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The theme of the 'double' has been very thoroughly treated by Otto Rank (1914). He has gone into the connections which the 'double' has with reflections in mirrors, with shadows, with guardian spirits, with the belief in the soul and with the fear of death; but he also lets in a flood of light on the surprising evolution of the idea. For the 'double' was originally an insurance against the destruction of the ego, an 'energetic denial of the power of death' --The Uncanny (Freud), 1919

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A doppelgänger or fetch is the ghostly double of a living person, a sinister form of bilocation.

In the vernacular, "Doppelgänger" has come to refer (as in German) to any double or look-alike of a person—most commonly an "evil twin".

The word is also used to describe the sensation of having glimpsed oneself in peripheral vision, in a position where there is no chance that it could have been a reflection.

They are generally regarded as harbingers of bad luck. 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 vardøgr is a ghostly double who precedes a living person and is seen performing their actions in advance.

The doppelgänger trope is explored by Hoffmann in his tale of Erasmus Spikher and by Poe in William Wilson.



The word doppelgänger is a loanword from German Doppelgänger, consisting of the two substantives Doppel (double) Gänger (walker or goer). The singular and plural form are the same in German, but English usually prefers the plural "doppelgängers." It was first used by Jean Paul in the novel Siebenkäs (1796), and his newly coined word is explained by a footnote.

Examples in fiction

Examples in literature

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

In addition to describing the doppelgänger double as a counterpart to the self, Percy Bysshe Shelley's drama Prometheus Unbound makes reference to Zoroaster meeting "his own image walking in the garden".

Lord Byron uses doppelgänger imagery to explore the duality of human nature.

In The Devil's Elixir (1815), a man murders the brother and stepmother of his beloved princess, finds his doppelgänger has been sentenced to death for these crimes in his stead, and liberates him, only to have the doppelgänger murder the object of his affection. This was one of E. T. A. Hoffmann's early novels.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel The Double (1846) presents the doppelgänger as an opposite personality who exploits the character failings of the protagonist to take over his life. Charles Williams' Descent into Hell (1939) has character Pauline Anstruther seeing her own doppelgänger all through her life. Clive Barker's story "Human Remains" in his Books of Blood is a doppelgänger tale, and the doppelgänger motif is a staple of Gothic fiction.

In Stephen King's book The Outsider, the antagonist is able to use the DNA of individuals to become their near perfect match through a science-fictional ability to transform physically. The allusion to it being a doppelganger is made by the group trying to stop it from killing again. The group also discusses other examples of fictional doppelgangers that supposedly occurred throughout history to provide some context.

In Bret Easton Ellis's novel, Glamorama, protagonist actor-model Victor Ward, ostensibly, has a doppelgänger that people mistake for Ward, often claiming to have seen him at parties and events Ward has no recollection of attending. At one point in the novel, Victor heads to Europe but reports of him attending events in the states appear in newspaper headlines. However, Victor's doppelgänger may or may not have been placed by Victor's father, a United States senator looking to present a more intelligent and sophisticated replacement for his son that would improve his own image and boost his poll numbers for future elections. While the novel is narrated by Victor, various chapters are ambiguous, leading the reader to wonder if certain chapters are being narrated by the doppelgänger instead.

In Tana French's 2008 novel, The Likeness, detective Cassie Maddox has doppelganger Lexie Madison who adopts the same alias Maddox used in an undercover investigation.

Examples in film

In Das Mirakel and The Miracle (both 1912) the Virgin Mary (as Doppelgängerin) takes the place of a nun who has run away from her convent in search of love and adventure. Both based on the 1911 play The Miracle by Karl Vollmöller.

The Student of Prague (1913) is considered to be one of the first German art films.

English actor Roger Moore plays a man haunted by a doppelganger, who springs to life following a near-death experience, in Basil Dearden's The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970).

The Jordan Peele film Us (2019) finds the Wilson family attacked by doubles of themselves known as the "Tethered".

In Richard Ayoade's The Double, based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel of the same name, a man is troubled by a doppelgänger who is employed at his place of work and affects his personal and professional life.

Animator Jack King creates a doppelganger for Donald Duck in Donald's Double Trouble (1946), where the twofold fowl speaks perfectly intelligible English and is well-mannered.

Estranged couple Ethan and Sophie find doubles of themselves trapped in the retreat house their marriage counselor recommended in Charlie McDowell's The One I Love (2014).

Confusion arises over Droopy and his identical twin in Droopy's Double Trouble (1951).

The 1969 film Doppelgänger involves a journey to the far side of the sun, where the astronaut finds a counter-earth, a mirror image of home. He surmises his counterpart is at that moment on his Earth in the same predicament.

The 1991 French / Polish film, La double vie de Véronique, Polish: Podwójne życie Weroniki), directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski and starring Irène Jacob, explores the mysterious connection between two women, both played by Jacob, who share an intense emotional connection in spite of never having met on another.

In the Soviet crime comedy film Gentlemen of Fortune (1971), Evgeny Troshkin (Yevgeny Leonov), a kind kindergarten teacher who has the same appearance as the wanted criminal known as "Docent", is sent on a mission to help Militsiya find an ancient golden helmet that Docent has hidden.

In the Christmas comedy film The Santa Clause 2 (2002), when Scott Calvin/Santa Claus (Tim Allen) discovers he has to get married and his son winds up on the naughty list, one of his elves, Curtis (Spencer Breslin), creates a toy-like clone of him to deal with work up at the North Pole while Santa goes to find a wife. However, the clone reads Santa's handbook too literally and declares the whole world naughty, planning to give the whole world coal.

In "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" (2006), Garfield (Bill Murray), gets lost during a trip to England, and gets mixed up with Prince (Tim Curry), the royal family's cat.

Kagemusha, Face/Off,The Prestige and Enemy involved protagonists whose identities were stolen by other people.

Examples in television

In the Friends episode "The One With Russ", Rachel Green dates a guy named Russ who is a doppelgänger of Ross Geller. Only Ross and Rachel don't really notice this, but Rachel notices that they are similar after she spots them having an argument at the coffeehouse Central Perk and she dumps Russ afterwards.

In The CW supernatural drama series, The Vampire Diaries, actress Nina Dobrev portrayed the roles of several doppelgangers; Amara (the first doppelganger), Tatia (the second), Katerina Petrova/Katherine Pierce (the third) and Elena Gilbert (the fourth). The series mainly focused on the doppelgangers of the sweet & genuine Elena and the malevolent Katherine. In the same series, Paul Wesley portrays Silas and his doppelgangers Tom Avery and Stefan Salvatore.

In The Simpsons episode "Fear of Flying", Homer Simpson is banned from entering Moe's Tavern. A man enters the bar afterwards looking like Homer with a high hat and a moustache, claiming to be Guy Incognito. As he is beaten up and thrown out by the patrons, who were convinced that the man was a disguised Homer, the real Homer passes by and notices, rather casually, that he found his doppelganger, only to be distracted by a dog with a puffy tail.

In the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, throughout the fifth and sixth seasons, the five main characters each encounter an identical stranger of themself. By the episode "Double Date", they have spotted Marshall's doppelganger, nicknamed "Moustache Marshall", and Robin's, called "Lesbian Robin". In the same episode they find Lily's doppelganger, a Russian stripper named Jasmine. Later, in the episode "Robots Versus Wrestlers", the gang finds Ted's double, a Mexican wrestler, but Ted himself is not there to witness it. In "Doppelgangers", Lily and Marshall decide that as soon as they find Barney's doppelganger, it will be a sign from the universe for them to start trying to have children. Lily spots a pretzel vendor who she thinks looks like Barney, but in reality looks nothing like him. Marshall takes this mistake as Lily subconsciously affirming her desire for motherhood and they decide to start trying for a baby. They meet Barney's real doppelganger, Dr. John Stangel, in the episode "Bad News", though they initially think he is simply Barney in disguise.

A total of three different doppelgangers are dispatched from the mysterious Black Lodge to bedevil the forces of good in Showtime's 2017 series Twin Peaks: The Return.

Examples in music videos

The theme of doppelgänger has been frequently used in music videos, such as Aqua's "Turn Back Time" (1998), Dido's "Hunter" (2001), and Madonna's "Die Another Day" (2002).

Examples in video games

The 2008 video game Tomb Raider: Underworld features a character known simply as the "Doppelgänger." She is a clone of protagonist Lara Croft, created by antagonist Jacqueline Natla to break into Croft's mansion and unlock a safe containing an important artifact. As the safe is protected by a retinal scanner, it requires someone with the same DNA as Croft to unlock it. The Doppelgänger ends up killing Croft's friend and researcher Alister Fletcher, and burning down the mansion. She would then go on to become a major antagonist and boss in the game. In a 2009 DLC expansion pack called "Lara's Shadow," Croft takes control of the Doppelgänger, and she becomes the player character for this level.

The 2010 video game Alan Wake and its 2012 sequel Alan Wake's American Nightmare feature a character known as Mr. Scratch, who is a doppelgänger of the titular protagonist Alan Wake. In the game, Mr. Scratch is a creation of the Dark Place, a supernatural realm wherein fiction can be made into reality. As negative rumors spread about Wake after his disappearance into the Dark Place in the first game, the Dark Place brought these rumors to life, creating the serial killer Mr. Scratch who seeks to take over and ruin Wake's life. Mr. Scratch only appears briefly in Alan Wake, but is the main antagonist of American Nightmare.

See also


Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Doppelgänger" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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