Robert Shafran’s first inkling that his life would soon be turned on its head occurred on his first day at college in upstate New York in 1980.
His fellow students greeted him like a long-lost friend.
‘Guys slapped me on the back – girls hugged and kissed me’ he recalls.
Yet Robert had never set foot inside Sullivan County Community College until that day.
Another student – Eddy Galland – who had studied at the college the previous year – was the cause of the confusion it transpired.
Eddy was his spitting image said classmates.
Robert was intrigued and went to Eddy’s home to confront him.
‘As I reached out to knock on the door it opened – and there I am’ says Robert – recalling his first meeting with Eddy in the forthcoming documentary Three Identical Strangers.
The two young men had the same facial features – the same heavy build – the same dark complexions – the same mops of black curly hair – and the same birthday: 12 July 1961.
They were identical twins – a fact swiftly confirmed from hospital records.
Each knew he had been adopted but neither was aware he had a twin.
Their story made headlines across the US.
One reader – David Kellman – a student at a different college – was particularly interested.
Robert and Eddy also looked astonishingly like him.
So he contacted Eddy’s adoptive mother – who was stunned to come across in only a few weeks two young men who were identical in appearance to her son.
‘My God – they are coming out of the woodwork’ she complained.
Eddy – Robert and David were adopted by different families when they were babies.
They possessed the same complements of genes and as young adults they were indistinguishable.
They were the same person trebled as one commentator put it.
The story behind the triplets’ separation and subsequent reuniting forms the dark core of Three Identical Strangers – which emerges as a tale of grotesque medical manipulation that today would have led to prosecutions for malpractice.
It is also a poignant tale of lives reunited.
But most importantly of all the documentary is a timely illustration of the unexpected ways that genes and life events interact to shape us.