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Seeing Double: The Spectral Twin Who Haunted Emilie Sagee

Emilie Sagee never saw her own doppelgänger, but many others did.


Everyone is supposed to have one—a doppelgänger—an exact duplicate of yourself living a completely separate life somewhere in the world. Indeed, many of us have had the strange experience of a friend insisting they saw us somewhere, when we weren’t there. 

For most of us, that look-alike is probably an ordinary flesh-and-blood person who, through the lottery of DNA, just happens to share our facial features and body shape. 

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But then, there are reports that are harder to explain. One of the most famous is the eerie case of Emilie Sagee, as reported by Scottish-born author and spiritualist Robert Dale Owen in his 1860 book Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World. Emilie was born in the 19th century in Dijon, France. She made her living as a school teacher. She was pretty, intelligent, likeable, and, by all accounts, a very good teacher. But she had a hard time holding a job because, it seems, she was trailed by a ghostly twin.

Doppelgänger is a German word meaning double-goer or double-walker. The story that comes down to us is that Sagee’s double was more of a curse than a curiosity. Emilie had been fired from a total of 18 positions because of her doppelgänger. Her 19th job was at a prestigious girls school in what is now Latvia. The Pensionat von Neuwelcke School educated the wealthy daughters of the elite. It was from here that we get the most detailed accounts.

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The first appearance of the doppelgänger was in a classroom. Thirteen students said that as Emilie was teaching, her doppelgänger appeared right at her side and imitated all her movements. Though everyone in the room could see the spectre, Emilie apparently could not.

Later, the doppelgänger appeared sitting calmly in Emilie’s chair at the head of the classroom while Emilie herself was outside in the garden. Some brave students attempted to touch the apparition. Their hands passed through her, though they reported feeling a substance like a thick cloth. The phantom twin also appeared while the class went on walks together, trailing the group at a distance, as well as in doors. According to Owen, the phantom was "perceptible to all person, without distinction of age or sex." Except, of course, for Sagee herself. 

emilie sagee
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  • Photo Credit: Henry Guttmann / Getty

Most teachers would agree it would be useful to be able to be in two places at once. And some paranormal theorists believe Emilie’s doppelgänger may indeed have arisen out of her attempts to be a better teacher and keep a closer watch over her students.

But if the doppelgänger was trying to help, she didn’t. It seems Emilie lost her position at this school as well. Still, Emilie should be grateful she never saw her own doppelgänger. Meeting your spectral double is said to be very bad luck.

Featured photo: General Photographic Agency / Getty Images