|"Der Doppelganger" by Cathy Lê Thanh|
Have you ever had someone say to you, “I saw this person the other day that looked JUST like you!”? Or thought they’d seen you somewhere when you weren’t there? My beloved Germans have a word for this—they call it a doppelgänger. Doppelgänger translates to “double-walker” and is most commonly described as being an identical version of someone, like a twin. In folklore, doppelgängers are often believed to be bad luck, and if you see your own it is an omen of death.
Interestingly enough, there are several historical records of deadly doppelgängers. Percy Shelley, husband to Mary Shelley, once wrote of doppelgängers in his 1820 drama Prometheus Unbound. “The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child, / Met his own image walking in the garden.” Two years later, Shelley drowned soon after telling his wife that he and others and seen his double. One of my favorite German writers, Goethe, wrote of seeing his doppelgänger in the attire he would wear eight years later as he rode on his last visit to his lover. Even Abraham Lincoln claimed to have seen his double beside his own reflected face in the mirror.
|Rhys Wakefield in "+1"|
Alfred Hitchcock loves to play with this theme, more creatively and indirectly. He frequently uses double images of people in his films to signify something about their character, such as split personalities. The best example in my opinion is in Vertigo, where Judy becomes transformed into Madeleine.
An episode of The Twilight Zone entitled, “Mirror Image” a woman in a train station is terrified as she is faced with her double who is waiting for the same train.
|TZ's "Mirror Image"|
Even more esteemed authors, such as Joseph Conrad (“The Secret Sharer”) and Dostoevsky (The Double) have written about the legend.
Whatever incarnation it appears in, there is no doubt that the tale of the doppelgänger is both intriguing and haunting.