Home Columns Bob’s Meanderings: Have you Met Your Doppelganger?

Bob’s Meanderings: Have you Met Your Doppelganger?


A doppelganger is a non-biologically related look-alike or a double of a living person. It is sometimes portrayed as a ghostly or paranormal phenomenon and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck.

Other traditions and stories equate a doppelganger with an evil twin. People in modern times occasionally use the term “twin stranger”. The word “doppelganger” is often used in a more general and neutral sense, and in slang, to describe any person who physically or behaviorally resembles another person.

I often wondered if someone would be so fortunate to look exactly like me (ha). One kid mistook me for a hockey player. It was on an autumn evening just after darkness had fallen. I had left a variety store in Scarborough when a voice shouted, “Mr. Salming, Mr. Salming, can I get your autograph.” I shouldn’t have but I put on my best Maple Leaf face. I not only signed it as ‘Borje Salming’, but I included his name to make it more personal. What the heck – it made him happy. Besides the Leafs needed all the fans they could get.

English-speakers have only recently applied this German word to a paranormal concept. However, the concept of alter egos and double spirits has appeared in the folklore, myths, religious concepts, and traditions of many cultures throughout human history.

In a previous era, coming face-to-face with someone with your physical likeness was believed to signify one’s imminent death. Now, social media is alight with people actively tracking down the total stranger who could be their identical twin.

Doppelganger means “double walker”, and it is said that we are statistically likely to each have at least seven lookalikes – “twin strangers”, or “paranormal duplicates”, as some believe them to be – somewhere in the world. So how hard could it be to track down my Doppelganger? I always keep my eyes open to finding just one, let alone seven. The odds are iffy as I don’t get around much anymore.

Statistically, any of these matches is a surprise. Researchers from University of Adelaide’s school of medicine collected data on eight facial measurements for 4,000 people and didn’t find one match. They calculated that the chances of finding two people with eight of the exact same facial metric traits were less than one in a trillion.
But the study relied on measuring the exact distance between various facial features, rather than “descriptive” traits such as a curved nose.

“Descriptives are not considered a reliable method of evaluation because a trait such as the color of someone’s eyes is subjective,” said Professor Henneberg, co-author of the research.

Though it’s statistically almost impossible to find someone who is an exact match in terms of facial measurements, there’s a far higher likelihood of finding two people who look identical at first glance. That happened to me in a drugstore in Wasaga Beach. This beautiful lady corralled me, insisting that I should have kept in touch. Regretfully, I had to say I’d never seen her before. She persisted until finally saying, “You must have a twin in Alliston.” I should have got his name to introduce myself.

Denis Villeneuve, a Canadian film director and screenwriter was on the cusp of his own mainstream breakthrough when he directed this odd little thriller ‘Enemy’ about a mild-mannered college professor who discovers a lookalike in a movie he’s watching and becomes obsessed with finding out about him and his life. His investigations into the stranger’s life, evolves into something from the ‘Twilight Zone.’ The doppelganger eventually steals his girlfriend.

How to find your doppelganger would be similar to ‘Six degrees of separation.’ Its theory states everyone is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

Or you could create a Twin-Strangers account on Facebook which lets you know if someone else is a look-alike but can’t identity the doppelganger.

Even though in theory, there are seven of me out there, it would be quite chaotic for the Valley if we were all here at the same time.