Identical Strangers – A Secret Psychology Experiment that Exposed the Past


Imagine meeting a total stranger that looked exactly like you do, now imagine experiencing that unreal phenomenon twice. This is exactly what happened to Edward (Eddy) Galland, David Kellman, and Robert (Bobby) Shafran in the early ’80s. Under unlikely circumstances, these identical triplets were separated at birth and in even more unlikely circumstances reunited as college students. Their reunion, however, is not the most jarring part of their story. After relishing in the excitement, and embracing the fame that came with their story, the brothers uncovered their terrifying truth behind their separation. It is a story full of secret psychology experiments, nature vs nurture studies, and an endless barrage of lies. This is the story of the three identical strangers Eddy, David, and Bobby.

The Incredible Story

It was the dawn of the ’80s when the brothers were first reunited. When Bobby Shafran moved into Sullivan County College he was astonished to be recognized by so many returning students. He was even more confused when everyone kept calling him Eddy. He soon found out that a student had attended Sullivan the year before who looked and talked just like himself. Bobby drove through the night across the state to meet his identical stranger. When Bobby and Eddy met they were blown away to be staring into their own eyes on another person. They quickly realized they were twins separated at birth.

The brother’s story quickly attracted the attention of local news outlets and was published in papers across New York. This story would be amazing if it ended there, but this is just the beginning. After the story was published in the paper David Kellman was flipping through the pages when he saw a picture of himself, well a picture of two of himself. He read the story and was filled with curiosity and shock. Could he be a triplet that was a separated from his brothers? He grabbed the phonebook, because the ’80s, and tracked down his long-lost brothers. At this point, the story took the country by storm and landed the brothers on every talk show of the day.

Shockingly Similar

The three strangers were shockingly similar. Not only were they a set of identical triplets, but almost every detail about them was eerily similar. They shared expressions, laughs, and body language. Not only that but they have the same favorite colors, the same taste in just about everything, they all wrestled in high school, they all wanted to be an actor, they all had an adopted sister who was two years older than them, they even all had the same cigarette of choice. The only difference between the three was the economic class they were brought up in, one was raised blue collar, one middle class, and one upper class.

Separated at Birth

The brothers spent their whole life not knowing they had a brother, much less two. The three were separated at birth, well not really at birth. While the brothers were relishing in the joys of their newfound brotherhood and the fame that came along with it, their parents were trying to understand why they knew nothing of their adopted son’s brothers. Each of the parents was shocked to learn that all three brothers were adopted from the same orphanage at around the same time. However, none of the parents were notified that the child they were in the process of adopting had a sibling.

In an effort to uncover the truth the parents arranged a meeting with the operators of the orphanage in which they were told that the triplets were separated because it is much harder for siblings to get adopted than single children. While the parents were frustrated with this decision that could understand the rationale and left the meeting feeling like they had received some answers, or so they thought. It was a rainy night, the night of that fateful meeting. On the way out one parent forgot his umbrella and turned back to the conference room. When he walked in he was shocked to see the owners toasting fine champagne and celebrating as if they just dodged a bullet. The lie had begun to unravel.

A Secret Psychological Experiment

Remember when we said this was a crazy story? You haven’t even heard the half of it yet. Sometime after the reunion the brothers began searching for answers along with their parents. After a long search, the truth was finally revealed. Kellman, Shafran, and Galland were subjects in a secret Psychological Experiment conducted by Peter B. Neubauer. The study was an attempt to further understand our behavior and once and for all prove whether we are driven by nature or nurture. The Nature Vs. Nurture debate has long been a topic of contention in behavioral psychologist circles. The main concern is whether we are influenced by our environment or if our personalities are a matter of genetics.

Peter Neubauer the man behind the psychology experiment that separated the identical strangers

Peter Neubauer Courtesy of Wikipedia

The identical strangers were intentionally separated at birth to study how they developed over time. They were intentionally placed in families with similar family dynamics, with a sister that was two years older and placed into different economic classes. Every little aspect of their lives was dictated by the researchers without their knowledge or the knowledge of the parents. They were then studied throughout their childhood all along being told it was a study to understand the development of adopted children. The lies were piled on top of lies.

Hiding the Truth

Around the time when Neubauer began to begin the publishing process of his decades-long study, three identical strangers met for the first time. Over the coming months, his paramount study was uncovered and brought to public attention. In response to the backlash, Neubauer decided not to publish his research. His findings were subsequently sealed away in the Yale University Library until 2065. Many theorize that these results may show definitive proof that nature plays a greater role in our development than nurture given the shocking similarities between the three brothers. The world may never know.


The story of the three identical strangers is an amazing story of reunion. It is also a painful story full of lies and deceit. The study has prompted debate for years on the ethics of medical and psychological studies. While we may never know the exact results of Neubauer’s research we do know the results of the study itself on the subjects. All three brothers have suffered from severe depression and anxiety. The news of the study reunited a couple of other twins separated at birth and it is supposed that as many as a dozen identical twins were separated in this study. Not all of them have been reunited and not all who have been reunited have gone public. However, those that have gone public all report serious mental trauma. The lesson in this story is that sometimes the cost of understanding might just be too great.

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Three Identical Strangers – Wikipedia

Peter B. Neubauer – Wikipedia

Nature Vs. Nurture – Wikipedia

Three Identical Strangers – Documentary

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