Week 13 — Congratulations! You Have A Long Lost Twin!

The Triplets

I want to take you back to a time in your life. When you were a freshmen in university. Imagine for a moment, as you pull your car up to the dormitory area, you begin to take up the sights and sounds of the university buzz. Young people carrying backpacks, walking around with a sense of urgency and purpose. There’s a certain energy in the air, an electricity that makes you anxiously excited about the opening night of a new phase in your life.

Then something weird happens. People take notice of you and start to give you high-fives and telling you how awesome it is to see you. But it’s your first time here …

You don’t know any of these people who think they know you. Something is amiss here, but you play along because you’ve never really been a popular figure in most social settings and it’s rather enjoyable to be the centre of attention for once. So you play it off, thinking that it’s just the friendly nature of the people in the university.

That was the life of Robert Shafran in 1980, aged 19. His whole world would turn upside down in a matter of months. His first day of college would reveal a joyous and shocking relevation, but it would also eventually lead to heartbreak and tragedy. Robert, or more affectionately called Bobby by his family and friends had just found out that he had a twin brother on his very first day as a freshmen on campus. He rushed down into his car and sped off into the darkness, trying to get down to his long-lost twin brother Edward “Eddie” Galland. When they met, it was like staring at aliens for the first time. Neither had the capacity to compute what was going on, it was like staring into a mirror.

As fate would have it, this story blew up and captivated the regional news circuit. Then, the story turned from exciting into the realm of phenomenal. One David Kellman came across the fascinating story about the reunification of Eddie and Bobby. Lo and behold, he too was staring into a mirror. He saw his reflection in the both of them, not just in the goofy grin and curly hair, but also the huge and meaty hands that the two brothers had that he happened to have as well.

Triplets reunited, 3 different foster homes, 3 different sets of parents but so many things in common. They all smoked the same cigarettes, wrestled in some point of their lives and were interested in the same types of women. They all had such similar personalities it was shocking and exciting at the same time. The media attention was intoxicating. Wherever the twins went, the media followed. They even ended up in a movie with Madonna!

But their whole lives would soon turn upside down. While the triplets would spend their youth gallivanting night clubs and drinking, their adopted parents were concerned. Not about their behaviour, but about deeper issues. Why were they separated at birth? Why would they not put all three of them together in a household? One of the parents’ rose up angrily at the Louise Wise Adoption Agency in New York and scolded them, saying that they would’ve taken all 3 of the brothers together. The agency then gave some cock and bull reason, saying that it was hard to find a willing family to take all 3 of them. They never really answered the question.

Infuriated, the parents’ then left the agency unsatisfied with the answers gotten. As Eddie’s dad realised that he had left the room without his umbrella, he went back into the room to retrieve his umbrella. Instead he found the upper management cracking open a bottle of champagne, celebrating their relief as if they had just dodged a bullet.

The disaster was only the beginning. They soon found out that the brothers were in fact part of a psychology experiment by a scientist called Peter Neubauer. It was under his leadership that decisions were made to separate the 3 brothers into separate homes. Not only that, the brothers were put in homes that were Jewish and had 1 adopted older sister. All of the sisters’ were the same age. Neubauer didn’t just experiment on this family alone. He experimented with multiple siblings, some of which have since been reunited as well.

All of these coincidences were eerie and just plain odd. Then came the psychological issues. On screen, the brothers only talking about the salient similarities between them, but none of them revealed that all 3 of them suffered at point of time from mental illness. And it was inherited by their biological mother, who probably had some issues with alcohol and depression.

In particular, Eddie dealt with it the worst. He ended up in a psychiatric hospital, ultimately diagnosed with manic depression. Soon after that, Eddie commited suicide while working with David in their restaurant in New York.

This dealt a blow to everyone in that circle. The sorrow then turned into anger, how did this happen? Why wasn’t Eddie treated much sooner? Then a new revelation was revealed. Neubauer, designed the experiment to not only study the kids, but to also studying the parenting styles of each family. Eddie, as fate would have dictated, grew up in a household where he was supposed to “deal” with things. His dad was strict and traditional.

Ever since Neubauer’s death in 2008, the study has been kept under lock and key until 2065, where none of the lab rats would be alive to receive the conclusion of the study.

A scene from Ender’s Game

This week, one of the questions that our mentor Edward posed was about the ethical aspect of what we do as entrepreneurs and Dr. Alex Lin posed a very interesting book called Ender’s Game, where children were recruited to train as soldiers in order to defeat an alien race. Right now I’m wrestling between the ethical nature of all the different stories. Although what happened to the triplets was wrong, it is undeniable that some of the conclusions found were monumental and it forms the bedrock of what we know now as a society.

It’s easy to judge and chastise the people responsible for such a gross injustice, to Jewish people no less. But what if I told you that part of Neubauer’s findings were responsible for healing your child’s mental sufferings? Would you be as quick to judge as before?

Yet, you cannot turn a blind eye to the cost of suffering and your own conscience. How do we navigate this murky world, with full of Neubauers who may tell you that the ends do justify the means? How do I, stay true to myself but yet not ignore the injustices that happen all around the world?

A “wise” person once said “The answer only you will know.”