The new documentary Three Identical Strangers tells the story of triplets separated at birth. A reunion of three identical brothers who had no idea the others existed would be powerful stuff all on its own, but there's way more to the story. According to USA Today, director Tim Wardle wants audiences to watch his documentary with as little knowledge about the Stranger Things-esque circumstances surrounding the triplets' separation as possible, but some parts of this story are just too fascinating not to share.
According to Wardle's interview with USA Today, the story began when Robert Shafran attended his first day of community college in 1980. Shafran couldn't go anywhere on campus without someone calling him Eddy. Ultimately, Shafran contacted Eddy Galland, and together the brothers realised they were both adopted and shared the same birthday. Neither set of their adoptive parents had any idea that the baby they had adopted also had a twin. They definitely didn't know that their children were actually triplets. After Shafran and Galland's incredible story made it into the papers, the adoptive mother of a third man, David Kellman, realised her son was identical to the other two boys. As reported by The Guardian, it was soon discovered that all three of the boys were adopted from New York's Louise Wise Adoption Agency. None of the parents who adopted the boys had ever been told about the other babies.
The triplets later found out that in 1961, Manhattan's Child Development Centre began an experiment based around separating twins and triplets and placing them in homes of varying incomes. These children were then visited yearly in order for their development to be examined, with an ultimate goal of seeing what was more important in terms of raising a child: nurture or nature. Wardle told USA Today, "They made it a condition of the adoption, like, 'This boy is already signed up to be a part of this normal childhood development study. We would really like it to continue.' They didn't say you have to do it, but it was implied that if you don't, you won't get the kid."
Due to the controversial nature of the study, many details surrounding it are unknown, including the exact number of children who were separated. Peter Neubauer, the study's lead psychiatrist, died in 2008. Before his death, he had the documents relating to the study sealed at Yale University under the condition that they cannot be made public until 2065. Neubauer's research assistant, Natasha Josefowitz, is still alive and agreed to be interviewed for the documentary. Wardle describes talking to her as "chilling," according to The Guardian. Wardle told the outlet, "She would talk to me about how much of what I've done in my life was a function of biology and genes, how little agency I had, which was kind of mind-blowing."
As for the triplets, in the immediate aftermath of discovering each other, they became famous. They appeared on talk shows together, and the country was enamored with the story. However, the reality of their relationship wasn't as picture perfect as it seemed. Three Identical Strangers delves into the idea of nature vs. nurture and how Neubauer's study ultimately shaped the course of these three men's lives.