The notion of the doppelgänger -- the double of a living person -- is among the more intriguing supernatural concepts portrayed in fiction and folklore. In fact, some maintain that the doppelgänger actually exists, and a few people even claim to have witnessed their own doppelgänger or that of others. And the doppelgängers in these cases don't refer to simple human lookalikes, a modern usage of the word that has somehow evolved. Instead, the doppelgängers referred to here are paranormal entities -- often times harbingers of misfortune, but sometimes, simply inexplicable lookalike apparitions.
Here are ten of the most mysterious and hair-raising claims of real-life doppelgängers:
10 Elizabeth I of England
9 Abraham Lincoln
According to the July 1865 issue of Harper's Magazine, several credible personalities close to President Lincoln -- including Noah Brooks (Lincoln's journalist friend), John Hay (Lincoln's secretary), and Ward Hill Lamon (Lincoln's bodyguard) -- had been told by the president that he had seen his doppelgänger on the night of his first presidential election. More specifically, Lincoln claimed that after a very busy election night, he was looking into a swinging glass and saw that his face, as reflected, "had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other."
8 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
A famous German statesman, von Goethe (1811-1833) was also a famous writer. Among his works was his autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit, which in English translates to Poetry and Truth. Near the end of Book XI of this work, he describes seeing his doppelgänger when he was about 22 years old.
Goethe wrote that when he was riding on horseback one day, he saw himself, also on horseback, but going in the opposite direction and wearing a gray suit that he had never seen before. Fast forward eight years, and Goethe had forgotten about the strange apparition. However, one day, he was surprised to find himself once again on the same road, but riding in the opposite direction and wearing the gray suit he had seen his doppelgänger wearing.
7 George Tryon
6 Percy Bysshe Shelley
5 John Donne
4 Guy de Maupassant
3 Carne Rasch
2 Mary of Jesus of Ágreda
1 Emilie Sagee
A discussion about doppelgängers can hardly be considered complete without the mention of Emilie Sagee as her case is so detailed, so strange, and corroborated by so many of the people she knew. In 1845, Emilie was teaching at an exclusive girls' school in what is today known as Latvia when, in front of thirteen of her students, her doppelgänger appeared as if writing on the board just as Ms. Sagee was at that moment. A similar incident was repeated at dinner time when a seated Emilie had her double stand behind her and mimic her eating movements. In yet another incident, all 42 of the school's students witnessed the strange phenomenon. Through a classroom window, the pupils saw Emilie working in the garden as her doppelgänger made itself visible in the teacher's chair. Two brave students even tried to touch the apparition, allowing them to confirm that the doppelgänger could not be physically interacted with.
Scariest among the reported paranormal episodes, however, involved Ms. Sagee assisting a pupil, Antoine von Wrangel, as the student prepared to attend a party. When von Wrangel turned to admire herself in the mirror, she was shocked to see two Emilies attending to the hem of her dress, and she fainted on the spot. Eventually, the students' parents were so disturbed by the strange stories that the school was forced to let Ms. Sagee go -- the 19th time that she had lost her job due to the activities of her unexplained doppelgänger.
Black, J. B. (1945) , The Reign of Elizabeth: 1558–1603, Oxford: Clarendon, OCLC 5077207
The Autobiography of Wolfgang von Goethe. Translated by John Oxenford. Horizon Press, 1969. This example cited by Crowe in The Night-Side of Nature (1848).
Aubrey Nye. (2004). Mirror images: Is this a genetic link to spirit? AuthorHouse.
Christina Hole (1950). Haunted England: A survey of English ghost-lore. B. T. Batsford. pp. 21–22.
Betty T. Bennett. The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1980. Volume 1, page 245.
"The Sinking of the Don Juan" by Donald Prell, Keats-Shelley journal, Vol. LVI, 2007, pp 136–154
Mr. X. (1990, December 15). Unghostly apparition. Whig-Standard Magazine, 12(9): 6.
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