It’s not uncommon to have a doppelgänger or be told you look like someone. But when a college student named Robert Shafran started to hear that, he had no idea that his life was about to be flipped upside down.

Robert was a student at Sullivan County Community College when he moved in with a man named Michael Domitz. Michael was immediately blown away by Robert’s resemblance to his previous roommate. He didn’t think much of it at first. But slowly, more and more students started to make the same remark and even mistake him for this other man named Eddy! Then things really started to get weird.

Robert learned that not only did they look almost exactly alike, but they had the same birthmark, they were both adopted, and they even had the same birthday! It was quickly becoming too much to ignore and they finally decided to meet up.

When they did, Robert and Eddy were both blown away. It was like looking in a mirror. But the similarities didn’t stop with their physical appearance. It turns out they had the same birthmark, they were both adopted, and they had the same birthday! They had no choice but to investigate further.

They got a DNA test and, sure enough, they learned what they had already suspected: they were identical twins! Amazing. All this time they never knew about each other and they ended up going to the same community college. Soon they were being interviewed for the news and appearing on TV. That’s when things got even weirder.

A man named David was watching the news when he caught the story. He couldn’t believe what he was watching. Robert and Eddy looked exactly like him! He was even adopted too. So he contacted the boys, they had another DNA test performed and, wouldn’t you believe it, they were actually identical triplets! Absolutely fascinating.

But why were they just finding out about each other? Why were they separated at birth? They wanted answers but were having trouble finding any. At that point, a group of producers joined forces with the triplets to make a documentary, Three Identical Strangers. It took a lot of work, but eventually, they were able to discover the terrifying truth behind their separation.

It turns out when they were born and up for adoption, a psychiatrist by the name of Peter Neubauer convinced the adoption agency to include the triplets in a “nature vs. nurture” experiment. They placed the boys with three different families. Robert was sent to a wealthy family, Eddy a middle-class family, and David a lower-class family.

The plan was to check in on the boys once a month for 12 years to track the development of their behaviors, intelligence, and personality based on their different upbringings. Everything was recorded and analyzed. They were practically used as guinea pigs. The boys couldn’t believe it. No one could. But there wasn’t anything they could do. It was all technically legal.

The boys had no choice but to go on with their new lives as triplets as best they could. But they all responded in their own way, and unfortunately, Eddy eventually ended his own life at the age of 33. It’s hard to not think the social experiment they were unwillingly a part of had something to do with it. And it’s hard to wonder if any of it was truly worth it. Maybe we’ll never know.