doppelganger theory meaning and history

Doppelganger Theory: Meaning and History

An evil twin, a harbinger of death, an unexplainable physical phenomenon - Doppelganger, the term has been tied to various theories and explanations. This Buzzle article elaborates on the Doppelganger Theory describing its meaning and history.

Find your Doppelganger!
If you are curious to find your living - double then sites like iLookLikeYou and Twin Strangers allow you to find one from around the world.
I'm Not A Lookalike Project by Canadian artist François Brunelle is a passionate campaign taken up by the artist to photograph strangers who look like each other from around the world. He has been doing this amazing find since 12 long years. What drives his curiosity is the fact that two people who are not related to each other and who belong to a different culture, society, or country could have such uncanny resemblance. In another case, the freak social media attention garnered by two women from Ireland Niamh Geaney and Karen Branigan, who look like the split image of each other, has created a global quest for finding a famous or stranger look-alike. Sounds like a miracle! Isn't it?
Doppelgänger: is originally a German word with two substantives 'Doppel' meaning double and 'Gänger' meaning walker. It also means a ghostly double of a living person or two people physically resembling each other. The term was first coined by German writer Jean Paul but became popular only after 1851.
Mythological Origins
In ancient mythologies, a doppelganger is referred to as an 'evil twin' and looked upon as a malicious sign of impending death. It is conceived that if a person sees his own ghostly self, his death is apparent whereas if his friends or relatives see the same then it warns of a grave illness. It is believed that this supernatural 'twin' plants sinister ideas in the victim's mind and hence the victim must avoid communicating with it at all costs. The ancient Egyptians believed in ka meaning spirit double which is said to share the same memories and feelings as the victim. Egyptian legends speak about the Trojan war in a different light, the legends mention that it was the ka of the Greek Princess Helen who misled Paris of Troy which eventually led to the war. Norse folklore is abound with the tales of vardøger, these entities are believed to precede their dupes and take their place in social circumstances by mimicking their footsteps, voice, scent, or personality. These supernatural beings are not necessarily harmful but they sure create confusion in the minds of the witnesses when the actual person they are representing arrives. Legends from Orkney Islands in Scotland suggest the existence of trows, small fairy-like creatures that give birth to sickly babies known as changelings. These creatures are notorious of stealing healthy human babies and replacing them with their ill babies, who then replicate the qualities of the babies that are stolen. These demonic babies would then die at a young age due to illnesses. Cherokee legends state that there are spirits called Nunnehi that impersonate themselves as living persons also taking up their names. It is believed that offending them would cause death.
Doppelgänger Theory
There are several theories regarding the doppelganger effect, some suggest a paranormal double that sticks to the original victim like a parasite while another states the existence of a physical double that carries personality traits similar to the other person albeit not a twin. Merriam-Webster divides this phenomenon into four different categories: first states that it is the malicious ghost of a living person, second states that it is a physical double of a living person, third states that it is the alter ego of a person, and finally the fourth states that it originates with the same name as of a living person. Many psychological theorists believe that it could mostly be the alter-ego of a person whereas mystics believe that the psyche splits up and personifies the original self. In 2006, scientists in Switzerland performed an experiment that used electric stimulation on the left temporoparietal lobe of a patient after which the patient could sense, feel, and see her double-self. The scientists concluded that people normally store their self-image memories on the left side of the brain and hence when disturbed, they experience a doppelganger effect. It has also been theorized that this effect is naturally associated with schizophrenia and other neurotic mental disorders. Spiritualists believe that demons can sometimes manifest themselves as living persons which can well be termed as a doppelganger, these sinister forms are mostly harbingers of death.
Famous True Stories
The most intriguing case is that of Emilie Sagée a 19th century schoolteacher from France, her interesting phenomenon was recorded by the American writer Robert Dale Owen who gathered the story from Julie von Güldenstubbe, the daughter of the Baron von Güldenstubbe. Emilie was teaching at Pensionat von Neuwelcke, Latvia in 1845, according to many witnesses at school she was the strange center of doppelganger activity. Once while conducting class, 13 of her students saw her supernatural double mimicking her actions while she wrote on the blackboard. On another occasion 42 students saw her real self out in the garden picking flowers while her ghostly double sat motionless on the classroom chair, few of the brave students managed to touch the apparition which they said felt like a coarse cloth. Sagée affirmed that she had never seen the doppelganger herself, but mentioned that whenever it was said to appear, she felt dead exhausted. With time, the ghostly self became a permanent fixture, freaking everyone in the vicinity. Concerned parents started removing their children out of school due to which the headmistress had no option but to fire Emilie Sagée along with her sinister double. President Abraham Lincoln is said to have personally witnessed his double-self in 1860 after his first election. This event has been chronicled by Noah Brooks in his book, Washington in Lincoln's Time (1895). While resting on the couch briefly after the elections, Lincoln saw his own visage in the mirror. The pale apparition faded out once he got up the couch, when he told his wife about it she got panic-stricken. She was very sure that the doppelganger foreshadowed bad news, it certainly meant that Lincoln would be re-elected for a second term (perhaps two Lincolns equals two terms), but wouldn't last through it (because the mirror image looked deathly). And history has it that Lincoln was assassinated shortly after winning the second term. The most bizarre case ever recorded is that of French writer Guy de Maupassant who is said to have interacted with his evil twin just days before his death. It has been stated that the ghostly double appeared to him towards the end of his life and dictated the book 'The Horla' which is in fact an unsettling tale of a man whose sanity slowly diminishes due to a demonic entity that uses him as a host. As if mirroring the mysterious narrative Guy de Maupassant's mental state started degenerating soon after ending the story and he died in a mental asylum a year later. Queen Elizabeth I of England is said to have witnessed her doppelganger palely sleeping on her bed just days before her death. Percy Bysshe Shelley the famed English poet saw his ghostly double in Italy silently pointing towards the Mediterranean Sea, he remained baffled about it. Co-incidentally just before his 30th birthday in 1822, Shelley drowned and died in the Mediterranean Sea in a freak sailing accident.
Strange Celebrity Cases
American rapper Jay Z recently re-ignited the Illuminati conspiracy theories when a black and white picture titled Harlem Loiterers surfaced on the Reddit website. The picture shows a Jay Z look-alike sitting on a front railing of a building wearing a pea coat and newsboy cap, the 1939 picture photographed by Sid Grossman is archived in the New York Public Library. Numerous theories started doing the rounds once the photo got viral on the net, one stated that he had probably traveled back in time to get inspiration for the 'Great Gatsby' soundtrack, whereas another connected him to the elite secret society, Illuminati. Ridiculous as it sounds, most considered it to be his vampire doppelganger who remains immortal! Since then, the New York Public Library has urged the public to come forward with any information regarding the identity of the black and white twin. A popular hoax of music industry is the 'Paul is Dead' theory, the curious case of the Beatles that started doing the rounds in the year 1969 just when rumors about a possible band split cropped up in the media. Fans freaked out when news leaked that Paul McCartney is dead and is replaced by his doppelganger, the story was apparently spread through Russell Gibb, a disc jockey for WKNR-FM, who received an unusual phone call from an unidentified Tom who told him that Paul McCartney had died in a car crash in 1966 and the band had hastily covered it up by projecting his impostor to the world. It was believed that weighed by guilt the band members were leaving clues on album covers and songs, the most popular theory suggested that the cover photo of Abbey Road, the Beatles' most recent release at that time, staged a funeral procession with John as the minister, Ringo as the undertaker, Paul as the corpse (because he was barefoot), and George as the gravedigger. Spooky as it sounds, it is believed that if one plays the song Strawberry Fields Forever backwards, Lennon mumbles, "I buried Paul" at the end. Another of John Lennon's song A Day in the Life lyrics read "He blew his mind out in a car". All these conspiracy stories were laid to rest when Life issue dated 7th November, 1969 carried the exclusive interview by the man himself titled 'Paul is still with us'.
Literature and Popular Culture
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein depicts the perfect doppelganger theory, Victor Frankenstein uses science as a medium to create an artificial monster that could well display his alter ego, his creation represents two sides of a single entity. One would initially presume the monster to be evil, yet it is Dr. Frankenstein who brings it into existence and then enshrouds from the obligation. His cowardice leads to the death of his younger brother and that of a young girl accused of his murder. The monster, in fact, at times acts like Dr. Frankenstein displaying moments of great knowledge and sound judgment but because of Victor's self-interest and malevolent actions, the monster stalks him ceaselessly. English painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti was so obsessed with the double-self theme that he painted the famed How they met Themselves signifying the sinister relationship. He referred to it as his 'Bogie' (evil) painting, the eerie oil painting shows two lovers walking through a forest and they suddenly encounter themselves. Exactly mimicking the dress and face the doubles glow with an otherworldly exuberance, the real man draws his sword in surprise and his lady lover collapses in a deathly pale swoon, her arms extended in remorse towards her onlooking twin. Strangely, Rossetti painted it during his honeymoon and his wife is said to have died soon after. This phenomenon has been adapted in various popular T.V. shows e.g. in Vampire Diaries, Amara and Silas have a bloodline of doubles stemmed from an ancient witchcraft. In How I met your Mother the gang come across each of their five look-alikes during the series. Doppelgänger—fiction of one's imagination, an unexplained supernatural fact, walking death, or malicious twin; you can call it anything but the fact remains that this deadly double theory remains to be a mysterious subject till date.

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