The term doppelganger, which literally translates to “double-goer,” is a term to describe the bizarre phenomena when a person encounters an exact replica of themselves. The term itself is German in origin, but many nations have their own version of doppelgangers…and most cultures believe the appearance of a doppelganger is a bad omen. In fact, many people believe seeing one’s doppelganger means they are about to die. Today, we look at five historical figures and the terrifying encounters they experienced with their doppelgangers
1. Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Shelley was born on August 4, 1792. To this day, he is considered one of the most influential English Romantic poets to have ever lived. Shelley has been made equally famous by being married to Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. In 1812, Percy had a rather odd conversation with his wife about doppelgangers. He admitted to her that he had seen his own doppelganger a few times throughout his life, but that his last encounter had truly irked him. One day, he had walked out onto a terrace to enjoy a picturesque view, when he saw the outline of a figure standing by the balcony. As Shelley approached, the figure turned around to face him. Shelley was shocked to see that the other gentleman was himself! His doppelganger looked him up and down for a moment before asking, “how long do you mean to be content?”
It was only a short while later when Percy drowned while crossing the Gulf of Spezia in his sailboat. A sudden storm flared up, and Percy, along with his two crew mates, went down with his ship when it sank.
2. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln is widely known for being the 16th President of the United States, and his role in abolishing slavery after the Civil War. Before Lincoln was elected President, he was a very prominent lawyer, and openly discussed his interest in the paranormal amongst his friends and family.
On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected President. After his inauguration, Lincoln claims that he, and his wife, Mary Todd, went home to rest. While relaxing on the couch, Lincoln looked up and caught his reflection in a mirror. He was shocked to see that, while everything else the mirror reflected looked normal, he had two faces. One showed his natural skin tone, but the second face appeared waxy and gray in hue. Lincoln was surprised by this apparition, but Mary was downright petrified. She became convinced that the double, gray colored, face meant that Lincoln would be elected for a second term, but would not live to see it conclude.
Sure enough, Lincoln was re-elected in 1864, but was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865.
3. Queen Elizabeth I
Born on September 7, 1533, Elizabeth was the daughter of the famous Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She ruled England and Ireland from November 17, 1558 until her death in 1603. Elizabeth was primarily well known for her chastity, as well as for being the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. Known for being very pragmatic, it became quite a surprise when the Queen claimed to have seen her doppelganger.
Queen Elizabeth had ruled for many years, and was growing old. One night, she ventured into her bed chambers and was shocked to find her doppelganger, laid out on her bed. The way the doppelganger was positioned on her back reminded the queen of the way a corpse is laid out for presentation shortly after death.
This frightening image, along with the death of several of her friends in quick succession, are believed to be what caused Queen Elizabeth’s final illness and death in March 1603.
4. George Tryon
While not as famous as his counterparts, Vice Admiral’s doppelganger is the stuff of legends. On June 22, 1893, Vice Admiral Tryon was off the coast of Syria, practicing maneuvers with numerous ships. Ordering the ships to arrange themselves into two neat columns, Tyron then instructed that the ships turn towards each other, in an attempt to create a majestic, yet dangerous naval maneuver. Tryon miscalculated the distance between the two columns, however, and one of the ships collided with the one he happened to be on, severely damaging it. Within minutes, the naval ship began to sink. Knowing he had doomed his men, Tryon’s last words were, “It’s all my fault.”
While this tragedy occurred, Tryon’s wife was in London, hosting a party at their house. Halfway into the party, Tryon was spotted slowly walking down the staircase of the house, dressed in his Navy uniform. Tryon’s wife, along with several onlookers, watched in silence as Tryon transcended the stairs, walked across the room and opened the front doors as if to exit, before disappearing. Many of the party attendees did not recognize the horror of this apparition, but it was clear to Tryon’s wife that she had just seen her husband’s fetch—a sailor’s double that has come to inform the family about his distant demise.
5. Guy de Maupassant
Born on August 5, 1850, de Maupassant was a French writer, particularly known for his mastery of the short story, as well as being the protégé of famed writer Gustave Flaubert.
While Maupassant is celebrated for his novels and short stories, it seems he is most famous thanks to his doppelganger. It is believed that towards the end of Maupassant’s life, he began to see his doppelganger on a near-regular basis. Not only did the apparition speak with him on multiple occasions, but it even had the audacity to sit beside Maupasssant’s writing desk and begin to dictate a short story!
The story, titled The Horla, is about a man who slowly goes mad after being regularly visited by an evil spirit. Eerily enough, shortly after Maupassant finished penning the dictated story, his own mental health began to rapidly deteriorate. Overcome with an acute fear of death, Maupassant tried and failed to commit suicide in 1892. He was committed to an insane asylum shortly after, and died on July 6, 1893.