The odds of a person encountering their doppelgänger are narrowing. Facial recognition software and the internet have made the identification of “double walkers” (from the German) into a pastime open to all amateur sleuths. But the thrill we feel today on spotting our likeness in others is a historic anomaly: Doppelgängers are more often associated with death than with pleasant diversion. A slew of legends from across cultures cast them as paranormal duplicates and as phantoms to be avoided at all costs. From Queen Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great to the poet Percy Shelley—whose relatives claim he was greeted one night, shortly before his death, by a doppelgänger who asked him, “How long do you mean to be content?”—the apparition of a double has gone down in history as a warning that the end of life is near. In This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 19 Going Incognito We all secretly wonder what mischief we’d make if invisible: When our identity is hidden, everything seems possible. Arts & Culture Issue 19 The Best Policy Sometimes we talk to each other without feeling heard. Honesty—a most intimate interaction—can be just as thrilling as its more devious inverse. Arts & Culture Issue 19 A Sense of Suspense With unhinged imaginations and mountains of cliff-hangers, the filmmakers behind the sci-fi podcast Limetown have all the makings of a scary story. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Like Clockwork In this new column about time, we learn how slipping off our watches makes us feel like deadline-damning renegades. Interiors Issue 19 Prankster’s Paradise Is the nine-to-five grind approaching monotony? Arrive at the office early to even the playing field and invoke mirth for your co-workers. Arts & Culture Music Issue 19 On a Grander Scale Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna now may live on the opposite side of the globe, but she’s determined to evolve while staying true to her roots.