The apparition of a living person that is an exact duplicate, even including details of dress. Doubles fall into two categories: Death Omens and a type of possible out-of-body projection or Bilocation, done either consciously or unconsciously. The belief that doubles are death omens is widespread. In Britain and Europe doubles are known by a variety of names, including wraith, FETCH, waff, fye, swarth and task. In Germany doubles are called doppelgänger, or “doublegoer.” As a death omen, doubles are seen by others who are in a distant location just as the individual in question is about to die or has died. The double may appear real, or have a filmy, ghostly look about it. In some rare cases, individuals see their own doubles shortly before they die.
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley saw his double shortly before he drowned. Catherine of Russia saw her double seated upon her own throne, and ordered her guards to fire on it. Not all cases of doubles are harbingers of death; some seem to be projections of consciousness that somehow assume visible form. Mystics and adepts are said to have the ability to project themselves, or bilocate, at will. Others who project their doubles may not be aware they are doing so. Many cases collected by psychical researchers remain unexplained (see ARRIVAL CASES; LOUIS RODGERS). The belief that the spirit or soul exists in a visible double is ancient and widespread, particularly among animistic societies. The Maori believe that the double cannot be distinguished from the real person unless it reveals itself by becoming filmy. The Melanesians, Iroquois and others believe that the soul is a reflection of the body. The Nyassa believe likewise, but also believe that the double can only be seen in DREAMS.
- Gurney, Edmund, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Frank Podmore. Phantasms of the Living. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1918.
- Leach, Maria, and Jerome Fried, eds. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.
- Spence, Lewis. The Encyclopedia of the Occult. London: Bracken Books, 1988. Reprint.