Doppelganger Questions

Meeting yourself - a doppelganger - represented in a painting
1864 painting: “How They Met Themselves”

Doppelgangers have been encountered for centuries.

A doppelganger (literally, a “double walker”) is the duplicate or double of of a living person.

Could both of them be the same person, but one is from an alternate reality, and has merely “slid” into this world?

That’s where this phenomenon might be relevant to the Mandela Effect.

In some cases, the “duplicate” person is only seen by other people. At other times, the person encounters himself.

For our studies, I’m not sure the distinction matters.

However, in the 19th century, some people believed the doppelganger predicted death. This is especially true in Irish literature, where the double is described as a Fetch.

(Its Scandinavia counterpart, Fylgja, relates to an animal whose appearance may sometimes predict death. So, it is not a true doppelganger.)

So far, no one has a satisfactory explanation for doppelganger-like phenomena.

Note: In popular use, the word “doppelganger” can refer to someone who’s a mere look-alike for someone else. (Dr. Who has featured many variations of this concept.)

Also, some politicians hire look-alikes for security or other reasons. (The 1993 movie, Dave, made use of this trope.) They’re sometimes referred to as doppelgangers.

That’s not what we’re talking about at this website.

Other literary tropes include these doppelgangers:

  • In Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the concept of a doppelgänger double was described as a counterpart to the self.
  • Edgar Allan Poe’s story “William Wilson” describes the double with sinister, demonic qualities.
  • George Gordon Byron used doppelgänger imagery to explore the duality of human nature.
  • Charles Williams’ Descent Into Hell (1939), has character Pauline Anstruther seeing her own doppelgänger all through her life.
  • Clive Barker‘s story “Human Remains” in his Books of Blood is a doppelgänger tale.
  • Cathy MacPhail’s story, “Another Me” was a best-selling young adult novel, later made into a movie.

(Portions of that list courtesy of Wikipedia)

Shelley’s own encounter with a doppelganger remains one of the most baffling (and legendary). As described in a letter by his wife, Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley (author of the novel, Frankenstein):

…he told me that he had had many visions lately — he had seen the figure of himself which met him as he walked on the terrace and said to him — “How long do you mean to be content” — No very terrific words & certainly not prophetic of what has occurred. But Shelley had often seen these figures when ill; but the strangest thing is that Mrs Williams saw him. Now Jane, though a woman of sensibility, has not much imagination & is not in the slightest degree nervous — neither in dreams or otherwise. She was standing one day, the day before I was taken ill, [June 15] at a window that looked on the Terrace with Trelawny — it was day — she saw as she thought Shelley pass by the window, as he often was then, without a coat or jacket — he passed again — now as he passed both times the same way — and as from the side towards which he went each time there was no way to get back except past the window again (except over a wall twenty feet from the ground) she was struck at seeing him pass twice thus & looked out & seeing him no more she cried — “Good God can Shelley have leapt from the wall?…. Where can he be gone?” Shelley, said Trelawny — “No Shelley has past — What do you mean?” Trelawny says that she trembled exceedingly when she heard this & it proved indeed that Shelley had never been on the terrace & was far off at the time she saw him. [emphasis added]

About two weeks after this sighting, Percy Shelley was dead. The details and witness of his doppelganger make it a particularly compelling tale.

However, from a Mandela Effect viewpoint, what if the doppelganger is really “another you” from a different timestream? Recently, this possibility was raised by a reader.

Debs described the following incident:

The class was asked to take out the art projects that we stated the day before. I didn’t open my desk because I “knew” I didn’t have a project, thinking I was absent the day before….I had NO recollection of the day or the project. The teacher came over and asked why I hadn’t taken my project out and I informed her that I didn’t have one because I had been “absent” the day before. She said, “you were here yesterday, I worked on it with you”. She opened my desk and took out a project that had my name on it in what looked like my hand writing. I will NEVER forget that day. I was young and it scared me that I had no recollection of it when art and making things were my two favorite things to do.

Many science fiction tropes — including some used in Dr. Who — present the idea that timestreams should not cross so you “see yourself” in passing. (Of course, that may be rooted in the centuries-old folklore that seeing yourself means death… at least for one of you.)

Are doppelgangers further evidence of Mandela Effect? Might the “don’t see yourself” warning reflect something about the physics of this phenomenon?

Or, could doppelgangers be attributed to time travel, in general?  Is it more likely that the person who looks like you is actually someone else… perhaps a descendant? (As sci-fi as it sounds, is that more probable than a Mandela Effect encounter?)

Are there other explanations?

It’s an interesting adjunct to the Mandela Effect, but I’m not sure the two are related.

Illustration: How They Met Themselves, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1864, courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, via Wikipedia.

3 thoughts on “Doppelganger Questions”

  1. I remember reading a collection of ghost stories called “Haunted Ohio,” by Chris Woodyard. There are several books in the series, and in one of them was the story of a young man who was attending college. He’d been studying for weeks for various exams, and one particularly tiring night, he got up to go make a snack. When he returned to his room, there he was, sitting at his own desk, head bowed as he studied from a book! As he watched, this vision of himself slowly faded and disappeared. I don’t remember which of the many books this story came from, or any other details, but this would certainly qualify as a doppelganger event. If I can find any more info, I’ll let you know.

  2. Well, I sincerely hope I never meet a doppelganger of myself;; very very creepy notion)

    In 5th grade (2005), so this could easily be accounted for by a prank or exaggeration of some sort, I was eating lunch outside with a circle of friends and a girl I was pretty well acquainted with came up — she looked very shocked to see me and asked if I’d just come from the library. I said no, I hadn’t been there all day (which was true) and she said, with great astonishment, that there was a girl in there who looked /just like/ me. I don’t remember other details of what she said (for instance, what the girl was doing — my impression is just ordinary library stuff, but I also have a faint recollection that the girl said my ‘doppelganger’ ignored her but I can’t be certain on it), but she seemed genuinely amazed (even somewhat distressed). I have a somewhat unusual face (no one ever tells me I look like their cousin) so this was especially odd to me.

  3. I remember seeing doppelgangers on three separate occasions. One was a doppelganger of a friend of mine who had died a few years before. I was in a service area on the garden State Parkway in New Jersey, where I live. My wife was with me, and also saw him. He wore a leather bomber jacket, glasses, and a billed cap with the name of a Navy ship on it. He had black hair and a goatee. He looked exactly like my friend to the last detail, especially the clothes. We were walking out as he walked in, and we both stopped short and stared at each other and said “Jimmy!”
    Another time I was at a baggage carousel in Newark Airport working as a limo driver, and I saw someone I had worked with (and for) for many years. I tried to catch his eye with no success, and as he was leaving I called out his name. Since we were the only people left there, he turned and said, “That’s not my name.” But even the voice was a dead ringer.
    For some reason I can’t remember any of the circumstance surrounding the third incident, but that time, the doppelganger was a doppelganger of me.

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