World's Oldest Conjoined Twins Lori and George Schappell Dead at 62

Lori and George Schappell, who set a Guiness World Record as the world’s oldest conjoined twins, have passed away at age 62. Read on for more about their extraordinary lives.

By Corinne Heller Apr 13, 2024 6:54 PMTags
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Lori Schappell and George Schappell, who set the Guinness World Record for being the oldest conjoined twins, have died.

The 62-year-olds passed away April 7 at a hospital in their native Pennsylvania due to undisclosed causes, their separate obituaries read. Lori and George are survived by their father, six siblings and extended family members.

The twins were born in 1961 with their skulls partially fused at the forehead, which means they were unable to look at each other. They shared vital blood vessels and 30 percent of their brains, Guinness World Records reported. George also had spina bifida and was confined to a wheel-chair-life stool pushed by Lori. Doctors initially gave them a year to live.

"Then he put it up to we won't live past 2, or we won't live past 3," Lori told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. "Each year he was wrong."

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The twins spent 24 years in an institution for mentally disabled people before they were released in the '80s after the wife of former Pennsylvania governor Richard Thornburgh helped prove to state officials that they were of normal intelligence, New York Magazine reported in 2005. 

The siblings then moved into their own two-bedroom apartment and did their best to live independent lives. Lori and George had their own separate rooms and they alternated sleeping in each one. They said they effectively "zoned out" when in each other's room, Guiness World Records said. They also showered at different times.

Both twins enjoyed successful careers: George was a country singer and performed abroad in countries like Germany and Japan, Guinness World Records said. Lori was a trophy-winning 10-pin bowler, the outlet reported. She also worked at a hospital laundry for several years before quitting her job in 1996. 

Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The Schappells also had experience acting. In 2004, they made their onscreen debut, playing conjoined twins on an episode of Nip/Tuck, where the surgeons faced the challenge of separating them. In real life, Lori and George refused to undergo such a procedure. 

"Our point of view is no, straight-out no," George told The New York Times in 1997. 'You'd be ruining two lives in the process.''

In 2002, Lori added, told the Los Angeles Times in 2002, "I don't believe in separation," adding, "I think you are messing with God's work."

Jason Kempin/FilmMagic

The siblings also appeared on several documentaries and on episodes of The Howard Stern Show and The Jerry Springer Show in the '90s and early aughts.

In 2007, the Schappells became the world's first same-sex conjoined twins to identify as different genders, with George coming out as transgender, Guiness World Records said.

Throughout their lives, the twins maintained that they were neither limited nor defined by their conjoined status. 

"Normal is whatever you make of it, but we're very happy," Lori told the Los Angeles Times. "It all comes down to compromise. If more people in life did that, the world would be a better place."

To get to know another set of conjoined twins who have been in the spotlight, read on:

Abby and Brittany’s Surprise Arrival

Abby and Brittany were born on March 7, 1990. Their mother, Patty Hensel, shared in a 2007 documentary Extraordinary People: The Twins Who Share a Body that she only expected to deliver one baby when she gave birth based on scans. Abby and Brittany were initially born with three arms, but had one removed as it wasn’t functional. 

Patty and her husband Mike Hensel were told Abby and Brittany were inseparable as babies. And while Patty explained that separation may have been possible as the girls matured, the parents chose to keep them conjoined as they were able to live a full, healthy life together.

"We never wish we were separated," Abby and Brittany both explained in the 2007 documentary. "Because then we wouldn't get to do the things we can do—play softball, meet new people, run." 

A Singular Bond 

In the 2007 documentary, Abby and Brittany explained that they are often able to anticipate what the other will say when curating an email or online message. In fact, they tend to refer to themselves as one person, unless they disagree. In those cases, they'll say "Abby says" or "Brittany says."

They also now share singular social media accounts, which are private and mostly inactive. 

Abby and Brittany Understand the Curiosity—To a Point

Abby and Brittany have long expressed their understanding of people's curiosity toward their life. Still, they admitted to feeling frustration at the reaction they’re met with in public, especially people taking their photo without permission.

“We absolutely hate when people take pictures of us” Abby explained in 2007. “And we will throw a fit about it, and make them embarrassed.”

Additionally, while doctors were curious about their health and growing process as children, Mike and Patty Hensel did not allow any unnecessary tests be done on their daughters. Brittany and Abby also said the doctor's office was their least favorite place to go at the time. 

“While they are unique, the family wants to treat them like they are just like anyone else,” the family’s doctor Joy Westerdahl explained in 2007. “I have to be mindful of the family’s wishes not to get too involved.”

Abby’s Blended Family  

After marrying Josh Bowling, a nurse and veteran, Abby gained another family member—his 8-year-old daughter Isabella. The couple officially tied the knot on November 13, 2021. And while the news was shocking to the public, Abby and Brittany have always had starting a family on their minds.  

"Yeah, we're going to be moms," Brittany said in Joined for Life: Abby & Brittany Turn 16 in 2006. "We haven't thought about how being moms is going to work yet."

Their Foray Into Reality TV 

Now in their thirties, Abby and Brittany have maintained their privacy since Abby & Brittany aired in 2012. The one-season reality series depicted the young women's lives as they wrapped up college and entered into adulthood. 

Life Outside the Spotlight 

Abby and Brittany began working as a teacher shortly after graduating college. When they were initially hired, they shared they were not in a salaried position, but were given separate contracts, and split their pay.

They currently teach fifth grade together at an elementary school in Minnesota. 

“Math and science is kind of my strong point,” Abby explained on an episode of Abby & Brittany. “Where Brittany is more focused on the language arts, reading—stuff like that.”

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