Paranormal Experiences: Ghosts of the Living?
Ghosts of Living People?
No matter if we're believers or sceptics, we've all heard of the term 'ghost'. However, there are some categories of 'ghost' within the paranormal that have nothing to do with the dead!
Doppelgangers have been known about for centuries. A basic definition of this phenomena is:
- Doppelgangers - Where a living person is seen in two different places, usually in close proximity so that the person who is alive and their 'ghost' are seen at the same time. Traditionally, doppelgangers are thought to be omens of death, similar to crisis apparitions. However, as we shall see, this is not always the case.
Although we'll concentrate on doppelgängers, there are other categories of this type of phenomena, although today, doppelgänger tends to be the term used to cover most cases of this type:
- Doubles - These are reports of seeing the same person in two different places at the same time - but the locations are sometimes some distance apart. Many of these cases have been verified by more than one person.
- Bi-Location - This is where two versions of one person are seen by groups of people at the same time. They can also occur in close proximity to each other. However, the person and their ghost tend to carry out different actions from each other. What is very interesting about these cases is that both versions of the person seem to be much weaker in appearance than the whole living person would normally be.
- Vardogers - This is similar to doubles but the 'ghostly' double visits a location before the real person. In some very odd cases, the vardoger of a person has sometimes visited a location many times before the real physical person. When the 'real' person finally gets to this particular destination they are recognised immediately but the 'real' person has no recollection of visiting the place before.
Many of the cases could be put down to mistaken identity or other human error. However, this gets more difficult when there is more than one incident involving the same person and when different people verify the phenomena.
The doppelganger is believed to be the shadow or ghost-like self of a living person. The phenomena is very old and comes from the German language meaning 'double walker' or 'double goer'.
The word itself is not that old but the phenomena of doppelgangers goes back into the distant past, within the mythologies of a number of cultures. Ancient Egypt had a spirit double called 'Ka' that not only looked the same as the living person but also had identical feelings and memories. In Norse mythology, we get the term vardoger that we have already mentioned. In this case, the vardoger comes before the living person, performing the same actions that the living person is observed doing a little later. In Celtic mythology, their doppelganger was called 'Ankou' and was believed to be a personification of death.
The doppelganger is frequently believed to be a very sinister event and is still today viewed with some trepidation as the associations are often felt to be negative. Seeing your own doppelganger is said to be an omen of doom or death and relatives or friends seeing the doppelganger of a loved one is said to indicate illness.
Interestingly, recent scientific experiments have shown that effects similar to the doppelganger experiences can be induced by electrical stimulation of the temporal-parietal area of the brain. The subjects sensed a presence nearby but could not see any form. In one case, the participant who was female sensed a man behind her, but did not see anything. In one experiment, the same lady said that the 'doppelganger' was telling her not to co-operate with the scientists.
However, as startling as this is, it doesn't really explain the phenomena fully. For example:
- Without the lab, what stimulates the person to have the experience? Not everyone has epilepsy or problems with the temporal area of the brain. So what is their trigger?
- How does this explain the phenomena of more than one person seeing a doppelganger?
- In addition, I don't think anything in nature is ever produced without a reason - so this begs the question why the brain, whether electrically stimulated or not - should produce such an effect as a doppelganger?
- Although the electrical stimulation caused similar effects there were also differences as well. For example in the experiments the 'doppelganger' wasn't seen, only felt. In one case the doppelganger also had a different sex to the person undergoing the experiments. In paranormal cases this doesn't happen. In addition, the doppelganger produced didn't have the same degree of movement nor independence from the living person that happens in cases reported.
For example, think about the case of French novelist Guy De Maupassant:
- The novelist had discussed with other people how he had frequently seen his doppelganger. The events happened not far off from the end of his life. On one occasion he reports that his doppelganger came into the room where he was working, sat down at the same table and began to dictate to him the work he was currently working on. Maupassant related the account in a short story called 'Lui'. Of course because the author was on his own, it's difficult to verify and many would put this incident down to 'hallucination' etc.
Also the paranormal author Victoria Branden:
- In addition to being a harbinger of death or doom, doppelgangers are often regarded as a kind of evil twin as this case seems to demonstrate. While driving her car Victoria Branden turned a corner only to be confronted by a huge lorry on the wrong side of the road coming directly at her. She also relates that there was a distinct, eerie sense of quiet and suspension of normal thought - an experience often observed in paranormal and UFO encounters. She then became aware of a figure sitting next to her in the passenger seat. She realised it was a double of herself, dressed in the same clothes. The figure had it's face hidden, but the creepy thing was that Victoria strongly sensed that this 'twin' had an evil smile on its face and she felt an overwhelming feeling of malevolence coming from it. On looking back to the road, she found that the truck had swerved harmlessly out of her way. This is classic of the doppelganger in that many people report a sense of evil or negativity coming from it. Why this should be the case is open to debate.
In addition, some accounts of doppelgangers are similar to what is known as 'crisis apparitions'. These are well documented phenomena involving the apparition of a person appearing to loved ones or friends at the time of their death. These are similar to doppelgangers in that in many cases it is a 'crisis' or 'fear' event that stimulates the experience. However, as we shall see with the next case this is not always true.
- This story was related to me by an acquaintance, (called Dawn),about her Mum. When Dawn and her two younger brothers were very small their Dad worked away from home. This wasn't unusual and Moira (the Mum) was very used to it. Many years later she told Dawn the experience she'd had. One sunny summer afternoon she had finished playing with Dawn and her brothers outside and it was time for the youngest to have a nap. As she was coming into the house, the thought crossed her mind that she would maybe get some weeding finished later on. On going through to the sitting room to put the youngest child down to sleep, she looked out of the patio windows and stopped abruptly with shock! She could see herself kneeling down at a flower bed, weeding the garden. She was wearing the same clothes as she had on at present. Only one difference was noted, that the doppelganger in the garden had it's hair tied up in a bun. Moira's hair was usually left long. One of the children then tugged at her to ask for a drink. When Moira looked back to the garden she couldn't see anything. She told Dawn that she had been badly shaken by the episode and had telephoned her own Mum, (Dawn's Gran), to come over for a while to sit with her. Thankfully, as she says, this only happened once. In addition, rather than being a harbinger of doom, Dawn's Mum lived to the grand age of 89.
Doppelganger Cases Continue
There are cases reported every year from all parts of the world about doppelgangers - although compared to some phenomena, it's claimed that these events are rare. However, could there be many more cases than we currently believe? Could there be hundreds of cases of doppelgangers happening but they are either not seen or a connection is never made between the real person and the double? We may never know. As with other paranormal phenomena, people are still very reluctant to speak about their experiences due to the - understandable - fear of being ridiculed and labelled as 'nuts', etc.
What we can say is that doppelganger cases are obviously still happening and seem to fall into two broad categories:
- Benign experiences that although shocking causes no harm and there is no sense of threat or evil. For example the case of Dawn's Mum.
- Secondly there are the doppelgangers that give out a threatening energy even although there may not be any aggressive actions. Frequently in these cases, the doppelganger is observed with their face covered or turned away from the person - like they need to remain hidden. When the face is observed the eyes in particular tend to look evil. There are a few cases that claim to be of doppelgangers, that have caused harm to others. It's only my own personal opinion, but in these 'aggressive' cases, I think there could well be other explanations other than the 'doppelganger'.
One group of modern stories that I've located on-line and from other sources seem to have the same formula for doppelgangers. I've also only looked at cases where more than one witness was involved in order to reduce the risk of mistaken identity as the cause:
- Although not considered by everyone to bring bad luck, doppelgangers nevertheless can give off anything from an unpleasant vibe to malevolence. Other doppelgangers just seem like the normal person with nothing apparently unusual.
- The most interesting aspect of some doppelgangers is the fact of keeping their faces hidden. This is not always the case, but in a large number of reports, the face is obscured by, for example, hair or by the doppelganger only being observed from the side or back so that the face remains obscure.
- There is sometimes no conversation from the doppelganger but in other cases people have reported that they have talked with the 'doppelganger' believing it to be the actual person. What tends to happen is that the 'doppelganger' often disappears from a location that is difficult to exit without being seen by at least one person. Later, either the real person turns up at the location bewildered to discover that people believe they had already been there. Alternatively, it is later verified by other witnesses, that the real person hadn't left their house, bed or whatever and were never in the location mentioned.
- A few cases observed that the doppelganger moved in an odd way - a very rapid movement is often described that looks weird to the onlookers. In other cases they move in ordinary fashion.
- Other people frequently see the doppelganger in addition to the physical other half.
- In other cases, the physical person never sees their own doppelganger and the events are witnessed by others.
- On occasion the doppelganger seems to mimic the same movements as the physical person. At other times the doppelgänger is performing different actions.
There's no doubt that there is a phenomena regarding doppelgangers and related phenomena but what they are and what triggers them is a mystery.
Doppelgangers, Astral Projection, and Dimensions
To finish off the article on ghosts of the living, we'll have a look at the best documented case of a doppelganger. Although these events happened a long time ago, it's so well recorded with numerous witnesses that it remains one of the best.
In 1846, a 32-year-old school teacher called Amelie Saegee was the focus of a remarkable doppelganger case. In fact, this happened so often that she was reported to have lost at least 16 jobs over an 18-year span, despite her credentials as an excellent and trustworthy school teacher to the young daughters of the nobility. What is also very important about Amelie's case is the amount of witnesses over the years who reported the same thing - that she was frequently seen in two places at the same time. Here are some of the main facts from the case:
- Amelie was observed writing on the blackboard when her pupils also observed her double copying the teacher's exact movements. However, the doppelganger did not have chalk in it's hand and of course no writing appeared on the blackboard.
- In one astonishing account, pupils who claimed to have seen Amelie's doppelganger went towards it and touched it. They were shocked to feel that although the 'double' looked solid, their hands went through the form and in their words, 'it felt empty' and they also described it as feeling like cobwebs.
- There were a number of occasions when Amelie would be working inside the classroom with pupils but at the same time would be observed walking outside in the gardens.
- Aimelie never saw her own doppelganger, it was only observed by others.
- It was observed that when the doppelganger effect was taking place, Amelie always looked pale and exhausted as if her energy was split in two between her real self and her doppelganger.
- Her case was reported so many times and taken that seriously that she was frequently dismissed from her position as school teacher.
There are few things that raise interesting questions from Amelie's case regarding the nature of the doppelganger. Is this some type of inter-dimensional phenomena? Theories regarding many dimensions propose that there could be one of us in each dimension. If this is so, then are doppelgangers one of those 'others' crossing dimensions? Looking at the school teacher's experience, her other dimensional self seems to have been carrying out the same work as the present dimensional Amelie. I have to say that personally this doesn't really ring true with me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the 'exhaustion' effect on Amelie strongly suggests that it is part of her in this dimension that is being affected. Secondly, if the account of the pupils being able to touch the doppelganger are true, then this suggests more of an energy form, rather than a solid person from another dimension. However, this is only my personal thoughts.
What about astral projection? Could doppelgangers be a form of astral projection or OBE (out of body experience)? With astral projection the person is making a conscious attempt to leave their body and are aware that this is what's happening. People who have experimented with the astral and then recorded dates and times when they tried to appear to someone else, has been successful and verified by other witnesses. When the 'astral' form appears it is frequenly seen as ghost-like rather than a solid form. The difference between astral projection and doppelgangers is that in the doppelganger phenomena, there is no conscious attempt to go somewhere else so we have to then assume that in some way, doppelgangers are unconscious actions.
In addition, with OBE's and astral projection witnesses often report seeing an energy thread linking the physical body to the spiritual body. There are no reports of this kind of phenomena with dopplegangers.
When people have OBE's, although this is often spontaneous and not a deliberate action, they are usually very self aware that this is what's happening to them. They are normally conscious of having a physical body - for example lying on a bed - while their energy/spiritual form is a little distance away.
What is also interesting is the account of the the pupils touching Amelie's doppelganger. They described her as being empty and with a sense of cobwebs. In many haunted locations where spirit activity has been witnessed, people often describe contact with spirits as feeling like cobwebs touching their body.
The doppelganger is still a mystery. However, going with the evidence gathered so far could it be that the doppelganger is a projection of the sub-concious shadow? Or is it a splinter from the spiritual self? Perhaps, depending on the circumstances, both could be possible solutions? The child-like malevolence in some cases is very similar to what our own shadows are capable of. On the other hand some doppelgangers are benign and seem to be the opposite of an evil twin.
More evidence is needed and further research into this fascinating aspect of the paranormal. It's also as well to remember—if you're waving across the road to a friend, how can you be sure it's their physical self that is present and not their doppelganger?