of Bobby and Eddy in a local newspaper alongside a story about their reunion.

One day, David saw a photo of Bobby and Eddy in a local newspaper alongside a story about their reunion.

David realized he looked exactly like the two brothers and began to wonder if he was their triplet.

As it turns out, he was.

The three brothers' story took the media by storm.

The three brothers' story took the media by storm.

They often wore matching clothes and spoke in unison during their joint interviews.

Nothing seemed all that unusual about the triplets' separation until the summer of 1995, after Eddy committed suicide.

Nothing seemed all that unusual about the triplets' separation until the summer of 1995, after Eddy committed suicide.

New Yorker reporter dug up a secret study two months after Eddy’s death, and what it revealed was nothing short of shocking.

The triplets were separated as part of an experiment by late psychologist Peter Neubauer.

The triplets were separated as part of an experiment by late psychologist Peter Neubauer.

Dr. Neubauer sought to answer the timeless question of “nature versus nurture”; he wanted to know whether a person’s behavior was more affected by genetic makeup or by upbringing. That explained why the three brothers were adopted by families from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

The study was inspired by psychiatrist and Louise Wise Services consultant Dr. Viola Bernard, who believed adoptive twins and triplets would be better off in homes where they didn’t have to compete for attention.

And the triplets weren’t the only siblings involved in the study: An unknown number of multiple-birth babies in New York were separated from each other in the 1960s and ’70s through adoptions facilitated by Louise Wise Services. The separations occurred without the knowledge or consent of the birth or adoptive parents.

Records of the study were placed under a seal in the Yale University archives following Dr. Neubauer's death in 2008.

Records of the study were placed under a seal in the Yale University archives following Dr. Neubauer's death in 2008.

They’ll remain that way until 2066, at which point all parties involved will have passed away.

More than 10,000 pages from the study were released after Three Identical Strangers wrapped up, but they’re heavily redacted, David told Newsweek.

Director Tim Wardle told People that he hopes the documentary will make people think “about the importance of family.”

Tim added: “Is family about being biologically related to someone, or is it about love? Are we products of our genes? Do we have free will? What about the ethics of scientific experimentation?”

Lingering questions about his upbringing aside, David is grateful that Three Identical Strangers was made: “It absolutely brought Bobby and I closer together,” he told Newsweek.

You can watch the trailer for 'Three Identical Strangers' below.

Are you planning on seeing it in theaters when it premieres nationwide next week?