Sagee, Mademoiselle Emilie - Doppelganger
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
The Mystery of the Human Double – Ralph Shirley
It appears that there existed in Livonia in the year 1845 and many years after, about thirty-six miles from Riga and four or five miles from the small town of Volmar, a school for young girls of noble birth which bore the name of the "Pensionnat de Neuwelcke". The head of this establishment was, at the date in question, a certain M. Buch.
The number of girls, almost all members of the Livonian nobility, was at that time forty-two. Among them was the second daughter of a certain Baron Guldenstubbe, a girl of thirteen years of age.
One of the schoolmistresses there was a French-woman, a Mademoiselle Emile Sagee, who was born at Dijon, but belonged to a Northern type, a blonde with a pink-and-white complexion, bright blue eyes, and chestnut hair. She was somewhat over middle height, amiable and cheerful in disposition, but of a shy and nervous temperament. Her health was good on the whole, and in the year and a half during which she remained at Neuwelcke she had only one or two slight indispositions. She was intelligent, thoroughly well educated, and gave every satisfaction to the directors in the matter of her teaching. She was at this time thirty-two years of age.
A few weeks after her arrival at the establishment strange rumours began to be spread among the pupils with regard to her. When one girl observed that she had seen her in one part of the house, it was a common occurrence for another to deny this and declare that she had met her elsewhere at the very same moment. In the first instance these disputes were simply put down to some mistake, but when the same thing happened over and over again, the pupils began to think it very odd, and in due course spoke of the matter to the other mistresses.
The professors who gave lessons at the establishment, when they learnt of the story, pooh-poohed the whole matter, and declared that such a thing was contrary to common sense. But matters soon came to a head, and assumed a character which left no room for two opinions.
One day, when Emile Sagee was giving a lesson to thirteen of her pupils, among whom was Mademoiselle de Guldenstubbe and when, in order to make her explanation plainer, she was writing out the passage under discussion on a blackboard, the girls saw all of a sudden, to their intense alarm, two Mademoiselle Sagees, standing side by side. They resembled one another in every particular, and made the same identical gestures.
Only the real Mademoiselle Sagee had a piece of chalk in her hand, and wrote with it on the blackboard while her double had not, and merely imitated the movements she made in writing. Hence arose a great sensation in the establishment in as much as the young girls without a single exception had seen the second figure and were absolutely agreed as to the description they gave of the phenomenon.
A short time after, one of the pupils, a certain Mademoiselle Antoinette de Wrangel, obtained permission to go to a neighbouring fete with some of her girl friends, Mademoiselle Sagee, with her usual good nature offered to help her with her toilette, and was fastening her dress behind. Turning round during this operation the young girl glanced into the looking-glass, where she saw reflected two Mademoiselle Sagees. So scared was she at this sudden apparition that she fainted away.
Months elapsed, and these phenomena continued to take place. Mademoiselle Sagee was seen at dinner with her double standing up behind her, imitating her movements as she ate her food. The pupils and the maids who waited at table were alike witnesses of these occurrences.
On one occasion, all the pupils, to the number of forty-two, were together in one room and occupied with embroidery work. The room was on the ground floor of the principal building, with four large windows or, rather, glass doors, commanding a view of the garden belonging to the establishment. The pupils seated around the table were able, from where they sat, to see what took place in the garden, and noticed Mademoiselle Sagee occupied in picking flowers not far from the house.
At the upper end of the table was another mistress, charged with looking after the girls and seated in an arm-chair. After a time this mistress got up and left the room. Very shortly after the pupils, looking round, noticed the form of Mademoiselle Sagee occupying the arm-chair, while at the same time they observed her duplicate still engaged in picking flowers, but moving about more slowly, like one in a dream or brown study. By this time the girls were more or less accustomed to these strange occurrences, and two of the most forward of them walked up to the arm-chair and touched the apparition, which seemed to offer a faint resistance like a piece of muslin or crepe. One of them even walked across a part of the phantom figure. Shortly afterwards the form disappeared altogether, while Mademoiselle Sagee resumed her occupation in the garden with her customary vivacity.
Several of the pupils subsequently asked their mistress if she had experienced any particular sensation on the occasion, to which she replied that she had merely reflected to herself on noticing the empty armchair that it was a matter for regret that the other mistress had gone off and left her class to their own devices, as she thought that they would be wasting their time.
These phenomena continued during a period of eighteen months; that is to say, all the time that Mademoiselle Sagee retained her engagement at Neuwelcke. There were, however, intervals, at times, of several weeks during which nothing of the kind took place. It was noticed that the phenomena occurred most often when she was specially preoccupied, and that in proportion to the clearness and apparent substantiality of her double her own form showed signs of weakness and exhaustion and vice versa.
She herself did not appear to be aware of what was taking place, and never perceived her own alter ego. Naturally, there was much talk of these extraordinary occurrences, and when there was no longer any doubt as to their reality the parents of the pupils took exception to leaving their daughters in a school in which such strange phenomena were taking place, and many of the girls, after leaving school for their holidays, failed to return. At the end of eighteen months the scholars had dwindled from forty-two to twelve. Unwilling as the directors were to dismiss a mistress who performed her duties in so exemplary a fashion, they felt that they had no option but to give her notice.
“Alas!" she exclaimed, on their decision being intimated to her, "this is the nineteenth time. It is indeed too cruel!"
In short, from the commencement of her career as schoolmistress at the age of sixteen, she had occupied no less than eighteen previous posts, and the reason of her leaving had been always the same. As the heads of the establishments to which she had gone had never had any fault to find with her they had always given her excellent testimonials, but when the phenomena were noticed she was always forced, in the long run, to go elsewhere.
After leaving Neuwelcke, she withdrew for some time to the house of a sister-in-law, who had a number of young children. Mademoiselle de Guldenstubbe paid her a visit while she was living there, and found that the children were quite accustomed to the occurrences of which she was the victim, and used to say that they had two Aunt Emilies. Mademoiselle Guldenstubbe remained at the academy the whole time that Mademoiselle Sagee was a mistress there, and full details and names were supplied by her with permission to publish them.