‘Triptych’ True Story, Explained: Are Becca, Aleida And Tamara Real? What Is ‘Three Identical Strangers’ About?

To answer the main question right now, yes and no. Yes, the plot is inspired by a true story about triplets being separated and finding each other in adulthood, but the ladies—Becca, Aleida, and Tamara—are, in fact, fictional. The unbelievable story about triplets finding each other years after being adopted into different families actually did happen in New York in 1980. “Triptych” is loosely (we might add very strongly) based on the happenings narrated in the documentary film “Three Identical Strangers.” The documentary follows Robert Shafran, Edward Galland, and David Kellman, three identical triplets who found each other at the age of 19. Robert, aka Bobby, was heading off to college, and when he arrived there, he was met with a bunch of reactions that he could not understand. Everyone greeted him, almost like they knew him already.

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Finally, a friend came over and told him that he knew Bobby’s identical twin, whose name was Eddy. Shocked by the revelation, Bobby couldn’t hold onto his excitement and drove down to see Eddy immediately. The unbelievable story about these happy twins finding each other at 19 was published on the front pages, but to their disbelief; they received a call from another one. It was David who had found them in a newspaper and called Eddy’s family home to tell them of his existence. From an astonishing story to an extraordinary one, the triplets became a sensation immediately. They appeared on all the big talk shows and garnered a lot of attention for their similar mannerisms, like-mindedness, and matching interests. People couldn’t believe how similar they were, smoking the same cigarettes and finishing each other’s sentences without having known each other for years.

Unfortunately, things took a terribly dark turn for the triplets when they realized they were part of a secret scientific research study from the 1960s titled “nature vs. nurture.” All three boys were adopted from the “Louise Wise Services” adoption center, which was a special center at the time specifically for Jewish families. The triplets’ parents were very angry when they found out about their separation. Louise Wise Services told them it was because it would be very difficult to place three children in one family. The families didn’t accept this answer, though, and knew there was something else hidden underneath. The experiment was helmed by Dr. Peter Neubaeur, who, under the pretense of “following adoptive children for study,” monitored about 6–8 sets of identical twins or triplets from the 1960s to 1980.

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The strangest thing about the experiment, though, is that it was never published and will be sealed at Yale University until 2066. After the documentary came to light, though, David and Bobby had access to some of the sealed research. Their lives after finding each other were a very happy time for the triplets to begin with. They focused on the similarities between each other, opened a restaurant named “triplets,” and moved on in life to make their own families. But getting into business with each other took a huge toll on their relationship. Although it was a very successful business, Bobby ended up leaving because of their differences in ideas. Eddy couldn’t cope with his departure because all he wanted was for them all to be together and happy. Over time, they were able to discover that Eddy had manic depression, and he was hospitalized after Bobby left the business. Soon after being discharged, he shot himself. It was discovered later that many of the children who were separated at birth were suffering from such challenges and had also taken their own lives. A journalist at the New Yorker wrote about the experiment in 1995, making it public.

“Triptych” uses creative liberations to incorporate the ideas of “Three Identical Strangers” to make a thriller mystery with a happy ending rather than a sad drama, as most of these families have suffered. Like the documentary, the Mexican show emphasizes the unethical nature of the experiment. There are some supernatural elements in the show, too, because the women somehow just know where the others are or what they’re going through. Just as Bobby is the adopted son of a doctor, the show placed Aleida in a well-to-do doctor’s family. “Triptych” is a show that gives poetic justice to the three women by showcasing them fighting their enemy. Unfortunately for the real-life triplets, Neubauer died and also archived all of his findings.

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According to some of the people he worked with, the experiment had been undertaken to understand parenting. It was supposed to be revolutionary in the understanding of nature versus nurture. The findings of the research that were partially provided to the brothers after the filming of the documentary was complete were heavily redacted in order to hide the identities of other “participants” of the experiment. Neubauer thought he was doing something incredible for children across the world, but according to the journalist from the New Yorker, he stopped the experiment because it became too expensive in 1980, coincidentally, when the triplets became a worldwide sensation. The reality is that a lot of dubious research took place in the name of “science,” which can be very harmful in nature. It is uncertain how many more such experiments may have taken place in the past with similar unethical methods. Another question could be, “Would the triplets have been better off without having found each other?” Or would Eddy’s fate have remained the same? There may be more identical siblings who were separated by Louise Wise Services but still haven’t found each other.

According to the show and the documentary, the answer to the big question—is it nature or nurture that shapes a person?—remains somewhat ambiguous. David and his family believe his upbringing made all the difference for him and saved him from his demons, but the demons still remain. Nature seeps through inevitably.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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