There is a certain innate spookiness to the idea of an evil version of ourselves, or of someone out there who looks just like us running amok and causing trouble. It is unsettling to know that there may be someone or something wearing our face and going about life, and even more so if they are up to no good. Interestingly, the idea of a duplicitous, supernatural twin version of ourselves has been around for a long time, and far from just scary stories there have been many accounts of people actually encountering alternate versions of themselves who seem to be less than benign.
The word that most may think of when they imagine a perfect double of themselves is doppelgänger, which comes from the German word for “Double Walker,” or also “Double Goer,” and although the modern English word is typically used to denote simply someone who looks just like you, the history has long spoken of something more mysterious and darker. There are myths of doppelgängers going back into history from many cultures, with the common lore depicting them as being a spirit, demon, or some other form of supernatural duplicate of a person that are said to be indistinguishable from the host. Although not always malicious, such doubles are nevertheless very often described as being a bad omen or portent of misfortune and death, and it is in many traditions typically not a good sign if you see your own doppelgänger. They are generally described as at least being very naughty or mischievous, if not downright ominous or even evil, often luring the host to danger, trying to trick them or get the into some form of trouble, or just basically freaking them out.
The concept of this duality and the idea of an alternate, opposite version of oneself goes way back. In ancient Egypt there were the ka, or spirit double, which were perfect duplicates of a person down to every single memory. In Native American cultures there were many stories of such spiritual doubles, which were seen as reflections of a person from the afterlife and often nefarious. Old Scottish tales tell of the trow, who were malicious spirits who came to steal babies and replace them with imposters. Norse mythology has its vardøger, which was a double that was said to appear and perform actions before the actual person came and actually did it. Many cultures also speak of these doubles being reflections of the soul, often showing our darker sides, which can be perceived in mirror reflections or even photographs. Shadows often come into play in these tales, with doppelgängers often said to not cast a shadow, which is usually seen as a bad omen and is linked to the widespread belief in many cultures that a person’s shadow is a sort of extension of them, with the shadow being the dark version of their being.
Although the doppelgänger is not always equated to death and misery or harbingers of doom, it often is, and such tales of malevolent doubles tend to be very numerous in these stories. Such tales of more malicious spirit doubles tend to share several commonalities. For instance, these entities are often said to exude some form of negative energy or vibe, such as heavy feelings of fear, dread, or panic, regardless of whether they actually behave in a threatening manner. They will often avert their faces, hide them with hair or hats, or otherwise try to remain in the shadows or obscure themselves somehow, but if they are seen their eyes will exhibit a sinister quality or they will sport a maniacal or insane grin. They will almost never directly interact with or speak with their double, except to do extend some ill-will or lure them to danger.
The idea of evil doubles or doppelgängers in general may sound like pure folklore and fantasy, but there are many accounts of supposedly real encounters with such beings, which is a topic I have covered here at Mysterious Universe before. I do not plan to repeat any of those cases here, but there are many other such accounts to be found of ominous doppelgängers, with some of them being quite modern. The paranormal author Victoria Branden described being nearly run down by her evil spiritual twin. She claims that she had been driving one day and turned a corner to have a truck come careening towards her on the wrong side of the road. As Branden veered out of the way she noticed that the driver was a double of herself and that she had an “evil smile” on her face, and throughout the whole episode she reported experiencing a thick malevolence and negativity emanating from the double, as well as an “eerie sense of quiet and suspension of normal thought,” which did not abate until it had sped off.
Another such account concerns an apparent doppelgänger of a girl attempting to lure a young woman to her death. The witness tells of how she and her family had been out on one day in 2015 hunting for seashells out on a beach when her 4-year-old daughter said she wanted to continue even though the weather was starting to look like a storm was brewing. The woman’s older daughters had gone off to have lunch at a nearby cottage, and soon after the 4-year-old also went off to join them. The woman made sure her youngest daughter had caught up to them and then went back to seashell hunting. She says she walked for a further 20 minutes before the waves started to get more treacherous and the weather stormier and she started to make her way back. At this point the woman explains that she had a sudden feeling of inexplicable dread, and then looked out to see the very same 4-year-old daughter she had just sent on her way out in the rough seas struggling for her life. She would say of what happened next thus:
I have never seen such a rough sea and so I turned back with a feeling of unexplained dread. I couldn’t shake it. I looked out into the ocean and I could have sworn I saw my 4-year-old drowning in the waves. I knew with absolute certainty that she was safe back in the cottage with her father and siblings, but yet there she was drowning in the rough seas.
I started wading into the water to try to help her. I was in a total state of panic. I was crying and absolutely hysterical. I knew that if I went in the water I would drown. But there I was going, even though I knew that it wasn’t really my baby out there. I felt like something wanted me to go into the water so I would die. I had to fight the instinct to help her. Keep in mind that the thing in the water was the spitting image of her.
I took off running to the cottage, crying the entire time. My young daughter greeted me at the door. I was never in my life so happy to see her. To this day I am convinced that the thing in the water was her doppelgänger trying to lure me to my own death. I know they say that you only can see your own double, but I wonder. I hope I never have this happen again. I hope this never happens to anyone who is reading this—the desire to go into the water was stronger than any force I have ever known.
Was this the doppelgänger of the woman’s daughter going about its nefarious purpose of bringing death? Who knows? Some stories of creepy doppelgängers read more like a ghost story of some sort. One Reddit user wrote of a bizarre and harrowing experience with what appears to have been some sort of evil version of her grandmother. The witness says that this happened when she was around 15 years old, and at the time she had a grandmother who was always in her room cleaning up. One day the witness came home to find the grandmother simply sitting there staring at the closet without moving. The witness would say of what happened next:
She wasn’t moving at all. It was like she was suspended in the middle of cleaning the closet. I asked her if she was okay but she totally ignored me. My eighty-five-year-old grandmother just continued to stare into the closet.
Suddenly, she turned her head slowly toward me and gave me the coldest of stares. She had the evilest eyes I had ever seen! A chill ran up and down my spine. Those were not my grandma’s eyes, I thought. Then she looked away from me and walked into my closet closing the door behind her.
But when I went to my closet she wasn’t there. She had literally disappeared into thin air. Completely gone! I froze for a few seconds! Then I yelled for her and heard her say, “I’m down here in the kitchen! Dinner’s almost ready.” I ran to the kitchen to find her standing there cooking away! Then I asked her if she was here the whole time! “Of course I was, dear. Dinner’s not going to make itself,” she laughed. I mean, she had no idea what had gone on upstairs.
What did I find in my bedroom that day? I still have no idea.
Other accounts are hard to categorize as a genuine doppelgänger report or something else. Another Reddit account comes from the user “Tre,” who gives an account just as bizarre as it is terrifying. He claims that in 2005 he was alone in his house at around 7 AM when he suddenly felt tired for no discernible reason and decided to take a nap. He awoke at around 9:15 AM and went to the bathroom, where he at first didn’t see his reflection in the mirror. Thinking this a bit odd he did a double take and then his reflection was there, but it was off somehow. The witness describes the rest of the encounter thus:
I had a white shirt and my reflection had a blue shirt my eyes iris are hazel, a brownish greenish amber like color, my reflections was blood red. It was staring at me covered in blood. It was looking so evilly like he wanted to kill me I couldn’t move away I was frozen still
This is where it gets horrible the reflection starts talking to me.
It starts saying “why are you afraid of yourself?” I couldn’t talk but I tried to reply to it in my mind. I said myself? “I linger inside of you; I am the one who will corrupt you” Now I started to worry because now I know it has control over my body. I said where did you come from? It replies “I am from all of the hatred you have over everything which I feed from for power an soon I will have enough to kill you!”
So I said if you’re apart of me right killing me means you die too no?
Saying this ticks the thing off! Now it’s grinning and chuckling “you are correct but you are still a fool…” Its hands looked like it was reaching out of the mirror towards me and it touched my shoulder I felt dizzy as if I lost a lot of blood then it said ” you will see what I will become… But first see what I am now!”.
The vision he showed me was so horrible I never told my family. It was some sort of deformed beast with four eyes and a big horn its left arm was bony and little while the right was big and pulsing. Its legs were connected like a big tail and it looked like it was growing. It looked decayed and rotten but it was alive and the vision disappeared the thing in the mirror yelled “begone!” I had my control back and I ran outside my house and waited for my parents to come home.
There are many such accounts, and they all connect to the idea that there is some shadowy, evil version of ourselves lurking about on the periphery of our understanding. We seem to be drawn to these tales of some double of us, some copy that embodies all of our worse traits or which seeks to stir up despair, fear, or chaos. Is there anything to such tales or are they all firmly rooted in folklore and the imagination? Whatever the case may be, it may certainly give one pause when walking down the street one day to pass one’s spitting image. If it happens, you may want to take a look over your shoulder, just in case.