What if – on your first day as a college freshman – people greeted you as if they knew you, girls kissed you and everyone called you Eddy, even though your name was Bobby? That’s what happened to 19 year-old Robert Shafran in 1980. That’s when he discovered he was one of identical triplets who had been separated at birth and adopted by three different families. His brother Eddy had attended Sullivan County Community College in upstate New York the year before. Continue reading…
In New York on July 12, 1961, an unmarried Jewish woman gave birth to triplets. She turned them over to what was considered the ‘top’ Jewish agency, Louise Wise Services, which placed the babies.
Reunited by chance, the brothers – Robert Shafran, David Kellerman and Eddy Galland – became friends. They moved in together, became a media sensation and opened a restaurant in Soho.
But then there’s the sinister backstory. The adoptive parents were never told their sons had identical siblings, and that the boys were part of a secret psychological study headed by Dr. Peter Neubauer, a psychiatrist at the Manhattan Child Development Center, which eventually merged with the Jewish Board of Child and Family Services.
Dr. Neubauer, who died in 2008, was an Austrian-Jewish émigré from W.W.II; apparently, he’d placed several multiples with adoptive parents of different socio-economic backgrounds to research nature vs. nurture – with nature obviously winning, since the triplets are remarkably similar.
Working from an investigation by NEW YORKER journalist Lawrence Wright, director Tim Wardle utilizes extensive interviews and archival footage, including how each boy had exhibited symptoms of separation anxiety during infancy.
Although 10,000 pages of redacted information have already been released, the bulk of Dr. Neubauer’s obviously unethical Twin Study will legally remain sealed at Yale University until 2066, despite pleas from former subjects who want to learn the truth about their backgrounds.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Three Identical Strangers” is an engrossing, often enraging 8. Once again, truth is stranger than fiction.