The paranormal phenomenon of doppelgangers has been occurring for centuries. There are many theories on why this occurs, as well as disagreements on how the doppelganger phenomenon happens. Some believe a doppelganger can only be seen by the person it is impersonating, but other people can attest that doppelgangers can appear to anyone the original person knows. The doppelganger phenomenon doesn’t happen often, but when it does it typically makes quite the stir.
There have been many stories and accounts of seeing someone’s double. Many accounts include interacting with the doppelganger, thinking it was the original person, whereas in other accounts the original person has encountered his or her own doppelganger. However, this phenomenon never had a name until the late 18th century, even though it was known to occur for centuries prior.
The term “doppelganger” was first used in 1796 in the novel “Siebenkäs” by Jean-Paul, a German romance novelist. The word doppelganger is actually two German words put together. Doppel means “double” and ganger means “walker.” In the book, the main character is unhappy in his current marriage and his alter ego, referred to as his doppelganger in the book, convinces him to fake his own death. Ultimately, the main character falls in love with someone else and gets married after he fakes his death.
Separated into four characteristics
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a doppelganger is separated into four characteristics. The first is that a doppelganger is the ghost of a living person. The next is simply a double. Then it references a doppelganger to be a person’s alter ego. A last reference is a person who has the same name as another. Although Jean-Paul first coined the phrase, Merriam-Webster says that the phrase didn’t become popular until around 1851.
Alter ego or higher self
Many people believe a doppelganger to be their alter ego or higher self, as defined in Jean Paul’s fictional novel. It is as though a piece of the soul separates and manifests in a body that looks like the original self. Some mystics believe that once a person dies they are able to bi-locate or be in two places at once. The theory here is that the higher self is doing just that, separating for a short time and manifesting.
Interestingly, scientists in Switzerland have their own theory behind the doppelganger phenomena. In 2006 they used electric stimulation to a patient’s left temporoparietal lobe in her brain. This caused the patient to sense, see and feel her double. The scientists believe that this area of the brain is where people store their sense of self-image, and, when disturbed, it can make a person feel as though he or she is seeing the double. Therefore the scientists believe that, if there is a disturbance of any kind in the left temporoparietal lobe, it can cause a person to see their doppelganger. Of course, these scientists believe that the doppelganger phenomena are a form of schizophrenia and other delusional mental disorders.
An Evil Twin
Another reference to the doppelganger phenomenon is calling it an evil twin for those who aren’t a twin. There have been cases where the doppelganger has appeared and done things that the original person wouldn’t. Typically, these things are bad and referred to as evil in nature. Could it simply be a person’s alter ego manifesting? This is one plausible theory. Another theory is that it is a demon attached to a person, manifesting to cause problems in a person’s life.
Some people believe that certain types of ghosts and spirits have the ability to take on any form they choose, so it is possible they could appear as someone you know. However, not many can manifest completely into a living, breathing person, so it is difficult to say this phenomenon is truly a doppelganger. However, demons and angels are known to be able to take solid human form for short periods of time. Some demons have the ability to take on any appearance they choose, so it is definitely another plausible theory for doppelganger occurrences.
The Cherokee have stories about the Nunnehi. They are considered to be a race of spirits that rarely are seen by humans. Many times when they manifest they will appear as someone whom you know. They will even take on the same name as the person they are impersonating. They can be helpful in some cases, but they are offended easily. If offended, it is said that the person who offended them will die a few days to weeks later.
This is similar to the most popular belief about doppelgangers today. It is believed that if you happen to see your doppelganger then it is an omen of your own death or that something else really bad is about to happen. Some believe that the doppelganger brings these bad events to occur but others believe the doppelganger to be just a messenger of events that are already going to happen, with or without a doppelganger sighting.
Doppelganger has no soul
Another theory is that a doppelganger has no soul. This may originate from the folklore belief that doppelgangers do not have a reflection or a shadow. Centuries ago, many paranormal phenomena were also tied with folklore superstition, so it is difficult to pinpoint accurate facts regarding any paranormal phenomena dating back to ancient times.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky, is said to have more cases of doppelgangers. Many people, including paranormal investigators, have had experiences with doppelgangers. Most of the stories coming out of Waverly Hills on the doppelganger paranormal phenomena are where they have seen another member of their team. Sometimes they have interacted with a doppelganger, and other times they have only seen the person down the hall. Upon talking with the actual person in question, the person was nowhere near the location where the doppelganger was spotted.
Regardless of the theories, all of them agree on one thing. They agree that for the most part, a doppelganger appears to be flesh and bone and not an apparition or ghost. Although, keep in mind that many people still believe a doppelganger manifests in spirit form instead. Because the doppelganger phenomenon is a rare occurrence, it is difficult to study. When it does occur, generally people don’t realize it until it is too late. All there is to go on are stories and accounts in hindsight.