Identical triplets learn the real reason they were separated at birth

Imagine welcoming a child into the world. Now imagining bringing in two, three, or even more at once? Life could suddenly go from calm to chaotic as parents adapt to life with all these little ones. Many things can affect someone’s chances of having multiples, such as their diet, genes, or even their lifestyle. However, the chances of having identical twins is around one in every 250 births. Having triplets is even rarer! Perhaps this is why twins have been the focus of many great films? Just take the comedy Twins. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito might look like unlikely siblings, but they are, in fact, twins. Only, the pair were split at birth as they were raised as part of an experiment to create the “perfect” child.

Another family favorite is the rom-com The Parent Trap. Here, two girls are reunited in the most unlikely of places at a summer camp. Only, when they realize there are some striking similarities between them both, they know it can’t be a coincidence. Of course – they are twins and have been separated. Now it’s their turn to get revenge on their parents! So what happens when the story isn’t on the big screen? These identical triplets were in for a surprise when they learnt the reason they were separated at birth. Only, the answer might not have been as simple as it first seemed…

The missing piece of the puzzle

Did you know that around 80% of Americans have a sibling? So for many of us, it might be impossible to think of growing up without a brother or sister by our side. Whether they are stealing your favorite top or helping you out of a sticky situation, it seems as though our siblings are always there – even if they aren’t always welcome. However, one man had grown up feeling as though part of him was missing. He was surrounded by family; what could it be? It wasn’t until he took his first step towards adulthood that he was about to discover a lifetime of secrets that could be about to explain everything…

New kid at college

Although Robert Shafran was the new kid on the campus, it seemed as though he was about to settle into college life better than he ever expected. Back in 1980, Robert enrolled at the Sullivan County Community College for the year. Only, while he should have been settling into his new life, it looked as though Robert was already making quite the impression. In fact, it was like all the other students had already become his best friends. As if that wasn’t enough, Robert was even getting kisses from random girls he had never met. It looked as though life at college was going to be kind to Robert. Perhaps everyone here was just overly friendly?

Making new friends

Robert got his class list, made plenty of friends, and set about finding his new roommate. Perhaps he could finally get some answers as to why everyone was so forward with the new kid? That wasn’t all. No matter how many times Robert introduced himself, everyone kept calling him “Eddy.” Maybe it was a nickname for the newbies? Robert found his room and met his new roommate, Michael Domitz. Only, Michael had the same reaction as everyone else. Robert looked like Eddy.

Not the first roommate

It looked as though Robert wasn’t Michael’s first roommate. In fact, Michael had been bunking with the mysterious Eddy before Robert took his place. Michael couldn’t get over how similar the pair looked. However, Robert just couldn’t shake a feeling from his mind. After all, how can two people look identical to each other? As if that wasn’t enough, Michael soon realized there were more similarities than just their looks. Robert and Eddy were quickly merging into one person.

Coming face to face

It was time to trust his instincts: Robert had to meet Eddy. After hunting him down, it was time to come face to face. It was like looking at a photograph. Amazingly, that wasn’t all. As the pair began to talk, they realized they shared a huge variety of things in common. They even acted the same and had the same sense of humor. To top it off, Robert and Eddy shared the same birthday. Surely this must all be too much to be a coincidence?

On the edge of their seats

The pair both agreed they needed to get a DNA test to uncover the truth. Sure, they could just be very similar, but something didn’t add up. They took the test and sent off to get the results. Now, it was time to sit back and wait for the results. They weren’t left waiting for long. The results were in, and they showed that Robert and Eddy were twins! How had they never heard about the other before? Neither of them knew this was only the beginning of the story…

A third wheel

It wasn’t long before the media caught wind of the boys’ story. How could something this unbelievable be happening on their very doorstep? As the story began to spread, someone realized they could be about to unlock the answers they had been searching for this entire time. One missing brother was crazy enough; could there be two? David Kellman saw Robert and Eddy all over the news. He, too, looked exactly like the pair. Now it seemed as though nothing was too mad to be true.

Another piece of the puzzle

Robert and Eddy had already discovered they were twins. However, this rollercoaster wasn’t about to slow down anytime soon. In fact, it was only just leaving the station. David met with the twins, and they immediately all saw the similarities that lay before them. Could there really be a third brother in the mix? Robert and Eddy had done it all before. They knew they needed another DNA test to prove if David could be a part of their family.

When two become three

Once again, the results were in, and David was their third brother. Suddenly, the family had gone from one, to two, to three – how could it all be happening so quickly? The brothers wasted no time in making up for all the lost years they had missed out on. Plus, hanging out gave them a perfect opportunity to learn all about each other. All three knew there had always been something missing, but never had an answer. They also shared many similarities, such as their habits and food choices.

Hitting the small screen

Of course, their unusual story meant Robert, Eddy, and now David were hits all across the nation. Every news outlet couldn’t wait to get some time alone with the young men and ask as many questions as they could think. Over the next few months, the men were interviewed by some of the greats, including the news anchors Phil Donahue and Tom Brokaw. The audience went wild for the newest celebrities in town. This was only the beginning for the triplets.

Brand new business venture

The brothers all shared a love of food, and they knew they needed to put their skills to good use. That’s why as well as gaining two brothers, Robert, Eddy, and David also gained business partners when they opened the doors to the Triplets’ Old New York Steak House. Now, they could spend all their time together with no one there to rip them apart. The restaurant was an instant success, even if many of the customers only arrived to meet the men behind the media story.

Move over, Hollywood

Their new restaurant wasn’t all Robert, Eddy, and David had to keep them busy. No, they were still getting calls from all over the country to star on the latest talk shows or as part of a news segment. One of the many opportunities they got was to appear in the comedy-drama Desperately Seeking Susan. As if that wasn’t enough, the men even got the chance to work with Madonna! Their roles might have been a cameo, but it was a massive leap into the spotlight.

Searching for answers

Although the men were enjoying all the fun that came with their newfound fame, they all knew deep down that they had to get the answers they were looking for. How had they never known about each other? Why were they separated at birth? They all started with the only people that might have the answers: their parents. However, none had any idea about what had happened. They all headed straight to the Jewish Medical Center where they had been adopted all those years ago.

The missing sibling

As soon as they arrived, Robert, Eddy, and David were in for even more surprises than they ever imagined. They weren’t the only siblings. In fact, there was another sibling – they were quadruplets. Tragically, their missing sibling had passed away at birth. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing. To think, there could have still been a fourth brother or sister out there in the world. As if three missing siblings weren’t enough already? This news only caused more questions from the brothers.

Trying to keep the peace

The agency had some answering to do. How could they have adopted the triplets to three separate families? According to the agency, they had a very good reason for their decision. They wanted to avoid any rivalries that would come with raising three brothers together. The agency added they felt as though having three boys in the same house could cause them to fight for their parents’ attention. However, something smelled off. It couldn’t be that simple.

A cause for celebration

The triplets and their parents had no choice but to leave. It looked as though they wouldn’t be getting any more answers. However, one of their fathers forgot their umbrella. Only, when he returned to get his missing item, he couldn’t believe the scene before his eyes. The agency was popping champagne and celebrating they had covered up their story. Everyone knew there was more to the story than they were told, and now they had proof. So how could they get the answers they needed?

Digging up the truth

The Louise Wise Adoption Agency was set up back in 1916 and quickly became the agency of the area for any Jewish couple looking to adopt a child. Although they seemed normal on the outside, this agency had a history of secrets lying beneath the surface. It soon became clear that unwed mothers could sell their children to couples looking to adopt. As if that wasn’t enough, the agency was also proven to have lied about children’s health, background, and even their biological parents.

Too many similarities

As the triplets continued to learn about each other, they realized something strange: they each had an older sister who were roughly two years older. Was it just a coincidence? On the other hand, taken from a socio-economic perspective, they all had very different upbringings: David had come from a working-class family whose dad ran a local store. Eddy’s dad was a teacher, and as such his family led a comfortable middle-class existence. And Robert was from a wealthy background thanks to his dad working as a doctor.

Tests, tests, and more tests

Everything was starting to fall into place. However, there was something that no one could understand. Throughout their childhoods, the boys had all been forced to go through several behavioral and aptitude tests. Their parents thought it was standard for the adoption. Now, it looked as though there could be more to the story. All three of the triplets had been diagnosed with separation anxiety. At the time, it seemed as though Robert, Eddy, and David would grow out of it. Could there have been a reason all along?

Picking out their choices

Going through adoption can be a lengthy process for anyone. After all, the agency has a duty to ensure the children are going to the best homes, as well as making sure they will get along with everyone else in the household. This can mean many parents go through a long screening process until the right ones are found. After looking at their backgrounds, it seemed as though these parents had been specially chosen from a list of potentials. It had to mean something.

Uncovering the truth

At last, the truth was finally revealed. Lawrence Wright worked as a journalist and author, but it was one of his studies that lay behind the real reason these identical triplets were separated at birth. He wanted to uncover the answer to the long-debated question of whether it’s nature or nurture that affects who we become. Lawrence contacted the Louise Wise Adoption Agency and was given at least five sets of multiples to use in his experiments. Robert, Eddy, and David weren’t the only ones.

One of each

Although Robert, Eddy, and David weren’t the only ones in the experiment, they were perfect. After all, they were triplets, meaning Lawrence Wright would have even more research for his studies. The journalist decided to use the triplets as part of a study that looked into how class affects someone’s characteristics, or whether we are born to become the person we are. It was all falling into place. Now, Lawrence had one brother for each major social class.

Working with a partner

As if that wasn’t enough, it wasn’t just Lawrence and the adoption agency that were working together on the experiment. Dr. Peter Neubauer worked in Manhattan for the Child Development Center. However, in the years before, he had been living in Austria throughout World War II. His role in the experiment was likened to those performed throughout the war where unwilling victims were tested. He especially had an interest in twins and multiples. Although the twins would get to survive, it might not be for long after these experiments.

Troubled childhood talks

David’s mother, Claire Kellman, finally had answers to questions she’d had ever since David began to talk. The mother reported that David would often talk about his brother while he was younger. However, his parents thought it must be David’s imagination. Surely he would grow out of having an imaginary friend? However, when Claire teamed this with the news he was a triplet, and the fact he had grown up with separation anxiety, it all began to make sense. David had known about Robert and Eddy all along.

Struggling to live apart

It’s not unusual for twins to show signs of separation anxiety, even if they grow up under the same roof. Some of these symptoms can be struggling to build or maintain a relationship with anyone, causing trouble in the family home, having low self-esteem, failing at school, or isolating themselves from their peers. As if that wasn’t enough, many twins can also develop an addiction to drinking or narcotics, as well as having thoughts about taking their own life.

Uncovering long-lost secrets

As the media continued to dig around into the triplets’ past, all of their secrets began to emerge. It looked as though Robert Shafran had been sitting on a hidden past all these years. At the beginning of 1980, Robert had found himself tangled up with the wrong people. Now, he was looking at a charge for killing an 83-year-old woman in a robbery gone wrong. The judge, however, believed Robert had played a minor role in her death, and the triplet was sentenced to community service.

A tragic end to a tragic tale

In 1995, years after the triplets had finally met, Eddy Garland sadly took his own life while he was 33 years old. He left behind a daughter and wife. Robert and David both knew that Eddy’s emotions stemmed from years of separation anxiety as a child and wanted the Jewish Board to take responsibility for what they did to their family. However, the agency then responded they merely wanted more parents to have the chance to adopt a child – they never deliberately separated multiples.

Getting the word out there

Robert and David have since gone on to make a documentary called Three Identical Strangers. In the movie, the two brothers document the entire journey they have been through as they try to uncover the truth of what happened. The film was greeted with rave reviews as no one could believe what they were watching. Plus, they want to raise awareness of the Jewish Board and the experiment; there could still be twins out there that need reuniting.

The man behind it all

Nancy Segal works as a psychologist and was given a chance to talk to Dr. Peter Neubauer before he passed away. Nancy reported she couldn’t believe what had transpired in their interview: apparently, the doctor showed no remorse for what he put the families through. A Jewish Board spokeswoman responded that they don’t condone any of the experiments, and hope the other twins can find their missing siblings. Could this all be too little too late for the agency?

Looking to the future

Robert and David continued to run their successful restaurant for many years until the passing of their brother. However, Eddy’s death gave them a push to change their lives. Now, David works as an insurance consultant, while Robert used the chance to retrain to become a lawyer. Together, they continue to fight for Eddy’s memory, as well as looking for justice for all of those involved. Robert and David want to help everyone in the experiment, one set of siblings at a time.

The brother they lost

Eddy, the most affected by the discovery of the triplets, grew up having a strained relationship with his adoptive father. The two simply did not see eye to eye on much and often argued, disagreeing on what it means to be a man. After the reunion of the triplets, he put all of his energy into his brothers, often moving to be closer to them. Galland suffered from depression and showed signs of bipolar disorder, as well. David still stays in touch with Eddy’s wife and daughter after his death.

Wanting more answers

The brothers tried so hard to get more answers about the study that was done on them, but perhaps they will never get to discover everything they want. In the end, the study that changed their lives forever was not even published. Dr. Neubauer’s put it on hold and before he passed away in 2008, he directly ordered that all his findings and anything in relation to the study should be put at Yale University, not to be touched until 2065.


Throughout the search for answers, they found some alarming things about the study and the way the researchers went about it. There was footage of them as children, completing puzzles or taking tests. The children would be seen staring at the people filming them, trying to comprehend why they were so interested in what they were doing. As recommended in the terms of their adoption, the boys were each taken to Manhattan once a year for testing and they were also observed during milestones in their lives.

Drifting apart

Even after the success of the restaurant, Robert left the business and that was the beginning the three began to naturally separate. Triplets eventually closed in 2000, but after Galland’s death in 1995, Shafran and Kellman also drifted apart. Upon the production of their documentary, the two eventually reconnected and working on the film together has helped them to become close again. They still want, however, justice for their late brother because perhaps his death could have been prevented.

The documentary

Three Identical Strangers was released in U.S. theaters on June 29, 2018 and it tells the story the way it was meant to be told, through the eyes of the brothers involved. The documentary shares what the men went through in their attempt to uncover the truth and the obstacles they reached in the process. To this day, they are wondering how and why people could do this and at this point, they may never know because too many people are working to keep the answers to their questions secret.

Meeting mom

At the time of their discovery, the triplets were not interested in knowing who their biological parents were. They did meet their birth mother briefly back in the early 1980s, but it wasn’t exactly as emotional as the triplets reunion. The four met for drinks, but they didn’t pursue a relationship after that. The meeting was relatively underwhelming, but it was interesting to hear where they came from. Apparently their mother became pregnant as a teen and then gave them up for adoption.

Not the only ones

Possibly the saddest part about Eddy, Robert, and David’s story is it’s far from the only one. In fact, there’s no telling how many other sets of twins and triplets were affected by this study. Lori Shinseki is a documentary creator who also works as a news consultant with ABC. She made a documentary in 2017 called The Twinning Reaction, which highlights the lives and suffering of different sets of twins from the study, such as Doug Rausch and Howard Burack, and what they went through upon discovering their twins.

Other human experiments

The nature vs. nurture experiment that was performed on Eddy, David, and Robert (and an unknown amount of others) is not the only twisted test that has been done on humans. The famous 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment tested the effects of role playing in a prison situation was performed on college students. Another experiment was The Monster Study, which tested the differences of positive and negative speech therapy on orphaned children. Both had disastrous results and proved, like the twin study, that humans are not meant to be lab rats.