Graveyard Shift

7 Historical Figures Who Claimed To Have Been Visited By Ghosts... Of Themselves 

Chuck Stern
Updated March 6, 2020 515.8k views 7 items

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.

Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 7 Historical Figures Who Claimed To Have Been Visited By Ghosts... Of Themselves
Photo: Alexander Gardner/Wikipedia/Public Domain

President Abraham Lincoln was greeted by two versions of his visage around the time of his first election in 1860. Lincoln's biographer, Noah Brooks, reportedly took detailed notes of what Lincoln said he saw, transcribing Lincoln's words for all to read. The president saw a phantom in a mirror, which appeared twice in his room that night and once more after he told his wife about the apparition. Its features were his, he said, but 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 
Queen Elizabeth I Encoun... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 7 Historical Figures Who Claimed To Have Been Visited By Ghosts... Of Themselves
Photo: Levina Teerlinc/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

According to a lady-in-waiting of Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned in England from 1533-1603, Elizabeth saw a corpse-like version of herself shortly before her mysterious death and had visions of hellfire.

Naturally, the Queen passed soon after.

Catherine The Great Found Her Double Sitting On Her Throne And Ordered Her Shot
Catherine The Great Foun... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 7 Historical Figures Who Claimed To Have Been Visited By Ghosts... Of Themselves
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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, while the real Catherine lay in bed, it went and sat atop her very throne!

Catherine insisted that the spook vacate the premises by ordering her guards to shoot at it. The rest is foggy, but what is known is that Catherine herself soon passed, as is so often the case in these sightings. Perhaps her alter ego was there to share the bad news?

Author Guy de Maupassant's Double Dictated A Short Story To Him
Guy de Maupassant is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 7 Historical Figures Who Claimed To Have Been Visited By Ghosts... Of Themselves
Photo: Gabor/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

French writer Guy de Maupassant not only had a double, but he spent time with it. 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, in part because of untreated syphilis, and he sank deeper and deeper into despair, eventually passing in an asylum. Many have chalked his supposed "double" up to mental illness.