Step right up, ladies and gentlemen and prepare yourselves for a journey into the bizarre world of identical twins. Your voyage begins with a startling look at twins biology and astounding physical oddities. You will witness the reunion of twins separated at birth. You will have no choice but to face the awesome complexities and puzzling features of the twin mind as you contemplate the debate over nature vs. nature,twin telepathy and other mysterious phenomena.
How do we explain, as society and a culture, our fascination with twins? Identical twins seem to share a bond that many of us desire - symbiotic harmony and unconditional acceptance. But in addition to our emotional reactions, there's also a carnivalesque fascination with twins and their biological similarity.
A tremendous amount of anecdotal evidence exists to support the idea that twins do in fact understand each other in ways the rest of us can't comprehend. Even those who are skeptical about paranormal research, ESP and theories of altered consciousness are often somewhat open to the idea that twins can communicate in special ways.
There are as many twin stories as there sets of twins. These multiples surprise us with their similarities and fascinate us with their differences. Doctors and scientists are taking twin anecdotes and moving them into the light of objective science as they increasingly study the biology and psychology at the core of these tales. but it's still the stories themselves, taken as a whole, that give us our best glimpse into "twindom."
Separated at birth
The Jim Twins
Adopted by separated families shortly after their birth, identical twins Jim Lewis and Jim Springler met 39 years later and discovered more than a brotherly bond. The similarities in their lives, from their given names to their choice of automobile, were simply astonishing. Is it possible that their bond as brothers extended beyond the mere genes they shared?
The similarity of the twins's separate lives shed light on the power of genes in determining our lifestyles:
1. Both were named Jim by their adoptive parents.
2. Each had married two times, the first to women named Linda and the second to women named Betty.
3. Jim springler named his son James Allen, while Jim Lewis chose James Alan.
4. The two drank Miller Lite, smoked Salems and drove Chevrolets.
5. Both had dogs names Toy.
6. Both shared carpentry as a hobby and had built identical benches around trees in their backyard.
7. They hated baseball and loved stock car racing.
8. They chewed their fingernails obsessively.
9. They both spent time as sherff's deputies.
10. They had voted for the same candidate in the past three presidential elections.
11. Each was an average-to-poor student in high school.
12. Each Jim doted on his wife by leaving love notes for her around the house.
13. Both had had a vasectomy.
Less surprising was their identical medical histories, which included the onset of migraine headaches at the age of 18. The Jims quickly became celebrities and were guests on The Tonight Show, were interviewed by Mike Douglas, and had articles written about them in magazines like Newsweek.
As a result of this publicity, reunited twins began contacting Bouchard as eager test subjects. Bouchard later founded the Center for Twin and Adoption Research in-where else -Minnesota Twin Cities. This research center has generated convincing evidence that genes play a much more powerful role in who we become than previously thought.
The Kennedy Twins
While secret or private languages among twins are not unusual, most pairs outgrow this at an early age and rarely experience problems communicating with others. But Virginia and Grace Kennedy are an exception.
Identical twins from Linda Vista, Calif., Virginia and Grace were brought to Children's hospital at the age of 6 by befuddled parents; apparently the girls could not communicate in English and had instead created their own language. Doctors soon learned that the girls spent most of their time with their maternal grandmother, who baby-sat during the day and spoke to them very rarely, and then only in German. The girls hardly ever had visitors and spent little time with their parents, who were often looking for work. As a result of this insular environment, the twins developed in a similar way to autistic children.
Virginia and Grace had never attended school, and they were only brought to the hospital after their father informed his unemployment officer that his children literally couldn't speak to others. The officer then strongly encouraged the father to seek help for them.
Children's hospital doctors were told that the girls had suffered seizures after birth-this may have caused previously unknown brain damage. But their isolation during a critical period for language development could alone explain their speech problems. Though therapy eventually cured Virginia and Grace of their secret language, they are still developmentally disabled. Now approaching 30, the twins continue to experience speech problems and mental delays. grace, who has achieved a higher level of functioning than her sister, works at a McDonald's cleaning tables and mopping. Virginia works at a job-training center and performs assembly-line work.
Good Twin/Evil Twin
Sunny and Jean Han
According to most psychologists, being a twin has no inherent dire consequences psychologically. But when you combine a bad twin dynamic with abuse, favoritism or other dysfunctional family influences, the ramifications can be catastrophic. Just ask Sunny and Jeen Han.
The Han girls were born in South Korea, a culture that privileges the oldest child, even in twins-sunny was that lucky older twin. The two girls relocated to the United States with their mother in the late 1980s, leaving their father behind. Unfortunately their mother had serious drinking and gambling problems, and the girls were forced to move out at the age of 17. Sunny and Jeen were excellent students who graduated co-valedictorians from their high school in Campo, Calif. But after graduation, the girls pursued very different lifestyles. Jeen took a job at a casino and developed a gambling habit that rivaled her mother's She stole Sunny's credit card and robbed her extended family to pay off a $40,000 debt. Sunny pressed charges and Jeen ended up in Jail with a program that permitted her to work during the day.
But Jeen escaped and allegedly plotted to kill her sister with the help of two teenage boys. When the boys broke into Sunny's apartment, they attacked her roommates first, giving Sunny time to dial 911 before she too was bound and gagged. Sunny learned later from police that her sister was responsible for the attack. She was stunned.
Jeen was convicted in court on all counts and sentenced to life in prison. Sunny actually defended Jeen on the stand and reportedly said, "Come on; we are sisters. We fight but we don't kill each other." This was not enough to refute the overwhelming evidence against Jeen that included a friend's statement quoting Jeen as saying , "I want this bitch dead." While we may fantasize about the symbiotic bond between identical twins, harmony does not always prevail.
The Mind of twins-their conscious lives are perhaps the most fascinating aspect of twindom to the non-twins of general public. The exact same chromosomes give rise to the exact same bodies and internal organs-including the brain-the same down to the most exquisite detail. And yet, those genetically identical brains give to two completely separate personalities
The twin mind presents scientists and psychologists with a unique window through which to view many of the accepted theories of how we see our world. One question that's receiving some new light is debate over nature vs. nurture. Anecdotal evidence suggests that identical twins reared apart lead strikingly similar lives even when raised in extremely different environments.
Researchers are also studying the complexity of human development by observing how twins influence each other, sometimes in adverse ways. The strong bond between twins, while usually described in harmonious terms, can sometimes lead to troubling outcomes. When twins determine a pecking order in which one is strongly favored over the other, the rejected twin can sometimes retaliate in violent ways. In other instances, the bond between twins can be so intense that outside influences are not enough to prevent certain pairs from retreating into their own world.
Some of the research data from twin studies is providing some of the best evidence yet for paranormal concepts like ESP and collective consciousness by far the most intriguing research seems to be taking place in the world of quantum mechanics, transpersonal psychology and the exploration of the nonlocal mind. While this kind of research is in its infancy, it could potentially reveal information about the human mind that leaves the nature vs. nurture debate in the dust.