Unlike most identical twins, Jim Springer and Jim Lewis share a first name instead of a last. The two were separated at birth and adopted by separate families who, by coincidence, named their respective sons James.
So began their parallel lives. Springer and Lewis shared not only a genetic code and a first name, but they shared more or less the same life, independent of one another until their reunion, 39 years after the initial separation.
Growing up in different homes, both were aware, barely, that they had a twin brother out there somewhere, but neither gave it much thought. Springer’s mother told him his twin had died, while Lewis simply wasn’t interested in meeting his brother.
That changed in 1977, when Lewis, then 37, decided to track down his brother. He found Springer’s name through a local courthouse, and the two of them spoke over the phone, both of them nervous wrecks. They agreed to meet, and their bond was restored on February 9,1979. Now, both consider their reunion the most important day of their lives.
Once they got to talking, they discovered the remarkable similarities they shared, similarities that went beyond simple genetics and almost into Twilight Zone territory.
Both were adopted by families living in Ohio and grew up within 45 miles of each other. Both had childhood dogs they named “Toy.” Both were married twice — first to women named Linda, and then to women named Betty. Both had children — including sons named James Allen. Both lived in the only house on their block. Both Both were chain-smokers, enjoyed beer, had woodworking shops in their garages, drove Chevrolets, and served as sheriffs in separate Ohio counties.
The Jim twins, as they’re now called, were perfect candidates for behavioral research. The two participated in a study of reunited twins conducted by Dr. Thomas Bouchard of University of Minnesota. In one test measuring personality, the twins’ scores were so close that it may well have been the same person taking the test two times. Their brain-wave tests were similarly near-identical, as were their medical histories.
The parallels between the two would go on to shape theories on the influence of environment and hereditary factors on personality — nature vs. nurture, to use another term. Some use their case as evidence of telepathic connection between twins.
To an outsider, it seems as if the Jim twins may as well have been the same person. However, Jim Lewis noted that there are differences.
“The differences between Jim and me may be the differences between living in the city and country.”
Check out this interview with them from 1979 on The Tonight Show.