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.
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 reported took detailed notes of what Lincoln said he saw, transcribing Linconln'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 telling 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.
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 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. 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 dying in an insane asylum. Many have chalked his supposed "double" up to mental illness.