split image of Shapell twins

Although they are genetically identical, the world’s oldest living conjoined twins differ in a variety of ways.

And despite being joined at the head, they have lived largely individual lives, insofar as possible.

They face opposite directions not just physically, but also in their hobbies, personalities, and careers.

Lori and George (formerly named Dori) Schappell from Pennsylvania, USA, born on 18 September 1961, are currently 62 years old.

They are craniopagus twins, which means they have partially fused skulls, sharing vital blood vessels and 30% of their brain (the frontal lobe and parietal lobe). This is the rarest form of conjoined twinning, representing only 2-6% of cases. 

Lori is able-bodied but George has spina bifida thus cannot walk. To move around, he sits on a wheelchair-type stool which Lori pushes.

Lori and George as babies

Lori and George became the first same-sex conjoined twins to identify as different genders when, in 2007, George revealed himself to be transgender. He has not had gender-affirming surgery, but he dresses and identifies himself as a man.

Before, George went by the name Reba – inspired by the singer Reba McEntire – as he disliked that his name rhymed with his sister’s.

The twins spent the first 24 years of their lives in an institution for the mentally disabled – despite neither of them being intellectually impaired at all – after being placed there by a court that decided their parents could not properly care for them.

However, Lori and George were not completely cut off from their parents, who instilled in their children the idea that God purposely made them this way, which is why the twins have never lamented their condition nor expressed any desire to be separated.

“Would we be separated? Absolutely not,” George said in a 1997 documentary. “My theory is: why fix what is not broken?”

Since 1988 they’ve lived by themselves in a two-bedroom apartment, each having their own room, alternating the nights that they sleep in each one.

George saw success in the ‘90s as a professional country singer, performing all around the world, whilst Lori is a trophy-winning ten-pin bowler and worked at a hospital laundry for several years, arranging her work schedule around George’s gigs.

The twins endeavour to do as much as possible individually, including showering: “We don’t always get a shower at the same time; in fact, hardly ever,” Lori revealed. They manage this by using a shower curtain as a barrier between themselves while one showers and the other stands outside the bath.

They practise their separate hobbies in their respective rooms, with one of them effectively “zoning out” while in the other’s room. “This is her room. I’m here in body, but that is it,” Lori explained. “Just because we cannot get up and walk away from each other, doesn’t mean we cannot have solitude from other people or ourselves.”

Lori (left) and George (right) on ITV's This Morning (2011)

The twins take a similar attitude to their romantic lives: “When I went on dates, George would bring along books to read and, as we don’t face each other, he could ignore any kissing,” Lori told The Sun in 2011.

Lori also revealed that she lost her virginity to her second boyfriend when she was 23. During sex, George said he’s able to “act like I’m not even there”.

Both twins are currently single. In the past, Lori expressed her desire to have children, however, this dream never came true.

She has had several boyfriends throughout her life and was even engaged at one point, but her fiancé was tragically killed by a drunk driver.

Now in their sixties, Lori and George have far surpassed the expectations of medical professionals who predicted that the pair wouldn’t live beyond 30.

In fact, Lori and George are the oldest female conjoined twins ever, having taken the title in 2015 from Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova (Russia; 1950–2003), who lived to be 53.

Should they survive six more years, they’ll become the oldest conjoined twins ever, overtaking Ronnie and Donnie Galyon (USA; 1951–2020), who passed away aged 68.

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