Triptych: the true story of the triplets that inspired the series

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Triptych (Triada) is an interesting TV series released on Netflix in 2023. Produced in Mexico, it follows the story of Rebecca, a forensic medicine expert who discovers the existence of two twin sisters of her, Aleida (who dies in the first episode) and Tamara, and puts all her effort into trying to discover what happened. The series states explicitly that it’s inspired by actual events: the true story involves a real case of triplets who experiences a different kind of adventure. Let’s discover it together.

You can watch the official trailer for Triptych here on Youtube.

Triptych: the true story of the triplets that inspired the series

Although Netflix didn’t mention details about the true story that inspired Triptych, and no interviews talk about it, there is a real case that became public some years ago, about a set of triplets who discover by chance the existence of their other brothers and met together as adults: their names are David Kellman, Bobby Shafran, and Eddy Galland, and their story received media coverage in 1980. Episode 6 of the series Triptych even shows a photo of them in the newspaper Tamara hands them over to Rebecca and the others when they discuss “the experiment.”

Differently from the plot of the TV series Triptych, no attempts of murder or control over important multinationals are involved in the true story: the writers of the Netflix show borrowed the concept of meeting your secret twins as adults and created a crime story on that setting. What happened in 1980 is that Robert Shafran, a 19-year-old boy, entered a college in New York and started being greeted by other students, who confused him with someone else. He then discovers that another student, Eddy Galland, is in the same college: the two meet and find out that they are twins.

The case attracted media attention, and at some point, the news reached David Kellman, who found out the extreme resemblance between those twins and himself and shared the same birthday. This way, Robert, Eddy, and David discover that they are triplets who were adopted by different families through the Louise Wise adoption agency, who kept secret the existence of the other brothers.

The confirmation of their brotherhood wasn’t only confirmed by the DNA test: although they were three individuals born and raised in completely different families, Robert, Eddy, and David shared similar characters and preferences. They smoked the same brand of cigarettes; they were all fond of wrestling, and apparently, they were sentimentally attracted by the same kind of women. Even more than that: without knowing they were separated from their brothers, they all suffered from clear signs of abandonment issues and a consequential form of depression that marked their whole lives. One of them, Eddy Galland, took his own life in 1995, 15 years after reuniting with his brothers.

Their story hides a dark side, discovered only after they met: the adoption agency declared that the triplets could not be adopted together because it was hard for a set of three brothers to be adopted by the same family, so they were assigned to different families. Although, this doesn’t explain why the agency kept the existence of the other brothers secret. Besides, there was an agreement between the child development center that managed them and the adopting family: researchers of the center were supposed to make regular home visits to the family, monitoring the development of every kid. They were described as a standard routine for adoption cases, but it wasn’t true.

The truth is that the child development center was running a secret, controversial social experiment on those children, led by the psychologist Dr. Peter Neubauer. Robert, Eddy, and David have been placed on purpose in three families with totally different levels of wealth: a blue-collar family, a middle-class one, and a rich family. The researchers were supposed to collect meaningful data about the development of three genetically identical individuals in different social contexts without the consent of any of the children involved. And those triplets weren’t the only ones: over the years, many twins and triplets managed by that adoption agency were part of the experiment. This part of the true story intertwines with the plot of Triptych.

When the protagonists discovered this, they were shocked. Apparently, the researchers were fully aware of the mental issues they were suffering, probably because of the abandonment they experienced at their young age, despite none of them being aware of it. The researchers were focused only on collecting data for the experiment, avoiding stepping into their issue and trying to fix it.

The true story of David Kellman, Bobby Shafran, and Eddy Galland, the triplets that inspired the Netflix series Triptych, was already covered by the documentary Three Identical Strangers in 2018. That documentary, directed by Tim Wardle, involved the two brothers still alive, David and Bobby, interviewing them to develop the story. And that documentary led to the disclosure of some of the papers held by the professor for his experiment, documents that were finally shared with the brothers. As this extensive article on the Los Angeles Times explains, the brothers have been evaluating eventual legal actions after the information they discovered.

Dr. Peter Neubauer, the psychologist behind the secret experiment, died in 2008. The research results, carefully documented over the years, are now owned by Yale University, where they will stay sealed until 2065. Nothing has been published officially about the destiny of all those kids, now adults. And the sensation, for David Kellman and Bobby Shafran, is that they will never discover what all that cruel experiment was ultimately valuable for.

“The data was collected but the results were never published, and we’re getting to a point where we’re pretty sure that nothing was ever done with it, and what was the whole point of this, right? All this observation, collecting all this data, and no conclusions?”

Robert “Bobby” Shafran, 2018

The Netflix series Triptych creates a new crime story out of that true situation, involving three girls and a death with many mysteries around. But those who knew about those triplets’ adventure probably immediately recognized the similarities.

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