Twinsburg, Ohio (sy88pgw) — If you unwittingly pass through This particular Midwestern town on the first weekend in August, you might think you’ve stumbled into a mirrored funhouse.
Everywhere you look there are identical twins, all of them wearing matching outfits. Here, two stout gray-haired men dressed as pilgrims. Over there, a pair of bearded dudes in lederhosen, hoisting trays stacked with mugs of beer. Even the baby girls within the two-seat stroller, sporting Steelers onesies, are spitting images.
This particular double-vision spectacle will be Twins Days, an annual festival in which brings thousands of twins coming from around the globe to northeastern Ohio to celebrate their twin-ness. The festival bills itself as the largest annual gathering of twins within the globe.
This particular’s also one big petri dish for scientists, who flock to the festival every summer to study twins’ genetics in addition to behavioral differences.
“This particular’s a club you can’t buy your way into,” says Katie Barry, 32, of fresh York City, who has been coming to Twins Days with her twin sister Kristy every year since they were 7. She gazes around at the carnival of costumed couples using a smile, searching for the right words.
“This particular’s This particular oasis of twin love.”
‘Where’s your twin?’
This particular’s almost too perfect in which Twins Days will be held in Twinsburg. The Cleveland suburb will be named for identical twin brothers who helped settle the town in addition to died of the same ailment in 1827, within hours of each additional.
The festival got off to a quiet start in 1976, when 36 sets of twins showed up. This particular grew fast. This particular year, the event attracted more than 1,900 sets of twins, along using a smattering of triplets in addition to at least one set of quadruplets. They come coming from almost every US state in addition to coming from as far away as Australia.
The event features a county fair feel in addition to includes a parade, look-alike contests, a talent show in addition to an enormous group photo — a human blanket of twins — taken in a field coming from atop a crane.
Twin humor will be abundant. Siblings stroll the grounds in T-shirts in which say, “Thing 1” in addition to “Thing 2,” “The not bad Twin” in addition to “The Evil Twin,” or “I’m not Steven” in addition to “I’m not David.”
More than a few have rhyming names, like Bernice in addition to Vernice, Carolyn in addition to Sharolyn in addition to Jeynaeha in addition to Jeyvaeha.
This particular may be the only place in America where you can stroll into a hotel in addition to be asked by a staffer, “Where’s your twin?”
For many identical twins, who spend the rest of the year drawing stares in addition to enduring stupid questions — actual example: “Do you contain the same birthday?” — This particular’s a rare chance not to stand out.
Twins say they enjoy profound bonds in which few “singletons” — as non-twins are called here — fully understand.
“Some people bring spouses or boyfriends, in addition to This particular’s a terrible mistake,” says Barry, “because they feel isolated.”
An exclusive club
About 33 in every 1,000 human births within the US are twins, a rate in which has climbed in recent decades as more women marry later in addition to take fertility drugs or employ in vitro fertilization. Identical twins are an even more exclusive club — roughly 4 in every 1,000 births.
They are formed when 1 fertilized egg splits in two after conception, creating two embryos with the same genetic makeup in addition to DNA.
Scientists love to study them because they help answer the age-old question about nature vs. nurture. Because identical twins share the same genes, any differences between them — say, more wrinkled versus less wrinkled skin — must be the result of their environment.
Take Laura in addition to Linda Seber, 41, coming from Sheffield, Ohio.
The pair tied for 8th in their high school class of 404 students, attended the same grad school — “This particular was great to buy one set of books,” Linda says — in addition to today share a home while working as physical therapists.
“If we’re genetically identical, I should be able to do everything in which she does,” says Linda. “although sometimes This particular’s difficult being compared to each additional. Because if I can’t achieve what she achieves, This particular’s like … why? Why can’t I do in which?”
Indeed, This particular will be hard to underestimate the mysterious psychic forces in which bind one twin to another.
Don in addition to Dave Wolf, 59, have identical graying beards in which hang halfway down their chests. The identical twins live in Fenton, Michigan, in addition to do long-haul trucking, sharing turns at the wheel during marathon cross-country drives.
The pair recall waking up one morning as boys, age 11 or 12, to discover they had just had the same dream. A few years later, Dave suddenly became overwhelmed with concern for his brother only to learn coming from their dad in which Dave had just broken his collarbone in a motorbike crash.
“I can’t explain This particular. I didn’t feel any pain,” Dave says. “although I just knew something had happened.”
within the name of science
In a long white tent on the festival grounds, a long row of twins sit at tables before trays of colour-coded food flavors: milk, potato chips, artificial sweeteners. Wearing nose clips to mask aromas, they uncap each sample, take a taste in addition to then spit into a plastic cup before taking a swig of water in addition to tasting the next. They record their opinions on an iPad.
These twins are serving as volunteer subjects for the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research institute in Philadelphia whose clients include such food giants as Coca-Cola in addition to General Mills.
“Our question will be whether some people are taste-blind in addition to if so, to what? Our interest will be whether This particular will be a genetically determined trait,” says Danielle Reed, a Monell behavioral geneticist. “We like to compare genetically identical twins to twins in which are no more similar than ordinary siblings.”
This particular can help food scientists understand which traits — say, an affinity for bitter flavors — are most strongly determined by genetics.
“You can imagine if we look subjectively at their DNA we could predict what will taste better or worse to people,” Reed says. “So you can tailor dietary advice to people’s actual ability to taste in addition to smell.”
Monell will be just one of a handful of research groups in which attend Twins Days. A few feet away at Procter & Gamble’s Olay tent, scientists are studying twins to better understand the aging process in addition to its effect on skin. Nearby, a forensics expert coming from the Los Angeles Police Department will be collecting latent fingerprints coming from identical twins — yes, twins’ prints are slightly different — to improve fingerprint-identification tools.
in addition to at West Virginia University’s tent, biometric researchers take hi-res photos of twins in addition to record them speaking to help computer scientists create better facial in addition to voice recognition systems. The FBI has funded similar research here as well.
“If you can build a system in which can differentiate between identical twins,” says Jeremy Dawson, a WVU associate professor of computer science, “then This particular’s a lot easier to tell the difference between (regular) people.”
Doug in addition to Jill in addition to Phil in addition to Jenna
Twins Days will be also about the science of attraction.
fresh kings in addition to queens are crowned here each summer. although the closest thing to perennial festival royalty are the Malms.
Gregarious identical twins Doug in addition to Phil Malm grew up in Idaho. Identical twins Jill in addition to Jenna Lassen, both introverts, grew up in Michigan. Their father would likely address them as “sisters” because he was too proud to admit he couldn’t tell the girls apart.
All four were visiting the Twinsburg festival in 1991 when they met in addition to sparks flew. Luckily, there was never a question over who would likely be with who.
“This particular was instant,” says Phil, who chose Jenna. “We knew right away which one we were with.”
The foursome today live in Moscow, Idaho, as members of a tiny subset — identical twins married to identical twins. Doug in addition to Phil, 60, are retired carpenters, while Jill in addition to Jenna, 50, work in day care.
All four share one home. Separate houses, even side by side, wasn’t an option.
“This particular never would likely have worked,” Doug says.
although the couples have had to learn to solve domestic disputes as a foursome.
“When we fight, we can’t work This particular out as just two of us. We have to work This particular out as four,” Phil says.
in addition to yes, sometimes household confusion reigns.
“When I look at my wife in addition to her sister, there are days when I cannot tell them apart,” Doug says.
He has been known to come up behind Jill in addition to give her a playful bite on the neck, only to realize he’s nuzzling Jenna. “in addition to then,” he says, “we get teased for a while.”
A year’s worth of data
Back at the research tents, the twins line up, sometimes for an hour or more, to participate. This particular’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.
The twins enjoy This particular because they get money or free samples. Many say they feel not bad knowing they are contributing to science.
The scientists like This particular because This particular’s an efficient way to gather data coming from a hard-to-find group of people.
The Monell Chemical Senses Center expects to collect research on some 450 twins over the course of the weekend.
“We collect a year’s worth of data in four hours,” Reed says.
The saddest man at Twins Days
Amid the procession of coupled siblings, one man wanders alone.
Shawn Riggins, 45, wears a T-shirt with images of his twin brother Shane’s face in addition to a festival badge bearing both their names. in addition to he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Shane will be not here. He died last September of colorectal cancer.
“There’s a sense of emptiness in which no words can describe,” Shawn says. “There will be a pain in which’s so deep you can’t cry This particular out. You can’t scream This particular out. You just need to walk through.
“He’s not here within the physical, although I see him every day when I walk past a mirror.”
The two brothers had been coming to Twins Days together for 20 years. They thought they were fraternal twins until 2002, when they took DNA tests at the festival in addition to learned they were identical.
“We looked exactly alike,” says Shawn, who will be a kindergarten teacher in Columbus, Ohio, in addition to remains cancer free. “We did everything together. We had the same eyeglasses. We had the same facial hair. If we went to an event, we always had to walk in at the same time.”
Shawn agonized for months about whether to come to Twins Days This particular year. although within the end, he decided the support of his fellow twins, many of whom knew Shane, made This particular worth the trip.
“I came back here because no one else although a twin can understand the enormity of what I’m feeling,” he says.
The scientists, focused on sets of twins, no longer want to study Shawn. They can measure twins’ DNA, although they can’t fathom the depths of their grief.
although twins here, many of whom remember his brother, take him in their arms for tearful embraces.
Just then, as if on cue, a woman approaches Shawn in addition to gives him a long hug. He thanks her.
For today, he says, “the energy in This particular place has given me the strength to stay.”
Riggins takes a deep breath, pulls himself together in addition to shuffles toward a passing throng of festivalgoers. He’s ready for more hugs, two at a time.
Maddie McGarvey will be a photographer based in Columbus, Ohio. Follow her on Instagram in addition to Twitter.
Photo editor: Brett Roegiers