Melanie Mertzel was unaware that she had a sister she had never met.
At the age of 23, she was startled to find herself staring at Ellen Carbone, her twin, who had the exact same eyes, voice, and laugh as her. The two, who different families in New York City reared, were brought together by an odd chance after living apart for many years.
When a woman approached Melanie, acting strangely, she worked at her parents' restaurant, International House of Pancakes in Brooklyn.
Melanie told 60 Minutes Australia, "She saw me and couldn't understand why I didn't recognize her."
The woman returned a week later with a picture of her niece Ellen in hand, and she handed her Ellen's phone number. She was amazed by how similar their voices and laughter sounded when Melanie called.
They discovered they were mirror twins with Melanie being left-handed and Ellen being right-handed after comparing everything they liked and disliked.
We thought, ‘Wow, we're mirror images,’ since her dimple is on the left side and mine is on the right, as Melanie mentioned.
They soon met, and Ellen vomited out of anxiety and she told the reporters that she had always fantasized about having an identical twin; suddenly, her wish had come true.
She recalled that as a little child, "I was very, very timid, and [she (Melanie)] clung to my mother like [she] would cling onto her leg, like when we went out anywhere."
'And I feel like that's because I was missing my other half, basically.'
Unbeknownst to them, they had participated in a covert 1960s study to determine whether nature or nurture is more important in determining a person's life results. The study involved twins who had been split up by their adoption agency.
When they learned the truth, they and their families were outraged at having been taken advantage of. Not only did they miss out on developing a close relationship during their formative years, they are also upset that they were not told.
We were handled more like animals than like people, Ellen claimed.
The divided and indignant siblings were not the only participant in the study; Robert Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman, three identical triplets, also met as young adults.
The scientific investigation was carried out in the 1960s by now-deceased psychiatrist Peter Neubauer and Louise Wise Services, a well-known adoption agency in New York City.
The study, which was funded over around 15 years by the US National Institute of Mental Health, involved a number of researchers. At least eight sets of twins and one set of triplets were split up and placed in different homes throughout the 1960s. The experiment's leaders had a solid track record of supporting social justice at the time.
Louise Waterman Wise, the wife of famous Rabbi Stephen Wise who was instrumental in founding the American Jewish Congress and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded Louise Wise Services in 1916. (NAACP).
The first female judge in New York City, Justine Wise Polier, was the chair of Louise Wise Services at the time of the adoptions.
Peter Bela Neubauer, a psychiatrist, was an Austrian Jew who had fled the Holocaust in Nazi Germany to Switzerland before relocating to New York in 1941.
"It really does seem that the twins’ suffering and the suffering of their parents and their siblings and everyone who knows them, was really for nothing," twins expert Dr. Nancy Segal said.
Alison Bevege For Daily Mail Australia. “Twins Separated at Birth in Cruel Secret Experiment Reveal How They Found Each Other.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 9 Aug. 2020, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8608967/Twins-separated-birth-cruel-secret-experiment-reveal-other.html.
Fitzsimons, Billi. “Ellen and Melanie Were 23 When They First Met. They Were Part of a Secret 'Twin Experiment'. .” Mamamia, Mamamia, 10 Aug. 2020, www.mamamia.com.au/twins-separated-at-birth/.
Person. “Separated at Birth for Secret Experiment.” NZ Herald, NZ Herald, 21 Sept. 2020, www.nzherald.co.nz/world/twins-separated-at-birth-for-secret-experiment/UTKXZHQVF6YCGX542CYQIQBDKQ/.
Ridley, Jane. “Twins Reveal Horror of Being Separated at Birth - and for Years After.” New York Post, New York Post, 7 Jan. 2022, nypost.com/2021/12/11/twins-reveal-horror-of-study-that-kept-them-apart-for-decades/.