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The Story of New York Triplets Separated at Birth

Brittany's roommate is the daughter of a man who was separated from his two identical siblings at birth. She hopes to share their story.

Eddy, Robert, and David were just babies when they were torn apart from each other. (Note: This photo shows a different set of triplets.)

Eddy, Robert, and David were just babies when they were torn apart from each other. (Note: This photo shows a different set of triplets.)

A multiple birth can be mentally and emotionally draining for all involved, including the newborns. What’s worse, sometimes the parents are not prepared to raise a “litter” of children. This dilemma occurred in New York just a few decades ago, but the story is far more complicated than that.

Triplets Adopted by Three Different Families

On July 12th, 1961, a young girl in Long Island gave birth to three boys. However, she was not prepared to raise triplets, and she never actually did. The triplets did not meet or even know of their identical brothers until 20 years later, though they had all been living in the same state; Eddy Galland lived in New Hyde Park, David Kellman lived in Queens, and Robert Shafran lived in Scarsdale.

Reunited at Last

At 19 years old, Robert enrolled in Sullivan County Community College. One day, a man approached him, thinking he was Eddy. Confused, Robert explained that he was not Eddy and he did not know who that was.

However, Eddy’s friend realized something: Though Robert was certainly not Eddy, the two walked, talked, and looked exactly the same. After discovering that they even had the same birthday, the friend brought them together, and the two brothers met in a reunion of wonder. The two boys instantly connected on a brotherly level, and their story was published in all the local newspapers.

In another part of New York, a friend of David’s was reading the story in the paper and thought, “These guys look a lot like David.” Indeed, David was the missing piece to the puzzle and the last one to join the trio.

Eddy, Robert, and David found each other after having lived separately for 20 years.

Eddy, Robert, and David found each other after having lived separately for 20 years.

A Human Experiment Gone Wrong

After their reunion, the boys developed an instant friendship. Each of their immediate families tripled in size with the addition of a new brother with his own set of parents. Later down the line, the brothers opened a steakhouse in Manhattan. What a wonderful story, right?

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If only it were so. Against the will of their mother, the triplets were separated and kept out of contact with each other as a part of an experiment run by the National Institute of Mental Health that even their adoptive parents had been unaware of. Researchers had been constantly monitoring the three boys, telling the families that they were conducting a “child development study.”

The boys and their families were appalled that the adoption agency and a national organization would work together to make three brothers believe that they were only children. Against their will and knowledge, the unwilling participants were monitored constantly: their behavior was charted, their personalities were observed, and their relationships were scrutinized. Unfortunately, however, these triplets were not the only set of siblings to be broken up and lied to as part of a study on nature vs. nurture.

Raised Apart Due to Unethical Research

In the United States, adoption agencies try to keep siblings together or nearby, especially in the case of a multiple birth. However, there have been many cases in which adoption agencies worked with researchers to conduct illegal and emotionally harmful experiments on children by separating them from their only blood relations.

I wish I could say I that I cannot believe this happened, but I can. If babies can even get switched in the hospital without their mothers noticing, separating triplets from each other does not seem like much of a stretch—just a cruel one. Nature vs. nurture is a very controversial debate, and there are very few ways to test it other than separating a human or animal baby from its mother and/or siblings and putting it in a controlled environment to see what happens. I understand that it is important that we understand how both nature and nurture affect children, but I do not think that destroying families is the way to do it.

David Kellman's daughter is my roommate, and I heard the whole story from her. The triplets harbored feelings of anger and resentment for years from being robbed of 20 years that could have been spent together. In 1995, Eddy committed suicide in his New Jersey home for undisclosed reasons. Now as a set of twins, Robert and David are determined to educate others on the dangers of these awful childhood experiments, and they were the subject of a 2018 documentary titled Three Identical Strangers.

These men were subject to a heartbreaking experiment that, despite probably producing incredible results for researchers, occurred at a high cost. I hope that those researchers are happy.

Further Reading

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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