Young Man Meets Identical Stranger In College And Discovers A Huge Mystery

It can definitely feel strange when you see someone that looks like you. However, usually it’s a fleeting moment and you probably never see that person again. However, that’s not what happened to 19-year-old Robert Shafran, who met his doppelganger on the first day of his new college in New York. Little did he know his encounter would change not only his but the lives of others, forever. Robert’s story is unique, to say the least, so take a look to see what happened when he ran into his lookalike, and what they both ended up discovering together.

First Day Of School

Students lounging
Duane Howell/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Duane Howell/The Denver Post via Getty Images

An incoming sophomore at a college in Upstate New York, Robert found it strange when people he had never met began approaching him on campus. Both male and female students were coming up to him, giving him hugs, and acting like they’d been friends forever.

Robert was obviously confused and figured that someone was pulling a prank on him. But who would pull a prank on a new kid, especially in college? However, upon entering his dorm, his roommate had an interesting reaction.

A Strange Coincidence

Student playing music
Denver Post via Getty Images
Denver Post via Getty Images

Michael Domitz was Robert’s new roommate, and when they first came face-to-face Michael didn’t know what to say. Apparently, Michael’s old roommate, who had left to go to another school, looked eerily like Robert.

The thing was, Robert, who now goes by Bobby didn’t just look like Michael’s old roommate, they looked identical. Michael recalled that his last roommate, Eddie Gallant “had the same grin, the same hair, the same expressions — it was his double.”

Asking The Right Questions

Students studying
Denver Post via Getty Images
Denver Post via Getty Images

Beside himself, Michael began asking Bobby questions, trying to get to the bottom of this mystery. The two main questions that he asked were if Bobby was adopted, and if his birthday was July 12, 1961.

To make things even more unbelievable, Bobby answered yes to both the questions. While some people might have just brushed the coincidence off, it was clear that Michael and Bobby were onto something. Of course, it was only going to get more strange.

They Dove Deeper

Cars on a freeway
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Convinced that Bobby and Eddy didn’t just look similar, Michael thought it would be best if the two called Eddie and ask him some questions too. They wanted to know if he knew something that neither Michael or Bobby did.

After getting off the phone with Eddie, Bobby and Michael hopped in the car and drove four hours to visit Eddy in Long Island. Bobby had no idea what to expect or what he was going to say to Eddie.

It Was Like Looking In A Mirror

Both boys
Neon
Neon

When Bobby and Eddy first met each other, the two just stared at each other in disbelief. They were even mimicking each other’s actions without even trying. According to an eyewitness observer, “It was like they were looking in a mirror.”

Bobby recalls the encounter stating that, “It was like the world faded away, and it was just me and Eddy.” Their encounter was the true definition of “seeing double,” yet little did the two know what was in store for them.

Taking A Step Back

Looking at each other
Neon
Neon

After staring at each other for a long while, the boys decided that they needed to get to the bottom of this mystery. They knew this wasn’t just a coincidence and that there had to be more to the story.

Putting the pieces together, they figured something must be up considering they both had the same birthday and each of them had been adopted. So, they decided their next step would be to look at the adoption records.

Finally Some Answers

Smiling brothers
Instagram/threeidenticalstrangers
Instagram/threeidenticalstrangers

After looking into their own adoption records, it was clear that they weren’t just two people that looked identical, they were actually twins. Of course, the two felt like they had a lot of catching up to do after they learned they were long-lost brothers.

So, they started to learn a lot about each other such as they had the same laugh, identical birthmarks, and a shared IQ of 148. But still, they were confused about why they had been separated from each other.

Their Story Spread

Newspaper clipping
Twitter/Versus Entertainment
Twitter/Versus Entertainment

Not long after the two twins had met each other, their story began to circulate around. They even made it into the local paper, yet didn’t know their story would lead to something even bigger.

Thousands of people in New York now knew about the brother’s story and it quickly became the talk of the town. Bobby Shafran had always felt like a unique person, that was until he met his twin, and that was only the beginning.

The Phone Call That Changed Everything

80s landline phone
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

After Bobby and Eddy’s story made it in the papers, things became even more complicated. Not long after the story was published, Eddy Galland’s house received a phone call. The caller was a young man named David Kellman, not who Eddy was expecting.

When Eddy answered the phone, all David said was “You’re not going to believe this.” Supposedly, David had further information about the twins that would make their story even more complex.

The Story Grows

Three boys pose
Mary McLoughlin/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images
Mary McLoughlin/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images

According to David, Eddy and Bobby weren’t just identical twins but were two of a set of triplets. Who was the third brother? David himself. He possessed adoption documents from an agency in Manhattan which claimed that he, Bobby, and Eddy were in fact triplets. At this point, none of the boys were even very shocked to learn this news.

According to the documents, the three boys were born within 27 minutes of each other. Not only did they look alike, but had similar tastes in food, style, and even cigarettes.

Excited To Have Brothers

The boys at a restaurant
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers

Although everything going on was enough to make all three of the boys’ heads spin, at the end of the day, they were all excited to have brothers. They knew that it would be a shame to not try and form a bond between the three of them even though they hardly knew each other.

Everything else in their lives seemed menial compared to what they were going to. So, they began to spend time together.

From Two To Three

Brothers wearing the same shirt
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers

Unsurprisingly, the now three brothers were at a loss for words for what was going on in their lives. At first, Bobby and Eddy couldn’t believe they had found each other, now they learn that there’s a third? Their lives had been turned completely upside down, and there was no going back.

This wasn’t something they could just ignore or let fall by the wayside, so they embraced it and would meet up every few weeks to have dinner and drinks. However, this wasn’t cutting it. So, they all changed their majors to international marketing and moved into the same apartment.

They Were larger-Than-Life

Boys wrestling
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers

After moving in together, the triplets assumed that they might finally have some peace and quiet to get to know each other on a personal level. This would be the first time since the ordeal had started. Of course, that wasn’t the case.

The world wasn’t done with their story just yet. It wasn’t long until the triplets’ story went beyond the borders of New York. The brothers had become pop culture idols, even in the days before the Internet.

They Had A Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity

Boys with director
Facebook/Three identical Strangers
Facebook/Three identical Strangers

While finding out you have an identical twin brother is incredibly out of the ordinary, finding out that you’re a triplet makes you famous. By chance, one day, the triplets were spotted on the streets of New York by director Susan Seidelman.

She waved the boys down and asked them if they would be in her film, Desperately Seeking Susan. Realizing the opportunity, the brothers agreed and appeared alongside Madonna in the film.

One Of Them Had A Hunch

The boys holding up a boxing pose
Facebook/Thee Identical Strangers
Facebook/Thee Identical Strangers

It’s nothing short of strange that the three brothers were 19-years-old without knowing that each other existed. While it came as a major shock to two of the brothers, one of them had always had a feeling that he had at least one brother.

According to David’s adoptive mother, Claire, “David began talking very early […] “I remember him waking up and saying: ‘I have a brother.'” While his family thought he meant he had an imaginary brother, they were flabbergasted when they learned he was right.

Why Were They Split Up?

Three brothers in striped shirts
Neon
Neon

After a lot of the excitement surrounding the three boys finally settled down, it gave the triplets the opportunity to do some thinking of their own. The whole situation was still very confusing to them. Did their biological parents know where they had been? What about their adoptive parents?

Slowly but surely, the boys began to ask these questions but still enjoyed their time getting to know one another. But still, they couldn’t figure out how or why they were separated in the first place.

Could There Be A Fourth Brother?

The three taking a picture
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers

It was eventually discovered that the boys had been born to a teenage mother in a Long Island hospital on July 12, 1961. That information was easy enough to find, however, not all of the answers to their questions were so cut and dry.

Unbelievably, the boys also learned that they had shared the womb with a fourth brother. However, the fourth brother, unfortunately, died at birth.

A Memory Changed Everything

The boys messing around
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers
Facebook/Three Identical Strangers

The more details they uncovered, the more dedicated the triplets were in finding out everything there was to know about their past. They poured over records and documents and did so as a team to cover as much ground as possible.

However, it wasn’t a document, but one of the brother’s memories that helped them put the pieces together. He remembered something about his childhood that the other boys recalled as well. Growing up, they had all been visited by nameless adults who stopped by their homes on a regular basis.

What Did Those Adults Want?

The three boys posing
Neon
Neon

Unbelievably, throughout each stage of the boy’s lives, their development was recorded and logged by researchers. From the days when they first started to learn how to ride a bike up until their preteen years, Bobby, Eddy, and David were visited by strangers conducting some sort of experiment.

The researchers would spend time with the boys, watching them play while interacting with them and asking questions. Like something out of a science-fiction novel, all of the boys were being observed.

Separated On Purpose?

Brothers wearing white shirts
Neon
Neon

During their search for answers, they started to understand that there was something suspicious about their adoption, especially considering that they each were visited by researchers throughout their youth. Now, they knew they had to get to the bottom of everything.

What they discovered is that when they were born each was given to a family from a different socioeconomic group. One was given to a working-class family, another to a middle class, and another to an upper-middle-class.

A Documentary Was Made

Documentary premier
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images
ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

In the summer of 2018, the documentary, Three Identical Brothers, was released. In the film, Bobby Shafran and David Kellman allowed cameras to follow them and explore their private lives, sharing their story with the world.

Unfortunately, the third brother, Gerry, took his own life in 1995, although earlier footage of him is included in the documentary. Director Tim Wardle shows the case in a new light, building on the brother’s own research as well as that of journalist Lawrence Wright.

Part Of A Social Experiment

Man testing a child
Denver Post via Getty Images
Denver Post via Getty Images

As desperate as the triplets were for answers, some things they couldn’t figure out on their own. So, they needed help from journalists such as Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker.

Eventually, it was discovered that each of the boy’s adoptive families had been aware that their adoptive son was going to be part of a developmental study. However, the parents weren’t supposedly told what the study was for. Every month for 12 years, the families were visited by doctors for intelligence, behavior, and personality tests.

Learning About The Orphanage

Picture of building
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

By the time the triplets had uncovered who was responsible for separating them, things only became more complicated. They learned that the Manhattan adoption agency that found them each a home was called Louise Wise Services.

Founded in the early 20th century, it was established to find homes for Jewish orphans and single mothers. Although the group is no longer active, the boys couldn’t help but wonder if they had a hand in the study.

The Mastermind

Researcher
Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Eventually, the triplets learned that not only did Louise Wise Services know about what was going on, but that they were directly involved. They had partnered with a group of psychiatrists working on what they called a “Twin Study.”

Their study resulted in them separating twins and triplets, putting them in different environments, and charting their development throughout their childhood. The study was run by Dr. Peter Neubauer, with the goal to see how people with the same DNA act in different environments. Unsurprisingly, the study was secret and kept from the public.

The Experiment Was Kept Under Wraps

Man loading boxes into a building
Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images Images
Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images Images

Dr. Neubauer and the rest of his team didn’t want the public to know about the experiment, because they knew it would cause an outrage. They hoped they were long gone from this world before anyone discovered what they had done.

The results of the study have never been released, with Neubauer dying in 2008, and placing them under restriction at Yale University until 2065. This was incredibly frustrating to the boys who wanted to learn what all this was even about.

There Was No Concern For The Boys

Picture of Nancy Segal
Angela Weiss/Getty Images for The Kindred Foundation for Adoption
Angela Weiss/Getty Images for The Kindred Foundation for Adoption

Dr. Nancy Segal, a doctor who has written about the triplets’ story managed to meet Dr. Neubauer before he died, and what she learned was shocking. Segal commented that “What struck me most was he showed absolutely no remorse for what he had done. He still felt he had done the right thing.”

Dr. Neubauer’s research assistant, Natasha Josefowitz, defended Neubauer. She claimed that the triplets were a hard “opportunity” to pass up and that back in the 1950s, the experiment wouldn’t have been viewed as “bad.”

The Experiment Wasn’t Harmless

Candid shot of the boys
Instagram/threeidenticalstrangers
Instagram/threeidenticalstrangers

While the researchers at the time were only thinking about their results, they didn’t take the time to think about how it might affect the boys’ lives. Now in their 50s, the brothers have still never received an apology from anyone even though they had been through so much.

However, the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, who allowed the experiment, have begun to reach out. David notes that they refer to them as participants but in reality they were victims.

There Were More “Participants”

Twins at birth
Valerie WINCKLER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Valerie WINCKLER/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

It was clear that the Twin Study research project would need more than just one set of triplets to conduct a legitimate study. After all, they had mentioned that the study included both twins and triplets, so there had to be more, and there were.

Incredibly, there have been dozens of documented cases of siblings being separated at birth through the Louise Wise Services. Unfortunately, nobody except the researchers involved knows exactly how many siblings were used in the study.

A Film About The Louise Wise Services

Twins in carriage
Brüchmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Brüchmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

In 2018, The Twinning Reaction was released, a film that shed even more light on the Louise Wise Services and what they were involved in. The film followed Howard Burack who was also an unwilling participant in the Twin Study.

Initially, Howard was unable to locate his long-lost twin with the agency claiming they couldn’t release his sibling’s name unless he too came in looking for the records. However, when a man named Doug Rausch got a call from Louise Wise, everything changed.

Making Up For Past Mistakes

Researchers studying twins
ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild via Getty Images

Back in 2000, the Louise Wise Services was going out of business. During that time, a former employee was dying of cancer and felt guilty for what she had been a part of. She wanted to help some of the twins that her former employer had separated without their knowledge.

So, she called Doug Rausch and said, “I’m not supposed to do this. I can get in a lot of trouble, but I’m going to do it anyway […] Well I have some news for you. You have an identical twin brother.”

An Ultimatum For The Parents

Babies on scale
Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Vivian Bergman, an adoptive parent of a twin separated at birth by Louise Wise, recalls the adoption process. She remembered that the organization briefly mentioned that the baby would be involved in “child development study.” However, Louise Wise made it clear that the baby was going to be part of the study, or they couldn’t adopt the child.

Director of The Twinning Reaction, Lori Shinseki commented, “What they did was they told the families that this baby is in an adoption study. ‘If you want the baby, we would like to continue studying the child,’ [they said.] And, of course, the families would do anything,”

Bombarded With Questions

Woman holding twins
Miller/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Miller/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Much like the triplets, other twins reported remembering unexplainable visits from researchers who would constantly probe them with questions and disrupt their day-to-day lives. By the time Howard Burack reached the age of 11 or 12, his parents told the researchers to leave Howard alone.

According to Burack, “I was always kind of a shy kid and you know, you have people asking you questions and asking you to do stuff. It was a little bit horrifying.”

The Ultimate Goal

Triplets singing
Neon
Neon

In the end, it turned out that Dr. Neubauer was studying nature vs. nurture. He wanted to see if it’s our genes or our environment that makes us who we are. So, he assumed that using twins would provide the best results possible for his study.

Although Neubauer won’t be around to get a conclusive answer from his study, there’s no doubt that he has affected an unknown amount of lives because of it. Although cruel, at the end of the day, the triplets were glad to have found each other.