Sometimes it's horrific enough just to be in your own skin, so imagine the shock of seeing your double! The German word doppelgänger describes just that: a mysterious twin - perhaps real, perhaps buried only in the dark recesses of your mind. Mythical doubles are rumored to live among us, bending perceptions and testing identities. Some have even appeared as eerie omens or harbingers of doom.
History is full of such sightings, and in many cases, public figures have been involved. Abraham Lincoln was reportedly visited by his double on the night of his election. Writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was haunted by one, and so was Russia's Catherine the Great. Author Guy de Maupassant interacted regularly with his spook; it even dictated a story to him! Read on for a list of mysterious doubles from history.
According to his biography, President Abraham Lincoln was greeted by two versions of his visage on the evening of his first election in 1860. Tired as he was, Lincoln took detailed notes of the phantom, which appeared twice in his office that night. Its features were skewed, he said, and one face was significantly paler than the other. His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, believed the pallid half to be an omen indicating that he, Lincoln, would be elected to a second term, but would die during that term.
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Queen Elizabeth I Encountered Her Dying Self Lying in Bed
Elizabeth I, who reigned in England from 1558-1603, was the last ruling Tudor, and someone known for her practicality and level-headedness. That's why people were more than a little shocked when she claimed to have a mysterious double. Still, the Queen insisted she had seen a corpse-like version of herself sprawled out on her bed, appearing very ill. Naturally, she died soon after.
Catherine the Great Found Her Double Sitting on Her Throne and Ordered Her Shot
In the late 18th century, Russia's Catherine the Great caught a glimpse of her evil twin, after her servants alerted her to its presence. Shamelessly, it sat atop her very throne! Catherine insisted that the spook vacate the premises. When it didn't, she ordered her sentries to shoot it dead. The rest is foggy, but what is known is that Catherine herself soon died, as is so often the case in these sightings. Perhaps her alter ego was there to share the bad news?
French writer Guy de Maupassant not only had a double, but he spent time with it regularly. It even dictated a short story to him, which was published in the 1880s as one of his final works. The story, The Horla, involves a parasitic and all-consuming double that drove the protagonist mad, a portent of what was to come for the author himself. Sadly, Maupassant's own mind was in disarray, and he sank deeper and deeper into despair, eventually dying alone in an insane asylum. Many have chalked his supposed "double" up to mental illness.
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