The word doppelganger simply means “double”. Sometimes it is spelled as “doubleganger” or even “doppelgaenger” and is believed to cause psychological anxiety when anybody sees it. It came from the German word “Doppelgänger” which literally translates as “double-goer” and is found in various cultures worldwide.
Types of Doppelgangers
Various cultures interpret doppelgangers differently. Some people think of them as their past or future self while others say they are their “evil side” who creates the confusion of personalities of the original person’s friends and family. Still others just see them as one’s look alike or as someone who has very similar physical resemblance. In general, the image of the doppelganger depends on the character it portrays for an individual.
- Folklore – Traditional folklore sees doppelgangers as creatures with neither shadow nor reflections, similar to vampires. It is said that they have malicious intentions in contrast to their more naïve equivalents. They incept evil thoughts or negative advice to the heads of their counterparts and they are believed to bring bad luck, serious illness and even death when seen. Some cultures even see doppelgangers as the image of death.
- Psychoanalysis – Freudians look at doppelgangers as the facet of an individual that is difficult to control. The ‘evil twin’ usually has the original person’s characteristics as well as conflicting ones. Therefore, the doppelganger is like the original person in some ways but not in others, often extremely. To successfully defeat the double, one must face the repressed facet of the psyche that the double symbolizes.
- Film and Literature – “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson is one very popular example of doppelgangers in literature. Another example is the movie “Psycho” featuring Norman Bates who sees his “double” in windows and mirrors. There are other various types of fiction titles whose theme surrounds that of mistaken identities and supernatural phenomena including horror, fantasy and science fiction.
- Historical – Surprisingly, we can also find doppelgangers documented throughout history. People who claim to have seen doppelgangers right before their deaths include American president Abraham Lincoln and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. President Lincoln’s was seen as another face in the mirror while Shelly’s appeared in a dream. John Donne, a famous English poet, is said to have bumped into his spouse’s look-alike moments prior his daughter’s death while his wife was giving birth.