“YOUR OTHER SELF: DISTURBING DOPPELGANGERS” and “MERCY BROWN, VAMPIRE” #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: We uncover the chilling case of Mercy Brown; a tale of tuberculosis, superstition, and unearthing graves. The story takes us to a place between reality and myth… and vampires. *** But first – for hundreds of years people have had chilling encounters with what would be described as their doubles. We’re peeling back the veil between our world and the uncanny world of duplicates that haunt our imagination – and very possibly our reality. We’ll look at real-life cases of these spectral twins and explore the history and hauntings of doppelgangers!
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“The Vampire, Mercy Brown” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4p9zxjuk
“Your Other Self: Disturbing Accounts of Real Doppelgangers” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ycknh8n2
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Tales of doppelgangers go back hundreds of years and are some of the most unnerving and disturbing unexplained encounters on record. What’s more, there are legends from multiple ancient civilizations and cultures around the world from thousands of years ago that also clearly speak of entities that we would recognize as a doppelganger in the modern world. The word itself – doppelganger – is of Germanic origin and means “double-walker” – quite literally, a body-double. And quite often, appearances of these other versions of oneself were a portent of bad things to come, with many believing them to be a sign of a person’s impending death. While there are many tales and accounts of doppelganger encounters in the modern world, arguably some of the most intriguing comes to us from previous centuries, not least as they often involved well-known figures who would seemingly have had a lot to lose by making such rash claims, in some extreme circumstances, persecution from the Church. Perhaps one of the earliest recorded encounters with a doppelganger occurred in Paris in 1612 when a man claimed to have seen his wife. However, he knew this had to be impossible as his wife was heavily pregnant and at home. However, the man would later discover that at the very moment he had seen her in Paris, his wife was giving birth. The baby, however, was stillborn. As we will see as we examine some of the most well-known and intriguing encounters of doppelgangers, they are often seen as a harbinger of tragic events to come. That would certainly be the case here. However, as we will also see, much like other strange phenomena, there are many crossovers to other bizarre phenomena, such as astral projection, and even alien abduction. Might we one day find that cases of doppelgangers are merely one part of the big paranormal picture that could very explain many of the world’s mysteries to us?
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
We uncover the chilling case of Mercy Brown; a tale of tuberculosis, superstition, and unearthing graves. The story takes us to a place between reality and myth… and vampires. (The Vampire, Mercy Brown)
But first – for hundreds of years people have had chilling encounters with what would be described as their doubles. We’re peeling back the veil between our world and the uncanny world of duplicates that haunt our imagination – and very possibly our reality. We’ll look at real-life cases of these spectral twins and explore the history and hauntings of doppelgangers! We begin there. (Your Other Self: Disturbing Accounts of Real Doppelgangers)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: YOUR OTHER SELF – DISTURBING ACCOUNTS OF REAL DOPPELGANGERS=====
Perhaps the best place to start when we look at doppelgangers would be with one of the most famous people seemingly associated with them, the one-time President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. And while some might say the following account was one of premonition as opposed to an experience with a doppelganger, it is still worth our time examining here.
According to those who knew him, Lincoln was completely honest about his interest in the paranormal. However, one incident that occurred on the night of his first election is unquestionably strange in the extreme.
Lincoln claimed that on the night in question, after being elected president for the first time, he took a moment to rest on his couch. As he did so, however, he happened to catch a glance of himself in the mirror – only there wasn’t a single reflection looking back at him, but two.
According to Lincoln, one of those faces was his own, as he looked right then. The other, though, appeared decidedly older, paler, and even ill-looking. Shocked by what he was seeing, he jumped off the couch and saw the second face disappear – at least temporarily. When he returned to the couch, thinking his mind must have been playing tricks on him, the face reappeared once more.
This time, his wife, Mary, saw the second face also and was immediately terrified. She believed that the doppelganger was a vision of the future. She believed that her husband would be reelected president again in four years’ time (which he duly was) and that this second term would end in tragedy. As history tells us, not only was Lincoln elected for a second term, but he was assassinated at the end of this term on 15th April 1865 by John Wilkes Booth while attending a show at Ford’s Theatre.
It is also worthy of our time examining an apparent case of repeated doppelganger encounters that were spoken of by poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the husband of Mary Shelley who authored Frankenstein. According to Mary and several other close friends, shortly before his death (he drowned in an accident at sea) he began to speak of incidents where he had seen, and interacted with his own doppelganger. What’s more, he would claim that his other self would always ask him the same question, “How long do you expect to be content?”
He had no idea what this meant, but the encounters continued. What’s more, many other people also saw Percy’s doppelganger.
One such friend, Jane Williams, claimed to have seen Percy walk past her window – something he often did. However, the route led to a dead end and when he didn’t walk back past a short time later, Williams went out to investigate. Realizing there was no one, she later learned that Percy was miles away at the time of the sighting.
Without a doubt, one of the most intriguing encounters with doppelgangers is that of Emilie Sagee, a French woman who worked as a schoolteacher in modern-day Latvia. According to several reports, one day in 1845 while standing at the chalkboard in front of her students in the classroom, another version of her suddenly appeared for several moments beside her, mimicking her every movement as she wrote on the board (although the doppelganger didn’t hold a piece of chalk and merely made matching motions).
Other witnesses saw Sagee’s doppelganger in other locations around the school, with one sighting with multiple witnesses seeing her “other version” appear behind her while in the canteen -eating lunch, once more mimicking her actions but without the cutlery).
The strangeness continued for some time, with many reports coming from students and other staff members alike of seeing Sagee in one part of the school while others placed her at a different location at the exact same time.
One incident that stands out more than the others occurred in front of over 40 students. As the students sat in the classroom for their lesson, they had a clear view of the school gardens outside through the large windows, and could clearly see Sagee working in them. At one point during the lesson, the teacher had call to leave the room for several minutes. Only seconds after they left, Sagee suddenly appeared in the room with the students. To their shock, however, they could all still clearly see her outside in the garden, going about her chores and gathering flowers as if nothing out of the ordinary was taking place.
Then, things turned even stranger and more unsettling. Several of the students left their seats and approached this other Sagee. To their shock, when they got close to her, instead of bumping into the woman, they simply passed straight through her as if she wasn’t even there. After several more moments, the doppelganger disappeared into thin air as if she was never there. One girl who had seeming walked through the teacher later claimed that it felt as if a piece of material was being drawn over her.
Some of the students would later speak to their teacher, telling her of seeing her doppelganger and if she remembered anything about it. Perhaps amazingly, she would respond that while she was in the garden she happened to look through the windows and saw the teacher leave the room. At that point, she thought to herself that she would much rather be teaching than collecting flowers in the garden. It would appear that her thoughts became some kind of reality as she evidently appeared in front of the class only moments later.
It appeared for the most part that Sagee was completely unaware of this other version of herself. However, in a bizarre twist, it was noted that the teacher often appeared a little trance-like when the doppelganger was near as if it was somehow draining her of energy. Even stranger, when Sagee spoke of the encounters, she claimed that some of the actions of the doppelganger, while not mimicking her, were acting out the thoughts in her mind.
Regardless of what the truth of the matter was, the sightings continued for several years, causing unintentional fear among, students, staff, and the children’s parents, who soon got to hear about the teacher who was seen in two places at once. Ultimately, with many parents becoming scared to send their children to the school, despite her exemplary record, Sagee was asked to leave the school, which she duly did.
Just under half a century later another bizarre doppelganger encounter unfolded. On 22nd June 1893, Vice Admiral George Tryon was on board the HMS Victoria commanding naval exercises off the coast of Syria in the Mediterranean Sea when he issued rather bizarre orders for the ships to turn toward each other. Following this, his ship crashed into the HMS Camperdown which caused his own ship to sink beneath the waters. In total, 357 crew members lost their lives. It is claimed that Tyron’s final words before he went down with his vessel were, “It’s all my fault!”
Rather bizarrely, however, at the same time as Tyron was sinking with his ship sending him on his way to a watery grave, his wife was at home in London entertaining friends while her husband was away at sea. Needless to say, all were surprised to see Tyron walk into the room and walk past them without uttering a word. He had, it was later stated, a solemn, sad look on his face, as if he was greatly troubled. He made his way to the other door in the room and opened it. However, before he could step through it he simply vanished into thin air.
Shortly after, Tyron’s wife was notified of her husband’s death. When she questioned when this naval tragedy had occurred, she realized it was at the same time that she and her guests had seen her husband walk through the room at their home.
Was this a case of a doppelganger? Or might it have been the recently departed spirit of Tyron, returning once more to his home before passing over to whatever awaited him on the other side? We might find that there is a closer connection between doppelganger appearances and the apparent ability to leave one’s body than we might think. We will return to this later.
Just over a decade later, in 1905, also in the United Kingdom, another extremely similar encounter is on record, one involving a British Member of Parliament that was reported on by several national newspapers. Just before Easter, when Sir Gilbert Parker prepared to begin a debate in the Houses of Parliament. However, when he missed his chance to be called he began back to his seat. When he turned around he noticed a fellow MP, Sir Frederick Carne Rasch, who was sitting in a seat he wouldn’t normally occupy. And what’s more, he hadn’t expected to see Rasch as he believed he was at home with a bad case of the flu.
Regardless he greeted Rasch as he took his own seat. His fellow MP, however, didn’t acknowledge the greeting and simply stared blankly ahead. Parker later told reporters that his friend’s face was “remarkably pallid” and his expression “steely” and “stony”, even going as far as to say there he appeared “grim” and “resentful”.
Parker turned around for a moment before turning back to Rasch once more. However, to his amazement, he was now no longer there. In fact, he didn’t appear to be in the room at all. When Parker left the debate he went in search of Rasch but he was nowhere to be seen. He did, however, find other parliament members who had seen him briefly that morning, with one stating to have briefly spoken with him.
Ultimately, concerned he might be gravely unwell, Parker went to Rasch’s home. Once there, he was informed that he had not left his bed all day as he had been far too ill. He was, however, “not surprised” that people had witnessed him that afternoon. He claimed that he had desperately wanted to take part in the debate and that it was likely as he lay in his bed asleep, his spirit had “snuck out” to take a look at what was taking place.
Essentially, whether he was being serious or flippant, Rasch is describing astral projection.
Whether that was the case or not, and despite his family’s concerns that the encounter was a prediction of Rasch’s death, he made a full recovery and returned to work as normal.
Undoubtedly one of the strangest and thought-provoking cases of doppelgangers is that of the French writer, Guy de Maupassant. What makes de Maupassant’s claims stand out is that he appeared to have had experiences with his doppelganger during the last few years of his life as he was dying of syphilis, an encounter where this other version of himself seemingly dictated one of the final stories he wrote.
According to what he told at the end of his life, this other version of himself would visit him every night (although he would describe it as a demon rather than a doppelganger). Not only would this entity – which obviously looked exactly like him – drink the water off his night table and generally help himself to anything else it pleased in his room, he began dictating a story to him that he was told he should publish.
The story in question would eventually become The Horla and its subject matter interesting given the claims of how and why it was written. The story tells of a man who is slowly driven insane by a demonic spirit who appears to him at night and drains his energy and life force, seemingly using him as a host.
Perhaps given that one of the symptoms and consequences of syphilis is insanity, it might be easy to explain this apparent interaction with a doppelganger was exactly that. The case, however, remains one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking doppelganger incidents on record. It is also interesting to note the subject matter of the story in question. Many researchers into such things as possession and even encounters with alleged reptilian entities state these mysterious creatures do indeed use a person’s energy to give themselves strength. What’s more, many reptilian researchers state that these entities can appear in whatever form they desire.
Incidentally, de Maupassant spent the last year of his life in an insane asylum, and died in 1893, six years after publishing the story that his doppelganger seemingly dictated to him. Perhaps also of interest, his mental health appeared to deteriorate rapidly following its publication.
Another writer who had apparent encounters with doppelgangers was German, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. According to the story, von Goethe was riding along a footpath one day, very much feeling low in terms of his mood. Then, a short distance ahead, he could see a mysterious gentleman approaching him.
Perhaps bizarrely, despite the distance between him and the stranger, von Goethe claims to have seen him clearly in his “mind’s eye” – and what’s more, this person, although he was wearing the wrong clothes, it was clearly himself. After several moments, during which time von Goethe claimed a feeling of serenity overcame him, the other version of himself simply disappeared. Despite the bizarre nature of the incident, the writer put it to the back of his mind – that was until eight years later when he found himself on the very same path once more.
As he made his way down the footpath he noticed the clothes he was wearing. At that point, the memories of seeing his other self came flooding back. He realized he was wearing the same clothes that his other self had been wearing eight years before. This might make us think that rather than seeing a doppelganger of himself – at least how a doppelganger is typically understood – he rather saw a vision of his future self.
What is also interesting is that this is not the only time von Goethe witnessed a doppelganger. According to the tale, the writer was walking down the street when he saw a friend of his on the other side of the road. What made von Goethe pay attention to him was the fact that he was wearing his dressing gown.
When von Goethe arrived home, still a little perplexed as to what he had seen, he was more than a little surprised to find the same friend sitting in his chair, wearing the same dressing gown he had seemingly been wearing on the street only moments ago. According to his friend, he had become caught in a rain shower and had come to his house in order to dry off, borrowing his dressing gown while his clothes dried.
Although we should perhaps treat them with a pinch of salt, there are several royal figures who it was claimed had encounters with doppelgangers. Queen Elizabeth I, for example, claimed to have seen herself laying on her bed. What made the sighting even more unnerving was that she claimed she looked like a corpse.
Needless to say, the sighting concerned the Queen as well as those around her. Many people believed – and still do – that such a sighting is a prediction or premonition of a person’s death (we might recall the experience of Abraham Lincoln we examined earlier). What is interesting is that Queen Elizabeth I did pass away a short time after the encounter. Whether she had foreseen her own death or whether the sighting became self-fulfilling due to her concern of what it meant remains open to debate.
Around 200 years later at the end of the eighteenth century in Russia, Catherine the Great seemingly had her own encounter with a doppelganger. According to most versions of the account, the Russian Empress was at home one night laying in bed when several of her servants burst into the room claiming to have seen her only moments ago in the throne room. Catherine got off the bed and made her way to the throne room, eager to see who this apparent intruder was. When she arrived, she was more than shocked to see herself sitting on the throne.
The account states that Catherine immediately summoned her guards and ordered them to shoot at this apparent imposter. It isn’t clear what happened next, whether this other version of Catherine was wounded or whether she simply disappeared. However, several months after the incident, Catherine passed away. Might there have been a connection to the strange events in the throne room, and might the encounter have been similar in nature to those of Queen Elizabeth I and Abraham Lincoln?
When Weird Darkness returns… our next doppelganger case will force us to examine whether there might be yet another dynamic to such encounters… alien abduction!
STORY: YOUR OTHER SELF – DISTURBING ACCOUNTS OF REAL DOPPELGANGERS, CONTINUES=====
One of the most thought-provoking cases of a potential doppelganger incident is that of Maria de Jesus de Agreda, not least as it just might be that it was, in fact, a case of transportation or even of alien abduction. According to most accounts, at some time around 1620, Maria de Jesus de Agreda in Spain told her superiors that she had been “flown in a craft to a savage land” and had converted one of the local tribes – the Jumano – to Christianity.
Even more amazing, was her description of her journey home, which she claimed she had “seen the Earth” and it was a “spinning sphere” below her. We should recall that nobody had seen the planet from the outside at that point in history, and her description is remarkably similar to how a person would see the Earth if they did indeed travel into space.
As we might imagine, her claims were considered heresy, and all of her notes and diaries were seized by the nuns and burned. They demanded that she retract her claims, something that she refused to do.
However, two years later the story took an intriguing twist when Father Alonzo de Benavides arrived in New Mexico on a mission to the New World. Intriguingly, he would come across a tribe of people who called themselves the Jumano. Of more astonishment to him, these people were seemingly practicing Catholic Christianity, complete with crosses, rosaries, and the celebration of mass.
When he asked them how they had learned of such things, they responded that they had been visited by a “lady in blue” who brought with her “divine articles” and told them what they meant. Needless to say, not only was Alonzo shocked, he was a little annoyed that he had been sent to “do a job that had already been done”. However, the mystery lady in blue remained a mystery for several years until Alonzo arrived back in Spain in 1630.
He eventually heard “wild ravings” of Maria de Jesus de Agreda and how she had taught Christianity to tribal people in a “savage land”. He suspected this was the lady in blue and he immediately visited her, still incarcerated at the convent. Although she claimed she didn’t know how she had left the convent – if she even had – she also knew that she had converted the people, and had indeed left them several religious artifacts.
In fact, one of these artifacts had been given to Alonzo by the tribe before he left – a chalice. When he produced this in front of Mary and the other nuns, they were shocked to discover that it was a chalice that had gone missing almost a decade ago when Mary had first begun telling her seemingly crazy claims.
Ultimately, the charges of heresy were dropped and she was released, now somewhat of a celebrity of her times and considered to be of “divine origin”.
Was this a case of a doppelganger arriving in a faraway land? Or was Mary physically taken there by unknown entities, and if so, why? Perhaps the answer resides somewhere in between the two – that, however, is a discussion for another time.
While we have studied doppelganger cases from history that are, at least in their field of interest, relatively well-known, there are many examples to found on the Internet from our contemporary era. And while we don’t have time to examine all such accounts, we can briefly look at some of the best.
Perhaps one of the most unsettling was submitted by a Reddit user (quitevoice4846) who claimed that she often saw herself out of the corner of her eye. She would state that when she left her bedroom in the night in order to visit the bathroom, she could see herself standing in the mirror, motionless, looking back at her, as if “the other me is watching me leave”. Despite the terror she felt during these encounters, she kept them to herself and didn’t speak of them to her husband.
One afternoon, however, after taking a nap on her bed, she spoke with her husband who had been watching television in a chair nearby. He told her, much to her shock, that he had witnessed her, from the corner of his eye, “sit up and crawl backward to the edge of the bed, and stand up in front of the bedroom door”. He called out to her to see if she was OK. However, when she didn’t answer he turned in the chair to fully face her. To his surprise, there was no one standing there and she was laying in the bed as she had been before.
At this point, she informed him of the girl in the mirror. Both agreed that something strange was taking place. They would agree that they shouldn’t even speak about it, as doing so would likely give this other person more energy and strength. It is certainly an interesting conclusion (and one that others have arrived at also), and the encounters is without a doubt one of the most disturbing of recent times.
A similar encounter was uploaded by another user using the name Geobite. They claimed that one Sunday morning, the witness was watching television with their brother when a knock came at the door of the apartment where they lived. The witness got up from the sofa and made their way to the window which looked out at the door and so consequently told them who was calling. When he saw his father, he immediately made his way to the door in order to answer it.
However, before he could do so his mother came rushing straight toward him, screaming to not open the door as he didn’t know who it was. He informed her that it was their father, which caused his mother to hurry to the peephole and look through, a look of horror appearing on her face.
She told the witness to go to his bedroom with his brother. Then, his mother went to wake his father, who had been in bed the whole time. When he saw the person outside, he too became a little panic-stricken. He went to the door and called through the locked door, asking who was there.
No answer came, to which their father offered he would call the police. Through the window, the witness and his brother could clearly see the man – who did indeed look exactly like their father – simply standing motionless in front of the door. By the time their father returned to the door with a metal bat and opened it, the figure simply disappeared.
Without a doubt, one of the strangest and most unsettling modern-day doppelganger encounters came from Reddit user g4yf13r1, who claimed that one day when they were nine years old and were at home from school as they were sick, were watching television in the family living room. Suddenly, without saying a word, the witness’s mother simply leaned into the room and stared at her. She did so for several moments, remaining silent and unnerving the witness, to say the least.
Although the witness couldn’t explain why, they just knew that this “thing”, while looking completely identical to her, was not their mother, and was merely “pretending” to be so. They further recalled that it appeared as though it had “never felt a single emotion in its life”.
Then, things turned even stranger and even more disturbing.
The witness recalled that the entity began “beckoning” to them, urging her to follow her. The witness remained where they were and instead began to talk to her, to see what response she would get. The “other mother”, though, simply ignored what her daughter was saying, and continued beckoning her.
At this point, the witness got up from where they were sitting and ran out of the room as fast as they could. They ran into the yard, calling out for help. A moment later, the witness’s real mother came rushing over from where she had been working in the yard to see what the matter was. Perhaps not surprisingly, she dismissed her daughter’s claims as a strange dream that she hadn’t fully awoken from. However, the witness was not quite so sure.
One further Reddit user – ShutterSpook – claimed to have had two encounters with doppelgangers, both of which occurred at a fast-food restaurant where the witness worked. They claimed that during one of their shifts, they and another staff member were asked to attend to and clean the restroom.
However, before they could do so, the manager, who had asked them to clean the restroom, walked past them and into the restroom and locked the door. The two employees waited outside until their manager came out of the room, which she did after several minutes. She walked straight past the pair and around the corner. The witness chased after her in order to ask a question, however, she seemingly vanished into thin air. When they discovered the manager in her office and told of the strange encounter, she insisted she had been in her office the entire time and had not left.
On another occasion, the same witness was in the preparation area of the building with the same manager when one of the members of staff who was serving on the front counter suddenly entered the room. She walked past the pair without acknowledging them and went into the walk-in cooler.
Thinking she was just going to cool off for a moment, the pair ignored her and went back to what they were doing. However, when she hadn’t returned after several minutes, the manager asked the witness to go and check on her. To his astonishment, when he walked into the cooler, there was nobody inside. And given that there was no other way out, both he and his manager were at a loss as to what they had seen.
As they were contemplating the incident, the girl in question walked into the prep area, this time saying hello to them before heading into the cooler. At this point, the manager admitted they were rethinking the witness’s previous claims.
What is perhaps interesting about this particular sighting is that it would appear that the location is the crucial factor as much as the person themselves. Perhaps this suggests a connection to portals or interdimensional gateways.
Perhaps not surprisingly, and as we have touched on as have gone through these most mysterious cases, there are many superstitions surrounding doppelgangers. For example, we have already mentioned several times that many people believed to see your doppelganger was a sign of you imminent death. And, as we have seen, at least in some cases, this turned out to be very accurate. It is also said to if someone else sees your doppelganger, it could be a sign that you are about to become gravely ill, although not necessarily fatally so.
There are other myths and legends that revolve around your doppelganger being, quite literally, an “evil twin”, who will attempt to influence your thoughts and actions through lies and mental manipulation. What’s more, belief in this type of doppelganger goes back thousands of years. A similar train of thought is that a doppelganger is a version of yourself that has lived in the past. And once more, these legends stretch back to antiquity, and, at least in some cases, appear to be describing something very similar to déjà vu, only in reverse – essentially, people often claim to have seen a person arrive at a location several moments before they actually do, suggesting they had experienced their doppelganger.
There are also other superstitions concerning doppelgangers that go back to antiquity. For example, according to ancient Egyptian legends, this “spiritual double” is known as “ka” and usually resides within the living person’s body. However, when a person dies, should their body decay, this ka will die also as it has no host. This, incidentally, is why mummification was so important in ancient Egypt as it stopped the body from decaying and so ultimately, gave the ka a body with which it could still exist.
Of course, to some, perhaps particularly in the legends of the Native Americans, this other version – the doppelganger – was an “evil twin” and was ultimately a person’s double from the underworld – and not an entity to be trusted. It is also the belief of some Native American tribes that whatever the person is doing in the upper world, their twin will be doing the opposite in the underworld.
Other cultures point to portraits and even photography, claiming that to capture a person in such a way is to attract a soul to such imagery, and quite possibly produce the energy required to manifest a doppelganger. While this might sound strange to some, there are many accounts of alleged “haunted paintings”. Perhaps we might consider the feeling we sometimes get when looking at portrait paintings of the “eyes watching you around the room”.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing suspicions around doppelgangers (although it is much more a theory) is that they are proof of alternative universes – essentially, another you from another dimension.
It is perhaps clear, then, that there is much more to accounts of doppelgangers and what they might be than a hallucination or a trick of the mind. And it would appear, at least in part, that explanations for doppelganger incidents will reside as much in science as it will the study of the paranormal (although you might argue that they are the same thing).
For example, might we discover, as mainstream scientists are already hinting at and increasingly louder, that other dimensions do exist? And even more amazing, is that these dimensions sometimes, if only very briefly, cross over into each other, perhaps resulting in doppelganger encounters. If such theories and suggestions were proven to be true, then not only to alternative universes exist, but alternative versions of ourselves.
Or could there be some kind of connection between doppelganger activity and the ability of a person to leave one’s body – essentially, might such notions as astral projection be closer to cases of doppelgangers than we might think?
We might recall how Emilie Sagee claimed that she often felt drained and trance-like when her doppelganger was seemingly visible and that it often appeared to physically act out the thoughts in her mind. With this in mind might we consider that doppelgangers are some kind of astral projection that seems to occur while the subject is awake, something that they have no control over? Indeed, might we ask if doppelgangers are a person’s soul?
Indeed, while on the surface accounts of doppelgangers appear intriguing but largely not important, further study of such incidents could very well prove crucial to not only understanding the reality of our own universe, but of many other ones as well.
Coming up… we uncover the chilling case of Mercy Brown; a tale of tuberculosis, superstition, and unearthing graves. The story takes us to a place between reality and myth… and vampires.
STORY: THE VAMPIRE, MERCY BROWN=====
The case of Mercy Brown, referred to as the Mercy Brown Vampire Incident, is a tale of tragedy, superstition, and ritual. What’s more, it occurred on Rhode Island which coincidentally or not was itself known at the time as “the vampire capital of America”. Whether this helped fuel the circumstances around the Mercy Brown incident or whether such legends are a consequence of it is open to question. What’s more, there are several other tragic, grim, but fascinating cases from this region and era. All with extremely similar backstories and consequences. Indeed, almost two centuries following the infamous Salem Witch Trials residents of the upper northeast of the infant United States were in a similar frenzy over the apparent vampires returning from their graves. Rhode Island was perhaps the epicenter of that frenzy. Whether that is anything of significance is perhaps open to investigation. As is whether the accounts of such tragic people as Mercy Brown are simple misdiagnosis by a largely medically ignorant populace that still placed too much credence in superstition and folklore, or a purposeful glossing over of an account of something altogether stranger.
Husband and wife, George and Mary Brown would arrive in Rhode Island in the 1870s, buying a farm in the town of Exeter. They were a “middle-of-the-pack” couple. Certainly not poor or destitute, but not overly affluent or influential either. With them, were their young children and for a time all was well in the Brown household.
However, beginning in the early-1880s, tragedy after tragedy would befall the Brown family. In 1883 Mary would become suddenly very ill, dying shortly after. Only six months later, George’s 20-year-old (and seemingly healthy) daughter, Mary Olive Brown would die equally as suddenly and mysteriously. While things settled down for a time, in 1891, George’s remaining daughter, Mercy, and his son Edwin both became seriously ill. While Edwin remained weakened and at death’s door, 19-year-old Mercy would die as her sisters and mother before her.
The local doctor would inform George, and indeed the increasingly talkative locals, that “consumption” was responsible for the deaths of his wife and children, as well as Edwin’s illness. This is better known today as tuberculosis and was at the time sweeping great parts of the United States. In fact, many hospitals and asylums were overrun with patients suffering from the usually fatal disease.
However, the townsfolk, for reasons never fully explained, put forward the notion that someone in the Brown family was “leaving the grave” and infecting the remaining members of the family. And what’s more, it was only a matter of time before these undead entities would turn their attention to others in Exeter and the surrounding Rhode Island area. Essentially, according to the local residents, one of the recently deceased Browns was a vampire. And the next “victim” would be Edwin.
With this in mind, George Brown would eventually give permission for the dead members of his family – his wife and his two daughters – to be exhumed from their graves. On the 17th March 1892, on a particularly cold afternoon in Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Exeter, in the presence of several residents, the local doctor, and a journalist from the local newspaper, the exhumation began.
Upon investigating the graves of his wife Mary and his daughter of the same name, there was nothing untoward discovered. The doctor would confirm each to be in the state of decomposition that they should have been. However, as they opened the grave of Mercy Brown, a sudden gasp and a collective stepping back from the coffin occurred.
Despite her burial several months previously, she appeared almost merely asleep. Furthermore, her hair was in remarkably good condition and her nails long. When one of the men used his spade to prod at the young girl’s body fresh blood emerged from her mouth. Another gasp rippled through the gathered crowd before a flurry of activity.
The deceased girl’s heart was removed and burnt on a rock at the graveside. Even more bizarre, the ashes of the heart were put into medicine intended for Edwin. However, the young boy also died in May 1892.
As an interesting side-note to the dark and desperate affair, when Bram Stoker, author of the 1897 classic ‘Dracula’, died, there were several notes and newspaper clippings of the Mercy Brown case eventually discovered in his papers. At a time at the end of the nineteenth century, when information traveled much less distance and at a much slower pace, it is a good demonstration of the reach and the depth of belief in the Mercy Brown case.
To most people, the Mercy Brown Vampire Incident is a case of local superstition running amok in the absence of scientific and medical knowledge. Indeed, we know today, for example, that both hair and fingernails appear to continue to grow for several months following death due to the skin dehydrating and peeling back. However, such legends persist.
A very similar account, for example, is that of Nellie Vaughn, whose death was actually three years prior to Mercy Brown’s, interestingly or not, also at the age of nineteen. Not only is her grave apparently cursed, many people claim to have seen the spirit of the young girl over the decades since. Furthermore, there is an extremely intriguing inscription on Nellie’s tombstone. It reads, “I am waiting and watching you”. Perhaps even more bizarre is the experiments by a local university professor. He would claim, despite several attempts to do so, that “no vegetation or lichen” would grow on or near Nellie’s grave.
By far the strangest claim concerning Nellie Vaughn are those made by Marlene Chatfield. She would claim she and her husband were in the cemetery near Nellie’s grave one evening. Suddenly, out of nowhere, and despite being the only ones there, a female voice said, “I am perfectly pleasant”. Almost immediately afterward invisible hands began clawing at Marlene’s husband, causing several deep scratches to his face.
That wasn’t Chatfield’s only experience, however. On another occasion, she would visit the cemetery with an interested researcher from a local historical society. They were there to take pictures for research. When they reached Nellie’s grave the young woman went into a strange trance. She would repeat the phrase “Nellie is not a vampire” over and over for around a minute. Furthermore, the pictures of Nellie’s grave were mysteriously “reversed” upon processing.
There are several other prominent “vampire” cases on record in the upper north-east area of the United States. And throughout the 1800s, a “vampire panic”, similar to the claims of witches that gripped the area several centuries earlier, was extremely prevalent in the region. Some cases, however, stretch right the way back to the late-1700s.
The case of Sarah Tillinghast, for example, is particularly interesting, who once again, strangely, was 19-years-old at the time of her tragic death. She would often roam around the graveyards of Rhode Island, particularly those of fallen Revolutionary soldiers. She would read books of poetry for hours in these otherwise morose places.
On one particular evening, after returning home from one of her typical days out, she suddenly became very ill. Her fever was extremely high, and she would deteriorate quickly. Within several weeks she died. This, though, was only the start of the tragedy for the Tillinghast family.
Several weeks following the death of Sarah, her brother James would awaken one morning looking extremely ill and with a strange tale to tell. He claimed he was cold and was physically shivering. And there was a “weight on his chest”. Furthermore, Sarah had visited him during the night, sitting at the end of his bed. Thinking their son was simply grieving for his sister, his parents paid it little attention. Several weeks later, though, he too was dead. When two more of the Tillinghast children claimed to have seen Sarah on their beds in the night, with each also dying suddenly shortly after, the Tillinghast’s themselves began to suspect their daughter was returning from the grave. And what’s more, she was taking the lives of the surviving family members.
It wasn’t long before rumors and half-truths were circulating around the village. These rumors increased even more when more of the Tillinghast children died, all stating that Sarah was visiting them during the night. Then, Honor Tillinghast, the mother of the family lay on her apparent deathbed stating that her children were “calling out to her”. Shortly after, her husband, Snuffy Tillinghast, finally decided to address the bizarre situation head-on. He would go up to Sarah’s grave with a farmhand, Caleb, with him for assistance early one morning. Shortly after arriving, they began to dig and pull up his daughter’s casket.
Then, they opened the lid. Both stared, shocked and aghast at what lay before them. Despite her death being over eighteen months previously, she looked as though she was still alive. There was absolutely no decomposition whatsoever. In a similar manner to the account of Mercy Brown almost a century later, Snuff proceeded to cut out the heart of his daughter. According to the legend, when he did so it “gushed with blood”. He would then set it alight and reduced it to nothing more than ashes. Remarkably, his wife recovered almost instantly from her illness. Furthermore, there were no more sudden deaths, nor sightings of his seemingly cursed daughter.
Tuberculosis is the most likely cause of death for the “vampires” of Rhode Island during the late-1700s and 1800s. The vampires’ reach, though, at times deadly, continues today, if indirectly. In September 2011, for example, two teenage girls would die in a car crash. They were journeying from a visit to the grave of Mercy Brown and ventured down a lonely road. The cause of the crash is unknown, other than the car “swerved” and then “rolled over”.
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“The Vampire, Mercy Brown” and “Your Other Self: Disturbing Accounts of Real Doppelgangers” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight
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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… (1 Corinthians 13:1-7) “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
And a final thought… “Sometimes bad luck hits you like in an ancient Greek tragedy, and it’s not your own making. When you have a plane crash, it’s not your fault.” – Werner Herzog
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.