The Doppelganger Divorce: 1883

straight razor shaving

A gentleman shaving. Presumably while awake and not astrally projecting.

Mrs Daffodil is posting Sunday’s story early to augment a story on the Haunted Ohio blog.


Singular Cause for a Divorce Suit

A Bride Pursued by Her Husband’s “Double.”

A remarkably curious divorce suit will be tried in this city, says the Philadelphia Mirror, before an examiner in the early part of December. The parties to the suit have been married four months, and strangely enough are more devoted to each other now than on the wedding day. Margaret Leeds, a pretty little brunette, and a native of the city of Pittsburg, became Mrs. Anson F. Clements on the 6th of last July. Her husband is a carriage upholsterer, aged twenty-six, and has always been an industrious, sober man. The marriage took place in Pittsburg, where the groom was employed at his trade. He was offered a better position in Philadelphia, and came here after a three days’ honeymoon, leaving his bride with her mother.

On the 15th of October, feeling assured that his position would be permanent, the young man telegraphed for his wife, and twenty-four hours later she was installed in a cozy little four-roomed house in the northwestern section of the city. She had not been in her new home a week before she had written twice to her mother that she was too utterly miserable to live; that her husband, while one of the kindest and most considerate men living, was possessed of a strange affliction that made her life a burden, and certainly precluded the possibility of her living with him. The story she related to a Sunday Mirror representative was a terrible one, and was amply corroborated by her tears and her pitiful expressions of regret about the compulsory parting.

“I never knew how much I loved Anson,” said she, “until after we were married, and I love him to-day better than ever. When you hear me through, I think you will say that I’ve had the most awful experience ever known to a wife. We were married at seven o’clock in the evening, at my mother’s house. The guests remained until midnight, and then my husband and I went to our room. We sat talking for half an hour or more over our future prospects and how happy we would be and then retired. About four o’clock in the morning I was awakened by a noise in the room. I raised myself up in bed and screamed. And what I saw was enough to make a brave man quake with fear. Standing in front of the bureau, I saw the form of a man. He seemed to be shaving himself, for, every now and then, I could see the gleam of a razor as he wiped it on a piece of paper. I was fully awake in an instant, and my voice did not seem to disturb the intruder in the least. ‘Anson!’ I shrieked, nestling up closer to my husband. ‘Anson! Wake up, for heaven’s sake: there is some one in the room.’ As I spoke I placed my hand on my husband’s face. It was as cold as the face of the dead. I seized him by the shoulder and shook him, but he never moved. In my fright I began beating him on the chest, and screaming at the top of my voice. Then the idea took possession of me that he was dead. His arms were rigid, and I could not hear him breathe. All this time the mysterious figure continued to shave himself in front of the looking-glass. My screams awoke the household. I heard footsteps on the stairs, and can just remember seeing my mother and youngest brother rush into the room as I fainted. When I came to my senses Anson was bathing my face with cold water, and my mother was standing beside the bed. I looked toward the bureau, but the form I saw standing there had disappeared. I told the cause of my outcry, but they all laughed at me, and said I had been dreaming. I could sleep no more that night, but sat up until daylight, half convinced that what I had seen was a fancy of the brain. My husband seemed annoyed about something, but as the day wore on he became good-natured again, and before night came he had me in his arms, telling me how much he loved me.

“The next night and the next I slept soundly without being disturbed. On the fourth day after our marriage Anson started for Philadelphia to secure a position which would pay him a great deal better than his job in Pittsburg. He wrote to me every day, and on the 16th of last month I arrived in this city. You can see how comfortably we are fixed here. Anson was overjoyed to see me, and I needn’t say that I had the same feeling. I was tired and went to bed early. I don’t think I shall ever forget that night as long as I live. Shortly after midnight something caused me to awake, and looking up I saw the room door open, and then I saw a man enter. He went directly to the bureau, and then, as true as heaven hears me, began shaving himself. I was too frightened to move, much less speak. There the man stood with the razor in his hand, drawing it over his face again and again, as calmly as though he was in his home. He made no other motion, and his movements were perfectly noiseless. I must have lain perfectly quiet for a minute, and then by a mighty effort I regained the use of my voice and limbs. I seized my husband by the shoulder and tried to awaken him. My fear must have given me double strength, for I pushed him partly out of bed. Instead of arousing himself at my call he lay like a dead man.

“I passed my hand over his face and was surprised to find that it was as cold and clammy as it was on our bridal night in Pittsburg. The extremity of fear must have given me courage for I took Anson’s head in my arms and began shrieking in his ear. All this, you must recollect, occurred inside of three minutes, but to me it seemed like ages. The man was still standing in front of the bureau, and did not appear to notice the disturbance in the least. At last my nerves gave way, and I fell back half fainting. The next thing I remember was similar to my terrible experience at home. Anson was bathing my face and chafing my hands. I told him what had happened and he said I had been dreaming, but he did not seem as positive as before. Of course I was in a state of nervous prostration all day, and when we went to bed I made Anson promise me that he would make an effort to keep awake after midnight. He did so, and I was not disturbed by the horrible nightmare—as I thought it—of the other nights. On the third night of our stay in Philadelphia, the mystery was solved, or at least there was an unsatisfactory explanation of it. My husband and I had spent the evening at a theatre, and after coming home sat up and talked until nearly one o’clock. Then we retired, and I, with some misgivings, buried my head under the bedclothes. I don’t know how long I slept, but as before, I was aroused by some mysterious influence, and knew the moment I opened my eyes that I was to go through another terrible ordeal. Whether the previous experience had rendered me brave or not, I don’t know, but at any rate when I looked up I was expecting to see the same strange intruder. And I did. He was standing in front of the glass shaving himself with the utmost unconcern. I never knew how I screwed up sufficient courage, but, without saying a word, I jumped out of bed, and enveloping myself in the counterpane that I snatched up, I approached the man at the bureau. He never budged an inch. I turned up the gas and took a step nearer. The rays of the gas fell about the face of the figure and showed the reflection of his face in the mirror. I looked quickly, and great heavens! The blood nearly frozen in my veins when I saw the face of Anson Clements, my husband, staring at me. I turned around. My husband still lay in bed, the gas fell over his face and showed it to be of a pallid, deathly hue. I sprang forward and touched his forehead. It was as cold as ice. Turning again I walked toward the figure in front of the glass. As I drew near it seemed to fade away, and when I looked again it had gone. At the same moment Anson seemed to come to himself. He groaned once or twice, turned over and then sat up in bed. ‘Maggie,’ he said, ‘you know everything  now. I have been enduring the torment of a thousand hells here for the last ten minutes, and unable to move a hand or foot. My God! Why am I not like other men? What you saw in Pittsburg, and what you have seen here is no nightmare, no dream, but a terrible reality. You saw my double. It has been the curse of my existence for years, and seems to be a visitation upon me for some sin of my parents. I know perfectly well when my other consciousness is making itself visible to mortal eye, and have not the slightest control over it. Nevertheless, my thinking powers are not stupefied, but rather quickened, and the fright you experience, I feel ten-fold in agony of mind. I thought that marriage might change my condition, but it seems only to have made it worse.”

“Now, sir,” said the young woman, “you can readily see that no matter how much Anson and I love each other, we cannot live as man and wife, when his shadow, or whatever you call it, goes roaming around the house at midnight, and so we’ve concluded to separate.” Philadelphia Mirror.

San Francisco [CA] Bulletin 6 December 1883: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A curious story about what the Germans term a doppelganger and the Theosophists call the “astral body.” If the young man were alive today to consult a modern physician, “sleep paralysis” might be the diagnosis. Mrs Daffodil is puzzled as to the bride’s willingness to discard a seemingly amiable spouse when the young couple could have easily arranged for separate sleeping apartments. And, more puzzling still, do razors have astral bodies?

You will find another story of a young person whose “shadow” walked while he slept, at the Haunted Ohio blog.

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