If pop culture has any say in it, identical twins are creepy — see the Grady sisters from The Shining. But if you ask science, they are downright fascinating. Researchers have long been intrigued by these genetic photocopies, and studies of twins have played an outsized role in the nature vs. nurture debate. But even science is stretched to explain some of the extraordinary coincidences that can occur involving identical twins. These serendipitous tales combine the uncanny and the real — from the twin sisters who gave birth on the same day, to the separated twin brothers who reunited only to find they had led nearly identical lives. Read on for more...
1. The twin mothers who gave birth on the same day
It was an especially exciting New Year's for twin sisters Aimee and Ashlee Nelson, who gave birth to their respective sons within a two-hour span in an Akron, Ohio, hospital. They didn't expect this. In fact, their due dates were about a week apart. But after Aimee called her mom at 4 a.m. on Dec. 31 to say she was headed to the hospital, her sister's call came just two hours later. Aimee's son, Donavyn, arrived first at 12:11 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and his cousin, Aiden, followed at 2:03 p.m.
2. The British school with 20 sets of twins
A middle school in Lincolnshire, England, has a record-breaking 20 sets of twins in attendance. The school blew the previous record holder (because, of course, Guinness keeps tracks of this kind of thing) out of the water by 12 sets. Most incredibly, the school welcomed not one or two sets of identical twins this past September, but six, all of whom started grade seven. Since the school requires students to dress in identical blue and white uniforms, it's proven difficult for the teachers to tell the siblings apart. "We are looking to get little name badges for their blazer lapels so we can tell who is who," says one teacher. And when asked to explain the school's twin-filled seventh grade class, baffled educators resorted to blaming it on "something in the water."
3. The identical twins reunited after 35 years
Despite being separated at birth and adopted by separate parents, sisters Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein lived similar lives. They both edited their high school newspapers, studied film at university, and became writers. But the identical twins didn't realize any of this until they met for the first time in 2003 at the age of 35. What they also found was that their separation was deliberate, part of a controversial study on nurture vs. nature. The truth of their separation was hidden from their adoptive parents, and the lead scientist ended up stashing the research in a Yale University archive knowing that it would be criticized. While we don't know his take on the nature vs. nurture debate (or exactly how he tracked the lives of Bernstein and Schein), the twins have come to their own conclusions. "Since meeting Elyse, it is undeniable that genetics play a huge role — probably more than 50 percent," Bernstein tells the Telegraph. "It's not just our taste in music or books; it goes beyond that. In her, I see the same basic personality. And yet, eventually we had to realize that we're different people with different life histories."
4. The identical twins who earned perfect test scores
College entrance exams, the SAT and the ACT, are dreaded but necessary evils for high school students trying to get ahead. And only the exceptional student will be able to ace them. But in 2008, identical Nebraska twins Brian and Ross DeVol both managed to earn perfect scores on the ACT.
5. The families who raised identical twin girls 250 miles apart
On Christmas Eve, 1999, the MacLeods and the Shaws received the news that their adoption applications had been approved, meaning each couple would welcome the arrival of a Chinese girl. The couples didn't know each other previously, but were part of a small Canadian-based adoption agency; so when they got the good news, they shared photos of their soon-to-be children with each other. It didn't take long for them to notice the incredible similarities between the two girls, but when they got in touch with the Chinese orphanage, they were assured the girls were not siblings. After picking the girls up in China, they were more sure than ever that the girls were related, and a DNA test proved that they were twins. And with that test, the MacLeods and Shaws became a family of sorts, promising that they would raise the girls as sisters even though they lived 250 miles apart. Now at the age of 13, the twins, Gillian and Lily, are still visiting each other every eight weeks and emailing every day. While they both say they would like to see each other more often, they agree they wouldn't change their situation. "If we grew up normally it wouldn't be as interesting," Gillian tells the Toronto Star.
6. The identical twins who broke the same arm on the same day
In 2004, two-year-old Mitchell Cocks from Manchester, England, fell off his backyard slide and was taken to the hospital. After a check-up, the lad was sent home with a clean bill of health. Hours later, the boy's identical twin, Elliott, tripped over the base of the same slide and was also taken to the hospital. Doctors found he had broken his left arm, and while he was being treated, Mitchell said his left arm was hurting too. Doctors X-rayed the limb in question and found it to be broken as well.
7. The couple that got twice the identical twins they bargained for
Stephen and LeAnn Beloyan struggled for more than a decade to get pregnant, so they were ecstatic to hear the news that they were having twins. Seven weeks into the pregnancy they got another surprise — the couple was expecting not one, but two sets of identical twins. The Beloyans had undergone in-vitro fertilization, so having twins was a definite possibility. But the birth of two sets of identical twins at once is extremely rare; doctors put the odds at one in 25 million. On June 7, 2005, LeAnn gave birth to Lauren, Sarah, Benjamin, and Samuel, who popped out in that order, each one minute apart from the next.
8. The identical twins with identical twin children
In 1998, identical twin sisters Diane and Darlene Nettemeier met identical twin brothers Craig and Mark Sanders, fittingly, at the annual Twin Day festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. After getting serious, the pairs took a trip to Las Vegas where they got lucky at poker. Inspired by their winning streak, they got engaged on the same day and married soon after in a joint ceremony. Back home in Texas, the happy couples built homes side by side. And despite the million-to-one odds, one couple, Diane and Craig, went on to have identical twins of their own.
9. The "twin Jims"
And the identical twins who blow all other identical twin stories out of the water? Jim Lewis and Jim Springer. Born in 1940, the boys were adopted by separate families in Ohio, and grew up within 45 miles of each other. Both were named James by their adoptive parents. Both married twice — first to women named Linda, and then to women named Betty. Both had children, including sons named James Allen. Both owned dogs named Toy. After reuniting in 1979, after 39 years of separation, the twins were recruited for a study, and the results of their tests were extraordinary. Their medical histories were identical, and the pair shared the same habits, including having woodworking workshops in their garages, a fondness for Chevys, and vacations on one particular beach in Florida. Beat that.