Content Warning: this article contains discussion of suicide.
The remarkable documentary Three Identical Strangers follows the story of triplets who were separated at birth only to be reunited by coincidence many years later, but where are the brothers now following the events of the movie? Directed by Tim Wardle, the 2018 documentary spotlights identical triplets Edward Galland, David Kellman, and Robert Shafran using archival footage, interviews, and reenactments. As the movie goes on, it’s revealed that a sociological experiment was involved in their separation.
Three Identical Strangers presents increasingly unbelievable events. The trio became a media sensation, and their story was made even more incredible by the revelation that it was no accident that they were separated. They were part of a scientific study of nature versus nurture. The brothers were among a handful of sibling sets separated at adoption to see the effects of socioeconomic upbringing on one’s personality and future prospects. Though the experiment is over, officially, the lasting effects still reverberate, and where the brothers are now can be seen as a direct result of how their lives were puppeteered early on.
Where Robert Shafran Is Now
Three Identical Strangers reveals that Robert Shafran was sent to live with an upper-middle-class family when he was just an infant. This was one of the major parameters of the study performed by psychiatrists Peter B. Neubauer and Viola W. Bernard, who themselves were overseen by the Jewish Board of Guardians. Neubauuer and Bernard specifically assigned the triplets to families of different economic levels. Robert received what can be considered the “best” situation out of all his siblings, at least in terms of home life stability. He was also the one to kick-start the three brothers finding each other.
Unbeknownst to either of them, one fall, Robert began attending the same college that his brother Edward Gallant had gone to the year prior. After being greeted like an old friend on his first day on campus, Robert ran into one of Edward’s classmates, who eventually realized that this person with Edward’s face was not in fact Edward. Robert eventually met Edward, and they realized just how much they had in common. Their story then attracted the attention of the third brother, David Kellman, and all were reunited. Three Identical Strangers follows the trio learning that they shared similar tastes in cigarettes, women, sports, and more.
Since the events documented in Three Identical Strangers, Robert has slipped back into anonymity. He currently lives in Brooklyn and is married with two children. He is a lawyer but has throttled back on his workload after a motorcycle accident in 2011 (via The Tab). However, in 2018, the documentary increased interest in their story, and Robert and David have considered working as public speakers and participating in commercial opportunities together. The pair have appeared on a number of daytime talk shows since the documentary, and it seems they may be willing to further explore their confusing past.
Where David Kellman Is Now
While Robert and Edward were the first of the triplets to meet each other, it was David who figured out that he was the missing sibling to make the group a trio. Once all three brothers were introduced, it became clear just how similar they all were. Even though David came from a blue-collar family, the lowest socioeconomic class of all three triplets, he shared many of the same mannerisms, tastes, and interests as the others. In fact, the trio eventually decided to open a restaurant together and ran that for many years, as depicted in Three Identical Strangers.
The friendship between the trio was not always perfect. David and Robert’s relationship became strained at some point between the closing of the restaurant and the making of the documentary. However, the pair managed to mend their relationship and now spend time together and play golf. David has two children and works in insurance in New Jersey, where he resides. According to Variety, Ben Stiller plans to star in an adapted miniseries of the Three Identical Strangers and David and Robert could very well lend their expertise and experience to the production.
What Happened To Edward Galland
The first half of Three Identical Strangers makes it seem that everything that happened between the three brothers was the work of fortune and is simply an incredible story of coincidence and serendipity. However, that part of the movie is only a blanket to cover the dark and cruel reason for their separation, which is explored in the second half. The biggest victim of this sinister social experiment wound up being Edward. After finding each other, the triplets discovered they had all actually been participants in a scientific study performed by doctors Peter B. Neubauer and Viola W. Bernard. The triplets and their adoptive parents were completely unaware of this.
At first, the families went to the adoption agency, Louise Wise, which claimed to place triplets was near impossible and the children had to be separated, at which point the psychologists took interest in a scientific study. However, this wasn’t the truth at all. As Three Identical Strangers slowly reveals, Neubauer and Bernard intentionally separated the triplets, as well as many sets of twins, into different socio-economic families with the express purpose of conducting a longitudinal study (following a singular individual across a significant amount of time). This is a common type of research in academia, but it should only be performed on willing participants.
The subjects of Three Identical Strangers lived with mental health issues their entire lives. Tragically, Edward took his own life at the age of 33 in 1995. There is no doubt the traumatic event of his forced separation and the later revelation was deeply mentally destabilizing for the man. The results of the experiment have never been revealed, and the individuals involved in its operation have never spoken out about it. Edward’s life was seismically upended from birth, but the fact that he found his brothers before he died and learned the true story of his upbringing at least gives a sense that he experienced some closure before his passing.