7 Historical Figures Who Claimed To Have Been Visited By Ghosts... Of Themselves
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.
- 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.
Queen Elizabeth I Encountered Her Dying SelfPhoto: 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 ShotPhoto: 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 HimPhoto: 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.
- Photo: Neue Pinakothek / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
In the early 19th century, German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stared down his double riding on a footpath. Goethe realized that the figure was indeed himself, riding on a horse and dressed in clothing he had never seen before.
Goethe reports in his autobiography that eight years later, when riding the exact same footpath, he realized he was wearing the clothes his double had been on that fateful day! It seems Goethe had had a premonition.
Percy Bysshe Shelley Was Questioned By A Mysterious DoublePhoto: Amelia Curran / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, husband of Frankenstein scribe Mary Shelley, had his own scare when he was visited by a double on multiple occasions when ill. One particularly haunting encounter took place on a terrace. His double confronted him with the question, “How long do you mean to be content?”
Not surprisingly, Shelley didn't last much longer; he lost his life in a mysterious sailing accident in 1822.