Exploring The Public’s Fascination With “Doppelgängers”

The latest thing that has passed for news on the Internet recently (a.k.a “trending topic”) involves a conspiracy theory that pop singer Taylor Swift is really the “clone”—”double,” or “doppelgänger”—of Satanic leader Zeena LaVey. The “proof” for such an astonishing claim? Well, they sure look alike, don’t they? That’s all the proof you need. (Well, that and a “strong feeling.”)


An acquaintance of mine several of years ago was “identified” on a website as the “double” of Aurora theater shooter James Holmes. This situation, as you imagine, caused some stress for said person—compounded, no doubt, because the site published his contact information as well just in case you wished to yell at him for shooting up that theater.


Something similar happened to author Stephen King in the 80s and 90s, around whom a far more elaborate “double” conspiracy theory was based. His alleged doppelgänger? Mark David Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon (according to this theory King was the real killer, and Chapman the “patsy” lookalike).

The Beatles connection of course spawned the “mother” of all doppelgänger conspiracy theories—that of “Faul,” the “fake” Paul McCartney who was hired when the real one suddenly died in a car accident. This theory actually captured the public’s imagination in the late 1960s, receiving a great deal of mainstream press and prompting multiple denials by McCartney and his circle that he was really an impostor.


And the “double” theories have only gotten more traction to the present day, applying not only to celebrities and the infamous, but people present during various events and tragedies. For example, some believe that the shooting at Sandy Hook was “staged” using various doubles…not only for the TV-interviewed witnesses but even some of the victims.


These theorists believe that such events are more or less “hoaxes,” with the “doubles” being what they term “crisis actors” who sometimes show up at several tragedies as different people (some have even claimed that witnesses and other key people were “reused” from the earlier Holmes shooting). As in the “Paul Is Dead” theory, photos are examined and produced as “evidence” for the deception.


A somewhat less dark version of the doppelgänger theory is the “Keanu Reeves Is Immortal” phenomenon, started when somebody dug out this painting of 1800s actor Paul Mounet:


It was then concluded (largely with tongue planted firmly in cheek), that Mounet—who died in 1922 but whose body was allegedly never found—is really Reeves.


Certainly, the “time-travel” aspect of one of the more famous Reeves movies has helped this theory gain popularity. Soon, the “doubles” of other actors were found in old photographs, such as Nic Cage, Eddie Murphy, and so on.


Then what appeared to be a far more “serious” take on the Reeves/Mounet thing appeared online, claiming not that Reeves was “immortal,” but rather he was the reincarnation of Mounet. The theorist, Brianstalin (who, on his website, claims to be “foremost past life expert in the world”), has developed a very complex theory of past lives involving most of the famous people in world history.

While on the surface this seems to be based largely on comparing similar-looking images of “past” and “present” subjects (much like those of Reeves and Mounet), Brianstalin also claims to be using psychic readings to make his determinations.


Looking further into the work of Brianstalin, one also notes that he believes in such theories as that of the shape-changing Reptilians (and so we have the idea of doubles and impostors once again) as well as that of “The Matrix.” Which not only brings us back to Reeves, but a completely different possible “explanation” (assuming you were in need of one) regarding the doppelgänger phenomenon.


According to people who believe in the “Matrix” theory, “the real world that we know” is just a simulation—like that of “The Sims,” and Second Life. The real world, on the other hand, is Someplace Else (and the Gnostics would say that it is deep within our consciousness).

One of the people who promotes the “Life Is A Videogame” theory is physicist Tom Campbell, who has a series of lectures on YouTube in which, among other things, he presents reality as an extended MMORPG/”World of Warcraft” metaphor.

If life is an MMORPG and “God” is programmer for Blizzard Entertainment, then there is going to be a metric shit-ton of different characters to design. Duplications are likely—which could “explain” the “doubles” phenomenon. The reason we see similar-looking people—like Mounet/Reeves or King/Chapman—is because this “simulated” aspect of our reality is being betrayed to our once-innocent belief system. “God” is reusing “skins,” basically.

what a “glitch in the matrix” might look like in “real life”

Yes…a “glitch in the Matrix.”


But, but, but—

Here is another theory, this time from the world of metaphysics. Perhaps this all isn’t about hired actors as part of a conspiracy or a glitch in a reality-aping computer program. Because neither of these theories fully explain one key element of the doppelgänger theory that gives it its “edge,” its lasting quality. And that is: synchronicity.


In some of these cases, the mere fact that two people look similar is not enough. There are also a number of other connections and similarities—which, to the theorist, is pretty much “proof-positive” that they are right.

Let’s take a look at the theory that the Challenger disaster never happened (you’re so patient to have gotten this far with me, I do appreciate it). In this theory, the astronauts never died but instead went on with their lives; the disaster being an elaborate hoax. On the surface, this seems less like a true “doubles” theory and more like a “Fake Moon Landing” one. But then consider the case of “The Two Richard Scobees.”


One of the “proofs” offered for this Challenger theory is that there is currently a man, still quite alive, that uncannily mirrors many of the same qualities as “alleged” dead Challenger astronaut Richard Scobee—including almost the same name and very similar facial features. But the “coup de gras” of the “Two Richard Scobees,” the theorist points out, is that the still-alive one, the owner of a company called “Cows In Trees,” has an animation on his website that looks very much like the Challenger explosion:



Well, somebody into metaphysics might say that the coincidences are meaningful and are related…in the sense that everybody and everything in the universe is interrelated; that everything “resonates” with everything else, sometimes stronger than others. In this worldview, it’s pretty common to see one thing “eerily” resonate with something else…and there might even be a “message” to it. Or there might not.

And this is the thing to remember above all else: that this is a highly subjective business, depending a lot on the interpretations and personal perceptions of the person observing the phenomena.


A key aspect to all this, which author Robert Anton Wilson mentioned quite a bit, is the idea of the subjectivity of the “connection” being made. We are all, ultimately, operating within our own “reality tunnels”…our primary experience of what we believe is real being made through the highly subjective tools of our senses.


And, as in the “Diff’rent Strokes” theme-song, “what might be right for you, may not be right for some.”

This might account for the lack of enthusiasm my aforementioned acquaintance at the start of this post had for the theory that he was the double of James Holmes. While this theory might have resonated with the theorizer—based largely on a subjective interpretation that, by necessity, included not just ocular sensory input but personal history, mood, and so on—it did not resonate with the subject of the theory. And we can assume it didn’t resonate with most of the public, either.


By contrast, the “Paul Is Dead” theory resonated with far more people, even back in the late 1960s. The context for this included the Beatles changing their relatively “tame” image for that of “hippies”…marking a larger, seismic cultural shift. The “Faul” theory was the perfect metaphor for this shift, which bewildered and unsettled a portion of their fans.


And isn’t that aspect, at least in part, what accounts for the interest in the current Taylor Swift situation? She started out with this squeaky-clean virginal image, but over time has gotten more “adult.” What could account for her “change?” Maybe if she was a clone of the daughter of the man who established the Church of Satan, that could explain everything.

Miley Cyrus had a similar rumor going in 2010, that she died and was replaced with a body double. Coincidentally, this conspiracy theory cropped up just when she had made a radical change to her “child star” image. Again, it is the age-old question: “Why do people change?” Obviously, the answer must be, it’s  a “replacement person.” The other options—that personal identity is not as rock-solid as we like to think it is, that we are all changing all the time, that nothing lasts forever—are too frightening to contemplate.


So when we look at the photo of a seemingly normal James Holmes, it’s very hard to understand how he could have become the wild-eyed, red-haired maniac who was arrested for mass murder. Ironically, to believe that he was part of a massive conspiracy in which an actor was used to take his place…is bizarrely more “comforting” than to admit the possibility that the smiling “boy next door” could snap at any second.


In a world, media, and political arena where conspiracy theories have received far more traction and believability—and an increasingly intertwined network of personal information hacking & the incredibly efficient “doxxing delivery system” of platforms like Twitter—is it possible that more people, like my unfortunate friend, will be publicly accused of being “doubles”?

Further…in a world of increasingly sophisticated CGI, augmented reality, and Siri-like audio manipulation…is it that unlikely that some form of “doubles” could be created, if only for snippets of “video footage,” and the like? Where do the virtual doppelgängers of the near-future fit into all this?

For example, actor Paul Walker was able to finish the movie Furious 7 with the help of body doubles (including his brothers) and CGI.


Who is the person we see in those scenes? Is it “The Real Paul Walker?” His double? Another entity entirely—perhaps the “essence” of Walker, distilled?

It’s possible that the answer is, “it doesn’t really matter.”

And that might be, ultimately, the attitude we will have towards “doubles.” Thanks to technology and genetic engineering, we might be in a world full of doubles, triples, quadruples, and so on.


Given all those factors, the crackpot doppelgänger theories of today might become—in some sense, at any rate—the potential truths of the future.

More to read about on Butterfly Language:
It Is Happening Again: The New Twin Peaks As Ritual
The 10 Most Paranoid Music Videos Of All Time
Better Call Paul: The Mystery of the “Winged Beatle”