A lot of people fantasize about having a double that can go around and do shit for them while they do far more awesome stuff. Who wouldn’t want that? I could go sleep or grab a bite to eat instead of typing these posts out. Actually, I kinda like typing these out, so maybe I have a double somewhere doing back-breaking labor while I’m doing this.
But doppelgängers aren’t a purposeful double that you can control and ask nicely to do things you don’t want to do. (And if he or she is your exact double, why would he or she want to do it either?) Nor is it about cloning someone for some hot twin/threesome action.
Ladies, your dream boats have arrived.
The actual idea behind a doppelgänger is pretty damn terrifying. According to Germanic lore, your doppelgänger is basically built specifically for evil. His or her job is to go around and do stuff that gets you in trouble, that bastard. In addition, having one seen by a relative or friend is a bad omen. Even worse, seeing your own means you’re probably gonna die. Your doppelgänger is completely independent from you, and presumably you don’t even know he or she exists until you actually see it, and then it’s too late, because you’re pretty well fucked by that point.
Percy Bysse Shelley saw his own several times immediately before his death, and also right before Mary Shelley miscarried their child. Percy Shelley was a bit of a fanciful guy, to be sure, but he wasn’t the only one who saw “himself”- one of his maids also saw what appeared to be Shelley walking into a part of the yard where the only exit was over a 20 foot wall. Then, he approached again from the very same direction as before. And on top of all that, he wasn’t even around in the first place, so neither one was the real him. Apparently he was cool enough to have two doppelgängers.
“We’re available for parties, too.”
Other famous people who’ve seen their own doppelgänger (or that of a relative) include Abraham Lincoln, John Donne, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goethe’s story is particularly interesting. He claimed to have been riding on horseback down a dirt road when he saw himself riding the opposite way, toward… uh, himself. He noted his other self wearing a gray coat with gold trim. 8 years later, he was riding down the same path in the opposite direction and suddenly realized that he was wearing the same gray and gold coat his other had been wearing 8 years earlier. Historical celebrities are not alone, however, as even into modern days, it’s not difficult to find someone who has sworn they saw someone they knew, only to find out later that they were all the way on the other side of town, or something along those lines.
I make no claims as to the nature or whereabouts of O.J. Simpson’s doppelgänger.
All this is different, however, from the Norse vardøger, which is said to be a ghostly image that precedes you. So, say you go to a buddy’s house and he says, “Weren’t you just here?” Vardøger. If you’re sitting at home, eating Doritos and watching re-runs of Miami Vice and your buddy calls you up and asks, “Hey, were you just at the at the adult toy emporium with an arm-load of marital aids?” Doppelgänger. (Warning: Do not use your doppelgänger to get out of shit you did. It never works. Trust me.)
By the way, it’s alt + 0228 if you must know.
And what do our party-pooping friends, the scientists, have to say about this? Well, Swiss scientists performed lab tests on a 22 year old epileptic woman, finding that when certain parts of the brain (the left temporo-parietal junction if you’re nasty) were stimulated with a minor electric shock… wait a second, didn’t I do this before? Oh fuck, that damn vardøger!
No, wait, nevermind. It’s just the same experiment that I mentioned in the post about the Third Man Phenomenon. Yeah, that’s right. Scientists think that the Third Man Phenomenon and doppelgängers are due to the exact same mental switch, except without the whole mental stress and isolation thing. Oh, and also the fact that the doppelgänger is usually a living person the individual knows. In fact, they also believe that the mental switch can be used to explain ghost sightings as well.
Scientists: Trying to ruin everyone’s fun since the Renaissance.
And even still, rumors have begun spreading that airport face-scanning machines, intended to catch terrorists and other criminals before they can board planes, have captured images of people who live on entirely different continents, aren’t related, and have never met, yet look exactly the same. A popular urban legend making the rounds claims that one airport screener was shocked to see his own face pop up in a scan, and that upon further inspection, found 10 other men in the FBI database who looked exactly like him.
Some other legends also make similar claims, saying that the shared criminal database of mugshots the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies use has a secret sub-database (called Doppelgänger, of course) of people who look identical to each other, even down to the scars on their faces, but have no actual known connection. Further, it’s said that some of the images in this database are of people who lived and died decades ago, but appear to have duplicates alive and well today.
On a barely-related and less creepy note, The Fall of Troy’s Doppelgänger is fantastic.
Wikipedia (The only infallible source of information, ever)