Bilocation, Doppelgangers and Psychic Projections

"If strangeness be a standard for unfavourable judgement, I damn, at a swipe, most of this book. But damnation means nothing to me. I offer the data. Suit yourself." Charles Fort, Lo!

FT99: The letters about doppelgangers [FT91:54] prompted me to relate my own experience. Fifteen years ago I lived on the east side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At a grocery store I frequented, a man unknown to me said "Hi Dave". I passed it off as insignificant.

Two months later, the same thing happened in the parking lot of the store. Questioned, he replied that we had served in Vietnam together and that my home town was Two Rivers, Wisconsin. I actually grew up in Manitowoc, five miles away. The visual resemblance, same first name and proximity of birthplaces was interesting. But I was never in the Army or in Vietnam.

I forgot about the incident until five years ago when I stopped at a tavern 20 miles from the east side of Milwaukee. There was a couple sitting close by who kept staring at me and I had no idea why. When the man went to the restroom, the woman said "Aren’t you going to say hello, Dave?". In the resulting conversation I found out that I served in the same platoon in Vietnam as her husband and was a good friend. Their Dave had gone to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at the same time that I was enrolled, and had lived five blocks from where I had my apartment. In combat, you know the people around you.

I am at a loss to explain how a person with the same name, the same physical characteristics (down to my moustache and eyes), grows up five miles away from me, goes to the same college, lives so close to me and is recognised by strangers decades later. David Zanotti, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

FT101: My name is Gunnar, I’m 15 years old and I live in Iceland. Last year, I and my family spent the dark of winter on Nyord, a tiny island in Denmark. A few houses away lived our very good friend Hilmar. One night I walked over to his house, where my mum was paying a visit. I took the same route as usual, up the street behind the house, through the garden to the back door.

As I was going through the fence, I saw Hilmar opening the door and scanning the garden. He looked my way but closed the door without giving any indication that he had seen me. I came to the door and knocked. He opened it and told me that just a few seconds earlier he and my mum had heard a knock on the door. He looked out but saw nothing. In the mythology of Iceland such a phenomenon is called a fylgja, a kind of spirit or ghost (or something) accompanying a person and announcing their arrival. It makes its presence known with noises, the person then comes to mind or pops up in conversation, or the cat announces the person’s arrival by certain gestures. Some people have a strong fylgja which clearly precedes their coming.

On my way home I met a pitch-black cat under a lamppost. It scared me a bit as cats were unheard of on the island. It must have crossed the same crazy bridge as my fylgja. Gunnar Th Eggertsson, Reykjavik, Iceland.

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FT104: I was intrigued by Gunnar Eggertsson’s letter about the Fylgja, the Icelandic ghost of presage [FT101:51]. It reminds me of the Norwegian phenomenon of the same kind. They term it Vardogr and it is discussed by Brag Steiger in his book Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits and Haunted Minds. He writes "The Vardogr is a kind of spiritual projection which its possessor unconsciously employs to announce his physical arrival." This arrival is, however, announced some minutes before the actual arrival.

As a small boy in a town in south-east Scotland, I lived in a huge spooky house which had been a Victorian rectory until my parents bought it. My father worked abroad much of the time, my brother had flown the nest and my mother did not return home from work until 4:30pm or later. Besides experiencing a poltergeist and occasional unexplained sounds when the place was unoccupied save for myself, the Old Rectory was quiet and detached, standing in a cul-de-sac with only two neighbouring houses across a yard and a private lane respectively.

Having got home from school and expecting my mother’s arrival at any time, I would regularly hear her car door slam and the front door bang shut. I heard these sounds from afar, so they would be relatively faint, but clearly discernible. I would call hello. Failing to obtain a response, I would come downstairs or come into the hall and investigate. Often enough I would open the front door and look to see if her car was there. When I had established that she had not, in fact, arrived, I would then wait for five or ten minutes, knowing that she was merely letting me know that she was a couple of miles up the road and would shortly be home.

I think I experienced this only with her until recently. On that occasion, my former secretary who worked with me for some years, and who now pops in to collect typing, was due to call by my office. Hearing the buzzer from reception I went to the door, but she wasn’t there. Suspecting a Vardogr, I waited for exactly five minutes and then returned to the door. She came around the corner within 30 seconds, startled to see me awaiting her. Andrew Gray, Edinburgh.

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 FT121: In September 1998 I lost my old cross-collie dog after almost 14 years. I replaced her with a newer model – a sort of collie-black Labrador pup rescued from the local animal welfare centre. As soon as the new dog came into the house, I was aware that she could "see things" that we humans could not. At first it became clear that under no circumstances would she venture into the corner of the room where the old dog used to sleep. She would stand and stare into that corner transfixed, then turn on canine heels and bolt for the back door or the sanctuary of her basket in the kitchen.

Some weeks later we noticed that she was standing at the top of the garden, teeth bared and hackles raised, as she stared at the precise spot where we had buried the old dog. We didn’t think there was anything particularly strange about this behaviour, assuming that most of it could be attributed to the dog’s acute sense of smell. But we did joke that perhaps the dog was some kind of reincarnation. Probably.

Soon after this, I noticed something decidedly more bizarre going on. The small black dog became to duplicate itself. I know…perhaps I’m going mad! One morning as I sipped a cup of tea and watched the dog as she chewed a bone in front of the fire, the same dog walked right past me and through into the kitchen. Naturally, I was just a tad unnerved by this and set about investigating: no second dog could be found in the kitchen. Since then, this has happened at least twice more, with the dog "duplicating" itself and appearing in two different parts of the house at the same time. I have begun to wonder if this little black dog of mine could be some throwback to the old Black Shuck legends so well documented down the years, and that this weird bilocation is some primeval manifestation thereof…or something like that.

It gets even weirder. Last week while feeding the dog I turned to my wife – who was standing to my right – and commented that we hadn’t seen much of this canine bilocation for some time. But my wife wasn’t standing to my right anymore. She had been upstairs all the time and I had been talking to…well, that’s anybody’s guess. So far she has only managed to achieve this feat once; but once is enough, believe me!

Perhaps I am mad after all. I wonder if other readers have experienced anything even remotely similar. And no…I hadn’t been drinking! Paul Graham (by email).

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 FT125: I had an experience of a bilocating dog similar to that described by Paul Graham [FT121:51]. In 1994 I as admitted to Wycombe General Hospital for observation, as I was worried that a heart attack I’d had the previous year was going to recur (thankfully it didn’t).

In a bed diagonally opposite me was an old man in his eighties who was obviously suffering from dementia as he said a lot of very strange and bizarre things. One morning, on waking up, he kept telling the nurses about a "little dog" he could see at the foot of my bed. He said it was a shame to see it left there all on its own.

He was so convinced that there was a dog there that, after his breakfast, he left some milk in his cornflakes bowl and asked the nurse to give it to the little dog at the foot of my bed. Everyone in the ward, nurses included, put this down to his dementia and thought no more about it.

Later that day, when my wife came to visit, I asked how our dog Charlie was. She said she was worried about him because that morning she had woken to find him lying flat on his back at the bottom of the bed, stiff as a board with eyes glazed and apparently not breathing. She massaged his chest for a few minutes and thankfully he "snapped out of it" and began breathing again.

We subsequently discovered he is epileptic and this was most likely his first fit (he was only a year old at the time). He is now on medication which seems to have put a stop to the fits. It was 8am when my wife found him there and it was about 7:30am that the old man asked the nurse to give his milk to the little dog by my bed.

My own personal belief is that animals, particularly the more intelligent ones, are just as prone to out-of-body experiences as some human beings and that during his fit Charlie had such an experience which was witnessed by an old man who, perhaps because of his mental state at the time, was able to perceive the dog’s astral body. Graeme Cammack, Edinburgh.

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FT125: Paul Graham’s bilocating dog recalls a similar experience of mine. I went to stay in a villa in Spain with my girlfriend. She took one bedroom and I took the other. After a few days, she became spooked by her bedroom and asked to swap rooms, which I agreed to. My new bedroom was unnaturally cold. I slept with two pullovers on in southern Spain in April!

Every day, a half-wild stray cat would come to our patio to beg for scraps. It was extremely nervous and would start and look around fearfully at any noise, or if called. It would not be enticed into the house, even with tidbits.

Towards the end of the holiday, I was reading in the sitting room when, to my amazement, the cat came boldly into the villa from the patio and walked straight past me. I called out to it, but it ignored me and just kept going, finally disappearing into the kitchen. I immediately followed it, but it had vanished. There was no way out of the kitchen and nowhere for it to hide. I spent half an hour verifying this fact, finally accepting that I had seen a phantom cat.

That night, as I drifted off to sleep, I was awakened by a loud high-pitched scream very close to my left ear. I will never forget the sound of that scream, or its eidetic, highly distinctive, tone as long as I live. In 50 years this is the only time I have ever experienced an auditory hypnagogic hallucination. I had not taken alcohol, drugs or medication at that time. I attribute the phantom cat, the scream and the unnatural coldness of the room to a spirit inhabiting the villa.

There are two interesting points here. Firstly, the double was associated with other contingent paranormal phenomena. Secondly, the double behaved very differently from the original cat. It boldly walked where the original cat feared to go. The double was oblivious to my call, unlike the original cat which would start fearfully at the slightest noise.

The behavioural difference between double and original has not to my knowledge been remarked upon in the literature concerning doubles. The next day the original cat returned to the patio as nervous and as unwilling to enter the villa as before.

A number of questions arise here. If it had been raining, would the double have left pawprints? Would a second onlooker have seen it too? If I had snapped it with a camera, would it have shown up on the film? If I had grabbed it, would it have: proved substantial and tangible; disappeared; proved intangible; or somehow prevented me from touching it?

I have had two other "double" experiences, but with humans. On one occasion, I met by chance in a remote part of the county someone I hadn’t seen for five years. He insisted that he had just seen me 10 minutes previously in a place where I definitely hadn’t been. He was absolutely adamant that he couldn’t have been mistaken and was cross and puzzled by my denials.

In the other incident, a builder I knew well was due to visit my house to appraise building work. On my way home, I saw him on a bus, five minutes from my house. There was no mistaking him. He was wearing the same clothes and the same distinctive hat. The only difference was that he was staring straight ahead with a strange vacant, glassy expression in his eyes, as if in a daydream. Later I mentioned seeing him on the bus, but in fact he had come in his van! Robert Evans, London.

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 FT131: The letters about bilocating pets [FT121:51, 125:52] struck a chord with me as I myself had a very similar experience when I was about 18, which would have made it 1986. I had some visitors. During the course of the conversation, some new article of clothing was mentioned and I was asked to go and fetch it. As I went into the hall to go upstairs, I saw our tabby cat sitting by the front door, waiting to be let out. I opened the door and let him go. It was just starting to get dusky, but wasn’t dark enough just yet to have the lights on.

I went upstairs and entered my bedroom, heading straight for the large wardrobe at the foot of my bed. In the full-length mirror on the middle door I could see the bed reflected clearly, with a tabby cat stretched full-length across the pillow. Completely forgetting that I had just let the cat out, I said "Oh Tiger! You know you’re not allowed to lie there". As I said it I realised that it couldn’t possibly be my cat, although it looked exactly like him. In the moment the realisation hit, the cat appeared to become startled and jumped into a crouching position before glaring angrily at me and then slinking off the bed, onto the floor. At this point it disappeared out of sight and I naturally rushed to the landing, expecting to see a cat making its way downstairs. There was no cat to be seen. As for the real Tiger, no one had let him in and when I checked, he was sitting happily in the garden. No one else had seen the mystery feline.

For years I have wondered about it. I always assumed it was a spirit being, though I could never grasp why it looked exactly like my own pet. It was not the only instance of seeing phantom cats. My mother and I both frequently thought we saw cats sitting on the stairs or rushing past our feet as we walked along. On more than one night I felt the weight of a cat land on my bed, only to discover nothing there. Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that none of these incidents has caused alarm; in fact, quite the opposite – there is something very reassuring about their presence. Susan Topping, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim.

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 FT134: A few years ago my friend Kev and I were coming back from a European holiday. We had just boarded the plane and were sitting about halfway back, over the wings. Scanning our fellow passengers, I noticed a large man in a trilby hat and a cream-coloured suit make his way up the aisle, carrying a brown suitcase. I didn’t pay much attention and he walked past our seats.

About three minutes later, I looked up and saw the same man, carrying the same suitcase, walk past us up the aisle. Kev and I looked at each other and I distinctly remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. He couldn’t have walked back down the aisle because the commotion would have been substantial. Have you ever tried to move against the flow on a boarding plane?

There could have been only three possibilities: Firstly, the man could have jumped out of the emergency door at the back of the plane, run along the tarmac and walked back up the steps at the front – patently ridiculous and impossible in three minutes. Secondly, he had a twin on the same flight. Do twins dress identically and carry identical luggage into adulthood? Thirdly, Kev and I "saw" the man before he actually appeared – precognition, perhaps?

If it weren’t for the fact that both of us witnessed this spooky event, I would have put it down to a mistake or pre-flight jitters. I get the same feeling every time I think about it. Trevor White, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.

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 FT135: Your tales of bilocating animals [FT121:51, 125:52] reminded me if my bilocating cousins. At their family home in a purpose-built midwestern-American suburb, it was not unusual to see one of them going into a room without any other door (or window large enough to allow anyone over the age of seven through), and never to emerge from it – only to appear at the front door minutes later, unaware of their supposed presence in the other room. It was not unusual to have seen someone walk into a basement room while they were eating upstairs, or even when they were away from home entirely. This happened so often and was seen by so many people (including myself on several occasions) that it was more or less taken for granted and was not regarded as unusual.

The in-house explanation was: "We have a ghost – it looks like one of us". Indeed, it could appear to be any of the four siblings and even once in a while their parents, although that was far less frequent. As far as I am aware, it was impossible to get any sort of reaction from the "double" when it went by, and it would always disappear out of my view. Nor did anyone ever run into "themselves". In fact, on most occasions when calling out to someone they’d just seen enter a room and receiving no answer, the response was usually a shrug and "oh, it must be the ghost".

It has only ever happened in the house in which they grew up, never in their own homes, but it does still occasionally happen when they visit their parents’ home. No doubt some of the "sightings" might be explained by youthful pranks, but it has happened so consistently over the years that it seems an unlikely explanation for the entire phenomenon. Lisa Grimm, Mountain View, California.


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