Once I saw a doppelganger, although I wasn’t aware of it until the next day. This mysterious event still baffles my mind. Strange and still unresolved questions were raised for which “hoax” would be the easiest yet least likely answer. There are questions regarding the possibility for the bilocation of matter, especially biological organisms, at high levels of material cohesion. Can a person split themselves at will or unconsciously? Other questions provoke inquiries into the evidence consciousness extends beyond our living bodyminds as well as continues, at least for a while, after death. One may speculate as well upon the spiritual ramifications of doppelgangers.
I was not the only witness that warm, sunny afternoon. First, however, what is a doppelganger? Yeah, what the heck is that? And is it dangerous? There’s no way this was a hoax. Well, a hoax is highly unlikely. I’ll explain why further down in this article.
Doppelgangers have existed in myths and legends since Ancient Times. I’d never given the phenomena much attention or credibility prior to this event. Yet my wife and I and others witnessed a doppelganger. Later that afternoon, one man even worked unknowingly alongside this doppelganger. When the man discovered he had done so, he freaked out and prayed feverishly to God so he wouldn’t be snatched up by the Devil and flung down into the fires and stench of Hell.
“Doppelganger” is a German word meaning “double goer” or “double walker” to describe the ghostly double of a living person. The term was first coined by a German author in 1796 and soon migrated into the English language. Legends of these alter ego twin spirits are found around the world in the stories of people as far apart as Sub-Saharan African and Native American tribes. These myths were also expressed among Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Celtic, and Germanic peoples.
Others have documented the phenomenon throughout history, although eyewitness accounts of anomalies are generally not regarded as proof. Often these physio-spiritual doubles are considered evil messengers of death and calamities. They were feared as dangerous and are to be avoided. Some traditions claimed it was especially dangerous to see one’s own double, as to do so meant either something terrible was going to happen to you very soon or your mirror-being would merge and take over your bodymind. If the latter, the entity was feared as demonic.
Those who believed such terrors dreaded once anyone became so possessed it was then too late for God to rescue him or her from Satan. For others, however, doppelgangers were unexpected and even welcomed curiosities which proved harmless and even playful. The majority of doppelganger experiences were seen as harbingers warning of future possibilities. Much of the terror can most likely be attributed more to a fear of the unknown than anything else.
At the time I didn’t experience any terror.
The day was warm and sunny Sunday afternoon on my family’s dairy farm outside the village of Rice, Virginia. Our farm was about seven miles away from the town of Farmville, the governmental center for Prince Edward County and economic hub of the Southside Virginia Piedmont. The time frame was sometime during the years 1981 to 1984. I don’t remember exactly which year this event occurred.
Margaret, my first wife, and I were traveling back home to Riverview Dairy Farm. We lived in a trailer surrounded by a mix of fields and woods on the perimeter of the farm headquarters. I drove our blue car across the one-lane bridge over Big Sandy River, past valley fields, and gunned the engine up the forested, steep bluffs banking the river bottoms. The woods opened up to expansive views of farm country as we climbed the hill all the way to the farm.
Something didn’t feel right. Something felt odd and out of place. I slowed down and pulled off the side of the road. There wasn’t much traffic, but I had to keep an eye out as people tended to drive fast as they barreled down the hill to the river or blasted up against gravity. The curvy nature of a skinny country road made even a lightly traveled byway particularly dangerous.
“What?” asked Margaret. “Why did you stop the car?”
“Look over there,” I said as I cranked down the car window. “That’s really weird.”
“What’s so weird?” Margaret asked again. A native of New Jersey with a beautiful blend of Filipino and Irish features, she was fascinated with all things magickal, spooky, and Witchy. During those early days she loved to dress in alternative fashions, mixing and matching colorful hippie and Gypsy styles with dark Gothic flair and a dash of biker chick. I was deeply in love with her. At the moment, though, she squinted at me with perplexed puzzlement.
“Well, check that out,” I said as I pointed across the fields toward the barns. “Look carefully.”
“It’s just a bunch of cows,” she replied and began to scowl.
Margaret valued her time with me when I was off work as I worked so much. Being a farmer’s wife meant not having me home as much as she would like. Plus she was finishing up college and working part-time in retail and thus often gone herself. Here I was stopping on the side of a road on a lovely afternoon to look at “a bunch of cows.”
There were a lot of cows, too, maybe seventy black and white Holsteins. They were dairy cattle and had to be milked twice a day. Our crew of farmhands took turns every other weekend in rotating shifts milking cows. We rotated so as to take turns being off from work. Cows had to be milked on weekends and holidays, too, or else a host of unpleasant bovine medical problems and related financial issues quickly arose.
That meant working a two-to-three hour shift twice a day. The length of a shift depended on the weather and other variables such as snow, sick cows, and newborn calves. On the dairy farm we put in long, hard hours of labor for relatively low wages. There were two shifts a day. Back in the early to mid 1980s a farmworker earned $5.00 a milking on a weekend or holiday. Thus we earned $10.00 a day with the in-between hours time off work. Those were gross dollar amounts, too.
Yes, I spent many a Christmas morning or a Sunday morning after being up late the night before dragging in to work up close with large animals and expensive machinery. It was not the best job for anyone sensitive to primal smells, noise, temperature extremes, or had issues being smeared and splattered with cow manure, urine, milk, and buggers.
“OK,” Margaret said with exasperation, “Just what the Hell is going on? I want to get home.”
“Look,” I pointed across the fields once more as I explained. “We’re supposed to show up for work in the afternoons at four o’clock. Here it is, what, two-thirty, almost a quarter to three. Shit. He’s getting the cows up way too soon. It’ll mess up their milking schedule!”
I was supposed to be off work this weekend, although I’ve often had to jump in to work when someone was too drunk or sick or simply decided not to show up at all. Raffie Stokes, an elderly Black man who was my unofficial life mentor, was scheduled to work this weekend. He’s been working on Riverview Farm for decades, ever since he helped build Fort Pickett back in the Second World War. Raffie would drive his blue 1950s Chevy pickup up and down the roads as if he was racing the Devil. He was proud of his truck.
A young, scrawny but wiry young White man was also scheduled to work. His last name was Adams. As I write this, I’m unable to clearly recall his first name, so I’m going to call him Eddie. He had a young wife and a baby. Eddie was a character. His older brother Bobby had worked off and on for my Dad at Riverview, too. Bobby helped him secure a job here on our farm.
Eddie was a good man but goofy as all get out. He was naturally funny in an unfortunate, slapstick kind of way. Once he woke up hungry in the middle of the night. Staggered into the kitchen and slopped together a tuna fish sandwich. Kept the light dim so it wouldn’t shine into the next room and disturb the baby. Oh, he was so hungry! The sandwich tasted awful, though. “Kinda nasty,” he said, but he “starvin’!” Eddie went on back to bed. In the morning he discovered he’d made a sandwich from a can of cat food.
His wife was so disgusted and grossed out she wouldn’t kiss him for a week.
One week later a skunk sprayed Eddie as he walked to work early in the morning before sunrise. He reeked so bad of skunky love the cows went berserk in the milk barn. Dad quickly sent him back home. His wife felt compelled to get their baby out of the house. So he bathed in tomato juice with some spaghetti sauce. The expense hurt their food budget, and it got rid of the stink. Alas, Eddie claimed his wife wouldn’t kiss him for yet another week.
Margaret and I watched Eddie walk across the cow lot, a big, open field. We saw him round up the cows and herd them into the tramp shed. From there he gradually moved them up the lane into the cow barn where they would be fed and milked. We saw him clear as day from a distance of maybe a quarter-mile away across open ground.
Eddie wore blue jeans tucked into black, rubber gumboots. A buttoned-up shirt hung loose around his waist. The shirt was checkered in colors of gray and dark purple or burgundy. It was clearly Eddie Adams, plain as day, wearing those heavy black glasses but no cap. I reached up and waved at him. He saw me, raised his arm, and waved back.
“Eddie’s not even supposed to be here,” I told Margaret. “We traded. He’s way off with at some kind of family reunion. I’m milking cows for him this afternoon, remember?”
My wife jolted back in her seat as she remembered why we were going home early so I could be at work in about an hour. She was quite unhappy and kicked her feet around against the floor of the passenger side a little bit.
“Damn, he’s got the cows in the barn way too early,” I muttered as I pulled back into the road and drove on home.
At four o’clock I heard the familiar roar of Raffie’s old, blue Chevy as it surged up the road. He lived on the other side of the river atop the big bluffs on the way to Rice. He whipped around in the parking lot and slapped on the brakes, as he liked to do. Margaret and I heard gravel crunch all the way down to our trailer.
I walked on up to the milk house and the cow barn. Eddie was in the barns feeding the cows scoops of grain and slices of hay. The cows were already fastened in their rows of metal and wood stanchions. Raffie went on into the milk house to operate the complex of valves and pipes and to get the milking machines ready.
“Hey, Eddie,” I shouted. “I thought we traded. Don’t you have a family reunion to get to?”
Eddie looked up at me from the rolling grain bin from which he scooped grain into the feed trough for each cow. I wasn’t able to make eye contact through those glasses of his. He nodded, shrugged his shoulders, and turned back to his task. Never spoke a word.
“OK, I’m gonna go on back home, then,” I announced.
He nodded yes without even looking up. I turned and left the barn, checked in with Raffie, and went back home to be with Margaret.
Monday morning the three of us men were all together again for another round of milking the cows. We met in the milk house five minutes after six. I remarked to Eddie how surprised I was to see him yesterday getting the cows in so early and staying to work instead of going off with his folks. He looked at me funny.
“I didn’t get any cows in the barn,” he said. “I was way over at my Momma’s with my brother and uncles and cousins and stuff. I wasn’t even here.”
“Not at all?” I asked.
“No way,” he shook his head vigorously. “You think I would give up hangin’ out with my folks on a nice day like yesterday was? Nope, I wasn’t here at all.”
“Damn, Eddie, I even waved at you,” I declared. “And you waved back. You waved at me, man.”
“Don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that cuz I was over at Momma’s the whole time. I won’t never here!”
“Well then,” Raffie said as he turned around to stare at us, “Who the Hell was I milkin’ cows with?”
“It sure wasn’t me,” Eddie insisted. “I swear, I was not here, not anywhere close. Ask my wife. We was way over yonder at my Momma’s. In fact, you can ask all those people there. Ask my brother Bobby! He and Pam was there with them kids.”
“Eddie, I swear you were here. Raffie here and I both saw you plain as day. You got the cows up way too early. How you got ‘em all in the barn by yourself must’ve been something as it usually takes two of us, but you did it just fine it seems. We saw you here. I called out to you and asked why you’re here. You said not a word.”
“Yessir!” Raffie declared. “Eddie wouldn’t even talk to me. Wasn’t mad either. Just nod this way or that. Quiet as a damn mouse when usually he be off a runnin’ his mouth. You know how he is.”
“Well, it sounds like me alright,” Eddie acknowledged. “But I wasn’t here. You can ask all them people back at the cookout back at Momma’s.”
“Then we saw your doppelganger,” I said. “Your spirit double or something like that. Except you didn’t look like a ghost. You look as you do now, as solid and real as any man.”
“Oh, shit!” Raffie exclaimed. “That be the Devil workin’. Oh, my Lord, that be the Devil his own self. That’s bad luck kinda news!”
“What?” I asked.
“Ghosts and things,” said Raffie. “When you see someone’s double then it supposed to mean somethin’ awful bad’s about to happen.”
“What? To me?” asked Eddie.
“You might die and go burn in Hell any minute now!” Raffie replied.
“Well, a doppelganger is when somehow the same person is seen by different people in two separate places at the same time,” I explained. “It’s associated with scary stuff in horror movies and stuff, but that shit’s all made up.”
Raffie bent over the massive, stainless steel utility sinks in front of the windows and began praying. He prayed and prayed for Eddie’s soul, for my soul and Margaret’s, too, as we were unlucky enough to see the “ghost.” Raffie prayed for himself as well, as he was horrified to have worked alongside such a Satanic apparition for at least two hours. Then he straightened up, looked up at the ceiling, and said, “Praise the Lord.”
I kept quiet and tried not to grin. Eddie, however, looked scared. He grew more and more nervous.
“Eddie, wait. Look here a minute,” I said. “We don’t really know what happened. No one is hurt. All it is we saw is you doing honest work while you swear you were elsewhere. Besides, Raffie just prayed to God to save us all from the Devil, so you’re safe.”
“That ain’t it,” Eddie said. “See, this ain’t the first time. This has happened a coupla times before. Been a while, but at least twice people swear up and down I was in two different places at the same time. I can only remember being where I was supposed to be, though.”
“You mean this has happened before?” I asked incredulously.
“Yep. At least twice?”
“Did anybody die?” Raffie asked with eyes wide open. “Anybody get hurt? Any pregnant woman done have herself a miscarriage?”
“What? No! No, nothing bad happened,” Eddie said. “Not as far as I could tell.”
“Then there is nothing whatsoever for anyone to worry about,” I declared. “It’s kinda like flying saucers. People see them, but can’t prove it. They’re all over the place, too, these UFOs, but nothing much really happens one way or another. Right? Same as with ghosts and this doppelganger thing.”
We dropped it and turned back to our jobs. There was a full day of work ahead. Soon I followed up with Eddie’s wife and brother. They all seemed perplexed and affirmed yes, Eddie was over at their Momma’s the whole afternoon. He wasn’t over here milking cows as he was over there the whole afternoon. Eddie’s brother, Bobby, did grin and joked this “weird ass thing has sure enough happened a coupla times before.”
My intuition told me they were all speaking the truth, or believed they were. With all due respect, I could not see smart but simple people with little formal education pulling off a prank that made no sense whatsoever. They wanted to party down with their clan at the cookout clear over in the next county. They wouldn’t even think of wasting their precious time off work to pull off such a stupid stunt with no clear purpose.
Eddie was known for being spaced out. He performed well on the job, and yet always appeared to be someone perpetually in a daze with glazed over eyes. His thick, coke-bottom eyeglasses with heavy black frames probably played a role, too. Eddie would zone out and drift, even while moving around and completing tasks. Eddie was also one who at that time drank very little alcohol and seldom used recreational drugs. He didn’t like those chemicals as he claimed he “already felt half-out of my body” at times.
Scientific experiments in the mid-2000s demonstrated electrical stimulation of willing subjects’ brains, in particular the left temporoparietal region, generated experiences of doppelgangers. These doppelgangers were seen and heard by these people, but not by the scientists who observed the experiments. In one case the perceived doppelganger was seen by the patient to move around in the room to interfere with the experiment by trying to stop the electrical “assault” on the original’s brain. The person did complain of enough pain and discomfort the experiment was stopped.
Perhaps Eddie was someone who naturally could unconsciously dissociate or fragment his being into two selves at once. Perhaps the explanation lay within quantum physics through such phenomena as bilocation and subatomic particles existing only during moments of conscious human observation. Eddie could be the rare person who could separate his essence then have his double wink in and out of existence as some mega-quantum anomaly. I didn’t think at the time to ask Eddie about his medical history, if he had any severe concussions or unusual infections or birth trauma. On rare occasions head injuries have been document to unexpectedly trigger unusual phenomena including genius-level abilities in areas such as maths, music, or language nonexistent prior to the recorded accidents.
As a somewhat fearful young man, maybe he felt enough guilt for trading shifts with me as it did disrupt my schedule for two weekends in a row. Maybe he was making sure the job got done. If so perhaps his subconscious or his astral spirit or soul teleported a quantum double back to Riverview Farm to make sure the cows got milked. Maybe he was afraid I would forget or get delayed and thus not show up to take his place, but he would get in trouble and maybe lose his job. He had a wife and baby so he couldn’t afford to be fired. Fear is perhaps the strongest emotion as it is so tied to our innate drive for self-preservation. Fear is often magnified by our minds when the danger is imagined rather than real in the moment.
As it was, the man Margaret, Raffie, and I recognized as Eddie Adams did indeed show up work, showed up early, so I left as he went on to perform his job. Apparently, Eddie wasn’t actually there, either, although to us he was. He and others claimed “the real Eddie” was far away in another county. He certainly didn’t get fired. What is real anyway? Two consensual realities were in conflict here. Two and a half decades later we remain unable to understand what happened and how. Perhaps, to paraphrase Fox Mulder on The X-Files, the truth is still out there. Somewhere.
William Dudley Bass
Wednesday 6 March 2013
Note: The events of this article are true as I remember them. The dialogue in the narrative is approximate and as close to what was said, including broken grammar, as I can remember it. There are a number of books and essays on the topic of doppelgangers. As a general reference source, however, I chose to use the overview presented on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppelgänger. Thank you.
Copyright © 2013, 2015, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.