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A new documentary which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in America shows the stunning story of three triplets separated at birth and reunited years later.
When Robert Shafran went to college in 1980, he was surprised by his sudden 'popularity'. Girls he'd never met kissed him and people slapped him on the back affectionately.
As it turned out, they didn't know he was Robert Shafran. They thought he was a guy called Eddy, a student who'd left the previous year before transferring to another college.
Robert and Eddy soon met, discovering strange similarities to one another which included shared tastes, the same IQ, and an interest in wrestling. They'd even lost their virginity at the same time. Ooh la la.
Their case gained national attention, not least from young David Kellman, who was studying in a New York college at the time. Startled by his similarity in appearance to the twins, he realised the two were his brothers, turning the twins into triplets.
As the trio soon learned, they were three surviving brothers of a rare set of identical quadruplets, the fourth having sadly died at birth.
An adoption agency revealed they'd been born on Long Island, NY, and separated soon after being born.
Their story is told in the new documentary Three Identical Strangers, and reveals the dark turns their lives (and backstory) would take.
Initially, the three were delighted, making television appearances and basking in the New York club scene.
It emerged that the adoption agency had introduced a policy of separating twins and triplets so kids wouldn't compete for parents' attention. However, research also revealed that the kids' adoptive parents had never been told that they were triplets.
Robert, David and Eddy were part of a child development study. The agency where they had been adopted specialised in finding Jewish babies, a difficult feat given the relatively low number of Jewish people in the USA. Desperate, the boys' adoptive parents agreed for their children to be part of the study.
Going along with the research, the parents were kept in the dark about another part of the study; that each family involved also had a daughter aged around two at the time of the triplets' adoptions.
Further questions revealed the three to be part of a (legal) experiment by Dr Peter Neubauer, a psychoanalyst from Manhattan's Child Development Centre.
His aim was to investigate the Nature vs Nurture debate, which explores the importance of genetics vs environment, and dates back (in some form) to the 17th century.
Despite its murky methods, the study was funded by America's National Institutes of Health. The boys' were monitored every 12 years, but never told about their siblings. They were also placed in Jewish homes with very different social backgrounds, to explore in depth the environmental effects on their development.
As details emerged, criticism of the study grew and its results were never published, even though many admitted that it may have been an extremely effective way of studying the Nature vs Nurture debate.
Nonetheless, the effects on the three boys was stark. After their initial fame, they opened a restaurant called Triplets. Its first year was a success, but they soon discovered differences in their personalities and it ultimately failed.
Tragically, Eddy killed himself aged just 33. Robert became a lawyer, and David became an insurance consultant. The surviving brothers, now 56, say they were denied a childhood together.
Featured Image Credit: Three Identical Strangers
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