Content warning: This article deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers.
When Bobby Shafran was 19, he turned up for his first day at Sullivan County Community College in New York. That was when his life started getting weird. Other students were acting like they knew him.
“Guys were slapping me on the back and girls were hugging and kissing me,” Shafran told People in a 1980 interview.
One other weird thing: everyone was calling him Eddy.
It didn’t take long for another student, Michael Domnitz, to solve the mystery. Domnitz’s best friend, Eddy Galland, had just transferred to another college. Domnitz asked Shafran if he was adopted, and if so, what was his date of birth. It was July 12, 1961 – the same date as Galland.
Shafran phoned Galland, and they immediately arranged a meeting. It turned out that their similarities went far beyond their looks. Their laughs sounded the same. They had the same IQ (148). They both told stories of losing their virginity when they were 12.
The story of Shafran and Galland’s reunion made the local newspaper.
David Kellman, a 19-year-old student at another New York college, saw two faces that looked just like his staring out from the front page.
He called the Gallands.
“You’re not going to believe this…” he began.
The three discovered more similarities. They all loved Italian food, even though they had been brought up in Jewish families. They smoked the same brand of cigarettes. They were all attracted to older women.
The triplets went on Good Morning America, Today and Donohue.
They were naturally charming and funny, and the media couldn’t get enough of them. They scored bit parts in Madonna’s movie Desperately Seeking Susan and the sitcom Cheers.
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Plans were made for a documentary about their lives. It was never completed. But almost four decades later, a documentary about the triplets has been released, and it’s much, much darker than the original documentary would have been. Called Three Identical Strangers, it’s premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.While there’s no word yet on when it will be making its way to Australia, if you’re planning to watch the doco, here’s a warning: major spoilers ahead.
What the triplets didn’t know when they were reunited was that they had been the subjects of a long-term study aimed at giving answers to the “nature vs nurture” question. They had been separated at birth and given to three sets of parents who were all unaware that their son had identical siblings. None of the adoptive parents were asked if they would take more than one child.
The three boys and their parents were studied throughout their childhoods. A number of sets of identical twins were also split up and monitored as part of the same study.