Monday, December 14, 2009

doppelgänger

Poetikat used the delightful word doppelgänger in a wonderful haiku last week. I commented how much I liked the word and she quickly suggested I should post on the subject. After doing a bit of research, I found the word to be even more intriguing than I first thought.

dop·pel·gäng·er, noun

Etymology: German Doppelgänger,
from doppel- double + -gänger goer

Date: 1851

1 : a ghostly counterpart of a living person
2 a : double
2 b : alter ego
2 c : a person who has the same name as another

In the vernacular, the word doppelgänger has come to refer to any double or look-alike of a person. Well, you know, I couldn't let this pass without mentioning the Deppster and me. The jury is still out on whether we share the same Cherokee great-great-grandmother. We do, however, look quite a lot alike. I guess it's safe to say he and I, though we might not actually be cousins, we most definitely are doppelgängers.

The word is also used to describe the sensation of having glimpsed oneself in peripheral vision, in a position where there is no chance it could have been a reflection. In some traditions, a doppelgänger seen by a person's friends or relatives portends illness or danger, while seeing one's own doppelgänger is an omen of death. In Norse mythology, a vardøger is a ghostly double who precedes a living person and is seen performing their actions in advance.

Since I am a huge Lincoln buff, the story of the president seeing his own doppelgänger caught my attention. Here is an excerpt from Carl Sandburg's biography:


A dream or illusion had haunted Lincoln at times through the winter. On the evening of his election he had thrown himself on one of the haircloth sofas at home, just after the first telegrams of November 7 had told him he was elected President, and
looking into a bureau mirror across the room he saw himself full length, but with two faces.

It bothered him; he got up; the illusion vanished; but when he lay down again there in the glass again were two faces, one paler than the other. He got up again, mixed in the election
excitement, forgot about it; but it came back, and haunted him. He told his wife about it; she worried too.

A few days later he tried it once more and the illusion of the two faces again registered to his eyes. But that was the last; the ghost since then wouldn't come back, he told his wife, who said it was a sign he would be elected to a second term, and the death
pallor of one face meant he wouldn't live through his second term.


Spooky, huh? But, Lincoln was known to be superstitious, and old mirrors can be known to produce double images. Whether this Janus illusion can be counted as a doppelgänger is perhaps debatable. An alternate consideration, suggests that Lincoln suffered vertical strabismus in his left eye, a disorder which could induce visions of a vertically displaced image.

For the accounts of other famous reports of doppelgängers, including Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Donne, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Emilie Sagée click [HERE].

81 comments:

  1. oh what an intriguing post willow...think it might give me the shivers to see myself...they say they are out there...intriguing...and i do see the depp resemblance...smiles. hope you had a wonderful weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh, I really like this story!
    I love creepy stuff. That´s why I love to read the stories about your ghosts. But ths headline just caught my eyes...

    X
    Sabrina

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Willow, a couple years ago, I presented a paper at the Midwestern American Society for 18th Century Studies. The Conference theme was "Duos, Doppelganger, and Doubles during the Long Eighteenth Century." I think you would have loved that conference!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Willow, a couple years ago, I presented a paper at the Midwestern American Society for 18th Century Studies. The Conference theme was "Duos, Doppelganger, and Doubles during the Long Eighteenth Century." I think you would have loved that conference!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I really must read more about this man. There are so many curious details that beg for research. I could stare at him (all 3!) for quite some time. I love love love the pics, and the concept of the post. Brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
  7. hey willow, one of my fave blogs is written by one of abraham lincoln's descendents, uniquely named abe lincoln i kid you not! go here: http://pickapeckofpixels.blogspot.com/ he's a super talented photographer, a great storyteller and a real softy to boot!!! have a peaceful evening at the manor. steven

    ReplyDelete
  8. wow! quite a story! about Lincoln :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well researched Willow, and so delightfully told.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, I had never heard this. Fascinating story, Willow! Love reading about Lincoln, too.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Speaking of... look up Angelina Jolie and her brother.

    Extremely creepy, that.

    ReplyDelete
  12. About ten years ago I saw a picture of a woman who looks just like me in People Magazine. Since I'm adopted I wondered if we might be related ... long story short I communicated with her a few years ago and it turns out we have the exact same ethnic background. She doesn't think we're related, but I still wonder. It was such a strange expereience to see MY face in a magazine.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have never seen my own double, but I've seen people that I've had to stop and ask if they were so-and-so.
    Very interesting post. And the comments are awesome too, I'm gonna go check out the lincoln guy :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hey, Steven, Abe is one of my blogging buddies, too!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I, too, saw "my" picture in a magazine once. It was a very weird feeling, let me tell you.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow. You two really DO look alike. That combination of features is much cuter on you than on Johnny.

    Bravo!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. You know, I had forgotten about the story of the Lincoln Doppelganger...Fascinating....

    ReplyDelete
  18. Abe sits squarely on our family tree as well- his super sensitivity has made it through several generations- now we have pills for that sort of thing...

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jeanne Iris, you're right. I would have loved that conference. How interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  20. My doppleganger needs rogaine, slimfast and viagra! lol

    ReplyDelete
  21. Linda Sue, you're related to Abraham Lincoln, as well? I don't believe it! So cool.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Jeff, I just looked up Jolie's brother. Oh. My. Gosh. Creepy is RIGHT!!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. What an interesting post! and...I don't believe I've ever seen a 'spike' on Abe. -J

    ReplyDelete
  24. This wonderful word is used at our place to currently describe MOTH's beloved football team the Melbourne Demons. He reckons that a bunch of ghostly demonic alter egos are inhabiting the bodies of the players & making them miss every goal they attempt.
    Millie ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  25. Heehee, good one, Millie! :^)

    ReplyDelete
  26. They say we have seven other people in the world that could pass for us. More than one doppelganger.

    p.s. how do you get the special accents?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Lakeviewer, seven?! Wow. I did see someone who could pass for my identical twin in an airport once. It was a little more than creepy. It was like walking towards myself in a mirror!

    The accents? Cut and paste.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I love this spooky stuff! were you kidding about the same relative as JD? you do look a lot alike!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I've also long been fascinated with this concept, but you put it SO well: "...the sensation of having glimpsed
    oneself in peripheral vision..." how shivery! I love it.

    And yes, you do resemble JD. Interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Depp, eh? I'd have said Kidman!

    ReplyDelete
  31. And to imagine that Abe nowadays is a great photographer! Must have to do something with likenesses! ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  32. this was a fascinating post in many directions...firstly, there is an uncanny resemblance!

    and that info about lincoln, how strange he saw himself with two heads...I think that would send me right over the bend if were to see two of my heads sitting there between my shoulders! all in all, a wonderful time was had reading all this so thank you!

    makes me wonder about seeing myself staring at myself across the bed, me standing on one side and whatever I was doing, standing on the other staring at me....kid you not. thanks for making me recall that one ;) but I am still alive and that was many years ago otherwise I would not be worrying myself sillier!

    ReplyDelete
  33. A bit creepy about Lincoln - but, then, he didn't fare well in the end!
    I don't think I have a double anywhere...haven't come across one and no one has ever told me I have a look alike,

    ReplyDelete
  34. I often see young men who look like one of my sons, it is a very eerie sensation. We were once in a traffic queue on a motorway when a car pulled up in the inside lane. We all did a double take as a young man in the car was my son's double. The people in the other car noticed the resemblance too, much to the embarrassment of the two young men!

    The Lincoln story is interesting, spooky.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Interesting!
    I'm norwegian, and dobbeltgjenger is a common norwegian word for someone who looks just like someone else.
    And vardøger is also a norwegian word. My grandmother used to hear my grandfather come home, walk into the hall and take off his coat. When she looked, he wasn't there, but he arrived five minutes later. -Vardøger.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Has anyone mentioned Conrad's "The Secret Sharer" yet? Fascinating short story on the theme.

    ReplyDelete
  37. fascinating entry! Love the side by sides of you and Depp!

    ReplyDelete
  38. too bad you dont bring in the bucks your look alike does. (or maybe you do!) I think you should write to him and point out these synchronicities.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thanks for the shout out, Willow. I'm glad the haiku at Kigo of the Kat gave you the inspiration for digging up info on the word. Fascinating stuff, indeed!

    I hadn't seen the resemblance between you and Depp up to now, but I must admit in the two pics you've presented here, your lips and nose do seem to be identical.

    Kat

    ReplyDelete
  40. I've never seen my doppelganger, but I know I have one. I've been told it many times by many people.

    And I wonder, to what extent does appearance create behaviour? Would someone who looks like me, act like me, talk like me? Or would he use our common appearance in ways that would never occur to me?

    ReplyDelete
  41. I just saw some experts go through a kind of analysis of President Lincoln's face.

    It was most interesting.

    I never realized until they mentioned it that the left side of his face was baby-like and smaller and it was that abnormality that resulted in the beard.

    I wish I had paid more attention to it but at the time I thought it was one more of "those things" my cousin has had to live with like the Marfan Syndrome.

    ReplyDelete
  42. You and the Deppster have got to be related, that's all there is to it!

    Fascinating post. Since I'm a reader of horror, I was already aware of doppelgänger and its' meanings but had no idea Lincoln was superstitous and had actually seen his!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Unni, thanks for that fascinating first hand bit on vardøger!

    ReplyDelete
  44. HA! So funny Willow.

    I have a double that lives about ten miles from me...it has happened at least half a dozen times that someone has called me Michelle and when corrected exclaim that I look JUST LIKE HER...I have never met her...but would LOVE to see her and decide for myself!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Wonderful story, Willow. I'm fond of all those unexplained phenomena that exist just at the edges of our vision.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Yes, you definitely resemble Johnny, but you're so much prettier!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hi Willow, remember, I was also at your grand party and brought those petits fours? I am a German, though, living over here, so maybe that was my Doppelgänger who I once saw in a magazine? She was eating an ice-cream cone and smiled exactly like me!
    If you want to know any more detais about German words, ich kann Dir helfen! Me, the real me. The German one. Liebe Grüße aus Usedom

    ReplyDelete
  48. Hi Angela, yes, those delicious petit fours. Okay, you can be my official German post consultant, that is if I can tell it's the real you! :^)

    ReplyDelete
  49. Wonderfully fascinating, as always. I do believe I once met my own doppelgänger : it was about forty years ago and I was getting on a bus as a chap with a dog was getting off. The dog and I both suddenly stopped and stared at each other - the similarity between us was uncanny. The GLW (then my GLF) was with me at the time and even she noticed the similarity between me and my canine doppelgänger

    ReplyDelete
  50. Alan, you silly. (((giggles)))

    ReplyDelete
  51. very interesting and intriguing-- I like the idea of seeing oneself peripherally -- outside yourself sort of--

    ReplyDelete
  52. Dear Willow,
    "Doppelganger"... wow, never heard of it.. thanks for the info though.. would there a "ghost" of a chance that I might see mine before year's end? Tell me Willow, do tell? :)
    The Bach

    ReplyDelete
  53. Hey Dubs!
    You do favor good ole Johnny...but, out of the two of yah, you're the star that shines the brightest as far as I'm concerned....
    Hugs, The Bach

    ReplyDelete
  54. Well, Willow, you hopeless romantic book lover and ghost story teller, I have to tell you that this isn't exactly what I wanted to read today. Why? Well, last night I actually (yes, really) dreamt i met my double finally! You see, I often get told i look exactly like some one else people know and often its someone in Washington State apparently, all by different people, usually from people from there. Very odd. Well, last night i finally met him! Ikes. Well, if i must go, thanks for making it a lovely visit in blogland and I will be sure to drink ever last cuppa as if it could honestly be my last! :|

    ReplyDelete
  55. Oh yes, Bach is so right there.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Mr. Mmm, last night?! Are you serious? Here is the key question. Did you dream this before or after reading my post? Much creepier, if you dreamed it before reading this doppelganger post! Synchronicity at work, again.

    ReplyDelete
  57. This has been quite a story and interesting research into this big .75 cent word...doppleganger! I like the Lincoln history and do believe we have insights from our dreams and visions...scary too!

    ReplyDelete
  58. interesting...i'm forwarding this on to my history teaching wife; She loves civil war history and it's a story i'm not sure she has come across....

    ps, she also 'loves' the Deppster.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Thanks for posting the photo of Mahala. She looks strong, and dignified, and beautiful. How is your family fortunate enough to have a photo of her? So few survive from that time. What a treasure! I would give anything to have a photo of my great-great grandmother Mahala LaRose.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Such an interesting post Willow!

    ReplyDelete
  61. This is so weird, post on Abe, just deleted it and turn to you and There's ABE..


    My dog is giving me a fit, bandages everywhere.

    It's like alsheimers,,,over and
    over,,

    ReplyDelete
  62. This is so weird, post on Abe, just deleted it and turn to you and There's ABE..


    My dog is giving me a fit, bandages everywhere.

    It's like alsheimers,,,over and
    over,,

    ReplyDelete
  63. Well, that's the creepy thing, isn't it? I read this way after my dream just before leaving you that comment!
    :) or is that :O or :| ?!

    ReplyDelete
  64. Lincoln is such an interesting historical figure. I have never heard this particular story and find it very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Very interesting! I'd never heard that story about Lincoln!

    And doppelganger is kinda fun to say, too! ha!

    ReplyDelete
  66. Wow, Willow you get the prize for the most interesting post and discussion. Down here in Ky. there are some really weird stories of Abe. He was friends with Joshua Speed and spent a lot of time in Louisville at Farmington, which is a huge tourist attraction in Louisville. His friendship with the Speeds helped secure Ky. for the Union. James Speed was appointed Attorney General in 1864. There is a lot of Lincoln memorabilia at The Speed Museum in Louisville.
    A great post.
    QMM

    ReplyDelete
  67. geeez........
    spooky.
    my mom has a few stories like this one.

    i am heading over to the site right now.
    xxx

    ReplyDelete
  68. You DO look like him.. it was always bugging e that you look familiar that's why..Im sure you must be doppelganger/cousins.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Wow, great story. And you do look like Johnny - only prettier, of course.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Dopplegangers are intriguing. I have had a couple of encounters with them in my life.

    ReplyDelete
  71. I knew Johnny Depp would appear in here somewhere! Fascinating post, Willow...

    ReplyDelete
  72. I`ll very gladly be your official blog advisor on German matters and strange words. I once wrote blog posts on Schnickschnack and Quasselstrippen and one on "the big end" wchich is called Pleuelstangenfuß in German! I`m ready for more!

    ReplyDelete
  73. I am learning german so i found the first bit of this post very interesting!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  74. I have always been fascinated by the idea of doppelgängers. This post was just perfect and slightly creepy. And, yes, you do look remarkably like Mr. Depp.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Now I know another name for my recently discovered look alike lady in the Grant Wood portrait....she does sort of haunt me!

    ReplyDelete
  76. Did you know that Lincoln also appeared in the Shirley Ellis video called "The Name Game"?

    Here it is on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MJLi5_dyn0

    ReplyDelete
  77. Hi! Willow,
    Nice post...now I see who you and Betsy, have inherited your cheekbone from...Mahala, your cherokee great-great-grandmother.
    When it come to your resemblance to Johnny Depp...he do have high cheekbone too, but he is handsome and you are lovely.

    DeeDee ;-D

    ReplyDelete
  78. fascinating I too have been quite smitten by the concept and construct of doppelganger - and appreciate the additional skinny.

    if I have a doppelganger it would be martina navratilova - who I have been mistaken for on several occasions over the years - of course she has much better biceps than I!

    ReplyDelete

Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)