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 43 Signal Boost How status anxiety drives culture. Arts & Culture Issue 38 Memes of Communication A conversation about digital folklore. Arts & Culture Issue 36 Designated Drudgery How to take a load off. Arts & Culture Issue 29 Mime Culture On lip-syncing and the allure of mouthing along. Arts & Culture Issue 26 Everything and Nothing It was Isaac Newton who suggested that black was not a color. History suggests otherwise. Arts & Culture Design Issue 25 Facial Recognition Finding friendly faces in functional objects.