, pub-1277587689226943, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0

Doppelgängers, Alter Ego And Lost Souls In The Woods

One person at multiple places at the same time. That doesn’t make sense in the natural laws that apply to our physical world. Yet our culture is populated with doubles or Doppelgängers. This applies both for film and literature but also for folk stories and the wide range of true stories, which tell an alleged truth.

The Master Of The Double: David Lynch

The double motive is overtly present in David Lynch movies. However, the use of doubles varies. That is helpful for a distinction between existing ideas of doubles, alter egos, and split souls.
The most overwhelming manifestation of a doppelganger is a person who can appear in different places at the same time. The Mystery Man in Lost Highway tells the main character, Fred, that he can be both at a party and his house at the same time. If it wasn’t the Mystery Man scary in itself, it is this quality which makes him terrifying.
The double, which can appear in different places, is one of the most common motives in horror. It is not a projection, not a fantasy and not a misunderstanding. One of the most horrifying ideas is if you discover that you have a double that does things without your knowledge. The idea of having a dopplegänger that leads an autonomous life is a disturbing revelation.

Apart from that, we have variations of conception of doubles and alter egos. Sometimes, it’s two people, which seem to be one and the same, or persons which resemble each other. There is a mysterious connection between people, we can’t easily grasp. Again, David Lynch’s movies and series are a good source for research: Alice and Renee or Fred and Pete in Lost Highway. Betty and Diane or Rita and Camilla in Mulholland Drive are further examples. Twin Peaks is populated with doubles and Alter Egos. In Twin Peaks – The Return, the world seems crowded with doubles. Kyle McLachlan, has three roles: Agent Cooper, Dougie and the dangerous Mr. C. Whereas Mr. C is a doppelganger of Agent Cooper, the paddington-like Dougie is a tulpa.

Tulpas are thought forms. They are real in a way, but they are not humans. Tulpas can be created. Lynch and writer Mark Frost borrowed that concept from Buddhism, mysticism and theosophy: It means a human form often created through spiritual practice or concentration (Wikipedia) but also unintentionally. The tulpa is more than a spectre, “it is capable of independent action, with a persistent personality and identity” (wiktionary)

According to Tracking the Tulpa (University Of California Press) “the tulpa was first described by Alexandra David-Néel (1868–1969) in Magic and Mystery in Tibet (1929)” The origins are a bit murky and it exists mostly in Western paranormal lore. Not much evidence here is available. If it would be easy to create a doppelganger tulpa we would have seen certainly many criminal cases where a perpetrator used a tulpa as alibi.

The deeper dimension of the Doppelganger motive.

The unexplainable leads us to deep existential and philosophical questions. There is, of course, a psychological dimension here too. There are many doppelganger reports in personal accounts. When people see themselves, it might be an autoscopic hallucination. That might happen in extreme circumstances or as a psychological illness. Maybe the double appears as a sort of warning. Or it could be a split in personality.
In religious or superstitious belief, a doppelganger is a shape-shifter or a trickster demon imitating yourself.
The most fascinating aspect is what it tells us about reality itself. We need to make a choice. Do we stick to the laws of nature and explain it away psychologically, or do we believe in the soul?
If we have a soul, there must be higher realms beyond ordinary reality, and the doppelganger motive has a much deeper meaning.

There could be circumstances where we lose our soul or parts of our soul and the other half of the self tampers around zombie-like.

In my story, The Forest Dark, a person loses their soul deep in the woods. Could it happen in real life?

There is not a big chance to come by with a sort of proof. We have to stick with concepts which are familiar to many people. One idea is the concept of a higher self which is not identical with our physical self or ego. From the hindu philosophy comes the idea of Atman, an universal self, that is “identical with the eternal core of the personality”. In that philosophy the individual soul is the jiva-atman, which is also eternal but trapped in the physical body. The interesting question is does the individual soul recognise the universal atman? The idea of that philosopher is that atman is the opposite of ego, “a false center”, “the product of sensory experiences”. In personal development it might be possible that the individual discovers that other self, that universal self. Why should this not look like a doppelganger experience at first sight for the individual?

The Atman-concept stems from Eastern thought. However, a lot of Eastern philosophy has either counterparts in the West or have influenced Western thought. C.G. Jung borrowed a lot of ideas from Hindu and other Eastern philosophy, for example the higher self.

But the interesting thing here is that we find a split between ego, physical-self and some sort of a higher self in many places in our culture. One idea is the Avatar as seen in the film “Avatar” by James Cameron. The real person is not at the same place as the person which experiences the physical journey.


Similar to that in a way are Alter Egos. Alter Egos are sort of a double existence too. Alter Egos are second personalities within a person. It might be the super hero Superman which is Clark Kent in ordinary lives but there are endless possibilities for Alter Egos. The Alter Ego can become “another self” which is separated from the person. That idea become popular in the 18 century with Anton Mesmer’s hypnosis experiments. He claimed he can separate a person’s alter ego. In literature “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” explored the concept of the ego and it is a popular idea til today.

There is nothing supernatural in the concept unless we introduce the idea of the multiverse or higher dimensions. In a more multi dimensional world we would find alternative versions of ourselves leading an independent existence on their own. An idea which was explored in the Star Trek Trek: Discovery.

Thus it might not take too much imagination that doppelgängers as seen in the David Lynch series have some serious background. It might be a glitch in reality or a strange personal development or even more sinister ideas that a doppelgänger can be created.

Magic Is Strong In The Forest

The forest as a magic realm is a prominent trope in almost any fantasy story and fairy tale. It’s sometimes a stereotype. The forest stands for the otherworld. Sometimes the heroes of the story want to reconnect to this otherworld. The forest is the place where reconnection seems possible. In some occasions the heroes perform rituals or they use psychoactive substances. Magic mushrooms are popular devices to reconnect or to experience deeper and spiritual dimensions of reality. The outcome is in certain cases unpredictable and a desperate attempt to recover what was lost:

In fantasy men is often a threat to the magic realm of the forest. Men destroy the forest. Men destroy the deeper, original magical dimension of reality. Often there is a fight between the original inhabitants, the fairies, the cunning people, the secret commonwealth and men. In fantasy often men is stronger. But the secret commonwealth, the little people, are going underground. Some say they return as aliens in common Ufo folklore. Instead of living in harmony with the higher realms men lives in a soulless technocratic world but which is haunted in certain moments.

There is an excellent overview in the article Where The Magic Things are: Forst in Fantasy Literature by Giovanna CHINELLATO, Sao Paulo/SP/ Brasil. She takes examples from works by J.R.R. Tolkien, Peter Beagle, Ursula K. Le Guin, George Martin, Patrick Rothfuss. The archetype of the magical forest was laid however much earlier in the myths of mankind, for example Gilgamesh and Volsunga saga.

Fantasy and Forest Horror

In forest horror the premise is not entirely different. However, the forces of nature can be overwhelming for men. The otherworld is ambiguous. The forest is a dangerous place. Attempts to connect with the spiritual realm or the elder gods end up in madness or even death. In the end the hero of the story can be another mysterious missing case, wandering around aimlessly forever as a lost soul in the forest.

The magical forest in horror is the forest dark. Nevertheless fantasy, supernatural horror and true stories or real accounts share a common concept: The forest as a living being. The concept bears some similarities with the Anima Mundi, the world soul: The idea of an intelligible entity, the inter-connection between all things, its omni-presence. This world soul can normally not seen in itself. It manifests in visionary experience and even ontological shock,

Plato speaks about the Anima Mundi as: “Thus, then, in accordance with the likely account, we must declare that this Cosmos has verily come into existence as a Living Creature endowed with soul and reason […] a Living Creature, one and visible, containing within itself all the living creatures which are by nature akin to itself”. This is, of course, encompassing everything, not only nature or the forest. But the forest is often the model. And it is in the forest the characters in a story seek unity, reconnection. In Forest Horror this can go terribly wrong.

In Forest Horror we often meet a truth-seeker, a hippie, a shaman, often a HERMIT seeking closeness with nature. That character is or pretends to be in contact with the forest, or the lord of the forest (often the magic soul of the forest is becoming a deity, for example the Celtic CERNUNNOS). The character has been for too long in the forest and is often a dangerous madman himself. Some screenplays use this constellation as dramaturgical trick, because then you don’t need to introduce some “forest demon” or similar things. (I make no exception from the rule with my own project here).

The more important point is that the truth seeking hermit gone mad presents a mirror image of the more optimist quest in fantasy stories. Giovanna Chinellato writes: “Given the, at least ideological, human-nature distancing and antagonism, characteristic of civilization (HARRISON, 2009), and considering that fantasy can have a recovery function (TOLKIEN, 2009), these fantastic forests can help humankind marvel at and reconnect with nature, possibly aiding in the development of a new and much necessary environmental awareness”.

Horror does not have that recovery function. It has a more cathartic function. It helps us to come to terms with realities. However, there is still a similarity between fantasy and horror: If nature is experienced as hostile it might be just a mirror or a consequence of man’s own wrong doing. In the forest dark we often meet our own darkness and our own inner demons.

How to express forest magic?

Either you look how to express the magic soul of the forest because you really believe in it or you need it for a story it always comes down to the same problem: We, indeed, might feel there is truth in it. However how do we show it? Unseen demonic force? Or positive magical vision? There are lot of temptations particularly in the era of digital effects. The problem is not, is it “good” or “bad, the problem is, does it feel right? This is perhaps a more challenging problem in horror rather than in fantasy.

Waiting Rooms In The Other World – Black And White Lodges, Bardo And Umbral Shadow Worlds

by Peter Engelmann, 4.23.2023

The Tibetan Book Of The Dead

In many cultures and visionary experiences, we find the concept of the intermediate realm. It is a spatial dimension in the other world. A limbo. A transitional state. However, it is not the same as the after-world because it is a waiting room. It is neither heaven nor hell. It is where people enter after death, or in visionary experiences. That place represents a concept in myth, antique drama, accounts of witnesses of near death experiences and religious writings as the Tibetian Book of the Dead. These writings often contain detailed descriptions of the intermediate realm, called Bardo.

The Bardo is a realm where the soul rests before it incarnates again. It is a state where people have lost their old reality. The life they had is no longer accessible.

The Tibetan Book Of The Dead contains descriptions of intermediary states between life and death. The term Bardo means a stepping stone in a stream.

In the Buddhistic world, the aspect of the development of the soul is central. Intimidating or even shocking visions are part of this development process.

J.T. Mathany writes in LITHUB, Adapting the Tibetan Book of the Dead: On Bardo or not Bardo, Ghosts, Prisons, and An Intermediary Void, “According to the Bardo Thödol (also known to the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead), the Bardo is an intermediary void where the departed soul must wander for forty-nine days, confronted by terrifying deities and illusions”. Further on, it is said: “In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, one’s soul must confront numerous illusions of life and suffering: past memories, cruel godlings, surreal landscapes that are part-Dalí, part-Bosch, part-nothing, and so on”.

Alteration Of The Original

The context of the development process in Buddhist thought is liberation. Liberation from a cycle of endless reincarnation. Liberation from suffering. The individual soul must do something to achieve liberation. Therefore, the title Book Of The Dead is also a translation mistake. The title was brought up by Walter Evan-Wentz, but the original “Bardo Thodol” means “Liberation through Hearing during the Intermediate State”.

Even more, the first translation into English was an alteration from the original. It is not accurate and propels a more spiritualist vision of the Bardo. The Book Of The Dead inspired the psychedelic movement in the 60ties. In our days, more accurate translations are available.

The central idea of the Bardo as an intermediate realm remains a constant in all versions, and it is the unifying concept with similiar spirtual ideas in different cultural context.

An Universal Concept

It is indeed a very universal concept. There is always the idea of an intermediate realm which is close to physical everyday world and another realm which is beyond our comprehension.

It is also common that this realm is a dark and dangerous zone often with a bleak threatening landscape. It is the forest dark. An unpleasant place as in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

The otherworld in the Divine Comedy is the closest thing to the Bardo. Dante Alighieri took the rich imaginary of the catholic PURGATORY into his imagination. Purgatory comes close to the concept of the Bardo, even with some fundamental differences. But it is alway about an intermediary void, something in-between, a state in limbo. Limbo itself is a term for a spatial dimension as a waiting room: In catholic theology it is also a border place between heaven and hell.

The Bardo-Otherworld In The Movie Nosso Lar

In the Brasilien Movie Astral City, A Spiritual Journey (Nosso Lar), the protagonist finds himself in a sinister valley with tortured souls. That place is called the Umbral, which bears some similarities with the Bardo and the Christian Purgatory.

A difference here is that there is no reincarnation but an ascend to a sci-fi-like futurist heaven, where the hero learns more about his mistakes.

In both cases, the intermediate realm is a waiting room. However, in Christianity, it is a waiting room before entering the train to heaven (or perhaps to hell).

Traditionally, it seems that only dead people enter this intermediate realm.

However, there are countless visionary experiences and near-death experiences which describe a similar realm. Why should it be only for the dead? Or could also a living person travel consciously into this realm? There are fundamental questions here on one side. On the other side authors make use of the concept of the Bardo and constantly develop this further. We are familiar with many variations of the Bardo concept.

Modern visions of the Underworld

In modern stories and movies, there are often otherworldly-realms reminiscent of the Bardo intermediate realm. Most prominently, David Lynch’s White Lodge and Black Lodge are Waiting rooms. Here people can indeed return to the world of the living. In Stranger Things, there is a dangerous intermediate realm, the Upside-Down. We have also stories, which are set in this intermediary void where the people are either not know if they are dead or they think they are dreamed by another person.

Here it is worth to mention the original purpose of The Tibetan Book Of The Dead: A lama would read instructions to the recently deceased person. This should help the soul wandering in the bardo-realm to get out of the eternal cycle of life and death and to reach Nirvana.

Thus originally, we have a building with clear structure. There is a temporal dimension and there is a spatial dimension. It means a normal living being wouldn’t end up in that Bardo-Waiting-Room and this otherworld waiting room is strictly separated. But what if these boundaries collapse? Could that happen? Or could they overlap? The whole idea of ghosts are challenging the Bardo concept in a way. Because, we, the living can see them at certain times.

So, what would happen if these otherworld journeys would not be bound to biological life or death? At least it would pose a theological problem. Because both the Tibetan Book Of Death implies a higher order as the catholic Purgatory. Wrongdoings or your positive development influences the outcome. That implies, we understand the otherworld like a game according to our values. But we can’t really know what are the rules in this game. And we don’t know where the waiting room exactly is or who created that waiting room. Is it the underworld, a parallel world, a heavenly sphere, is it inside, or is it outside? Maybe we are already in a waiting room when we are still alive.

Modern human experiences shift the storytelling about the limbo into a less predictable direction, into a less organised world. Again in Twin Peaks the border between ordinary world of the living and the more dreamlike world of Bardo is blurred. It follows more the famous Edgar Alan Poe Quote: ““All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”.

We are living in a transition zone

Reality, indeed, can become a transition zone, from the individual’s perspective. This can happen on different levels. We can go missing without necessarily being dead. We don’t have the final answers about the corporal realm or our status outside our corporal identity. Reality in certain moments is the Forest Dark itself. This is a thought which I followed again and again in the development of The Forest Dark Feature Film project.

There are unconventional concepts already in antique: In Orpheus the hero is a traveller between the world of the living and the underworld. It is a very interesting drama because it blurs the boundaries.

And we can take the waiting room concept much further. Both in fiction and in real life. Of course, we don’t find answers with pure associations. But experience tells us there are more possibilities than meets the eye. There are countless reports where people report a heightened reality, which bears some similarity with the Bardo otherworld or even purgatory. People which went missing tell often weird stories and their sense of time is confused. Alien-abductees tell story which sound very similar like being in a Bardo or in Purgatory. Dreams are resemblant sometimes to the Bardo State.

The Three Bardot

It becomes even more interesting if we look at the more detailed structure of the Bardo according to the Vajravanna (Tantric) Buddhism which developed the concept of the three Bardos. According to this the first Bardo is the Bardo of death where the deceased reflects upon its past life. The important one is the second Bardo: The individual encounters “frightening apparitions” without understanding that this apparitions are unreal. The danger is the consciousness becomes confused and me drawn into rebirth” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The third Bardo is the transition into a new body.

The interesting part lies with the frightening apparition: Who put them in place and why are they there? And why should they be unreal? What’s the purpose? Furthermore this sounds like phenomena which not only happen in the Bardo state. Frightening apparitions are not always necessarily something supernatural. It can be intimidating crossings in life, perhaps even people. That painful waiting room situation is also often a typical experience in dreams, where the dreamer feel stuck and is haunted by scary scenes.

Thus, it seems more like a somehow familiar experience. There is an otherworld not far from our everyday world. This world is often like a waiting room we already know. What we don’t know is what lies beyond. The Nirwana. The higher Otherworld. The Divine Realm.

Evil Tainted The Forest

Some places are not only haunted. They are evil. There are many reasons why a place is seen as evil. The most important thing is history. If a place, for example a house or a landscape, a forest, a mountain has a certain track record it can become known as an evil place. Mysterious missing cases, murders or strange accidents are reasons for superstitions and stories which gives a places a reputations as evil in the long run.

The idea of whole landscapes where there is some evil residue is a very common concept. Sometimes it is a very old evil force and sometimes the evil comes back at certain times like IT in Stephen King’s novel. The idea of these haunted areas raises some very important questions: What caused the evil? Or is it a force which was there forever? What do we mean by evil? What does the evil do? How does it affect the world? What’s happening? And can the evil ever stopped?

The Old Legend

The idea of a landscape haunted by some evil forces is present both in so-called-true stories as in literature and film. One type is the unholy ground as the Native American burial ground. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining is supposed to stand on such a burial ground, When the Hotel manager shows Jack around “in the Overlook grounds Ullman explains to the Torrance’s that The hotel is built on an old Indian burial ground and I believe they actually had to repel a few Indian attacks as they were building it (source)” . However, the location of the hotel is also associated with the tragic fate of the Donner group (a group of settlers which ended up in cannibalism). Therefore this is an example where there are different explanations for evil things happen later.

It is important to distinct between a man-made evil or an evil caused by injustice and barbarism and some evil which is just there. Often there are lost souls residing there and waiting for an opportunity for revenge. In such cases we have to assume there is some “higher order”. Some laws have been broken. Rules have been disobeyed. A battle has happened. Therefore the place or the landscape is cursed. In these cases the evil and the supernatural forces are still “close” to the human world. It is a sort of evil which humans can comprehend.

When it comes to forests things often seem much more mysterious, unexplainable and – if that’s possible – darker. Forests are normally good places with a positive energy. But there are a number of notorious places, which are feared. Everybody knows that campfire tales about hauntings and dangerous things happen in a forest. All around the world there are some places, which are at least bewitched. Either they hold a record number of mysterious missing cases, places of pagan or even satanic worshipping, a high number or crimes or encounters with ufos and supernatural beings. The U.S. has some very prominent forests which have a track record for something evil happening there.

In some cases there might be also some explanations like that Native American burial ground. The Freetown-Fall River State Forest is the most haunted forest in America. It is part of the legendary Bridgewater Triangle in Massachusetts where any kind of paranormal activity is reported. The Freetown-Fall River State Forest is the place of alleged satanic rituals and a number of crimes. Some explanations suggest the idea of a curse related to the Native American History in the region.

However, as more as we learn about these evil places the more we get to the impression it is some unfathomable source behind these events. Something was always there, long before the first settlers arrived, perhaps long before the dawn of mankind. Witnesses often speak of a form of demonic possession.

The Dark Entry Forest

The great storyteller on YT MR. BALLEN presents an extraordinary true story of an evil forest in the episode: A Forest So Evil, It’s Forbidden To Enter on his channel. This is about the incredible Dark Entry Forest in Connecticut near Dudleytown in New England. The episode is mainly about a couple which wanted to move into that forest and built a cabin. It was a doctor and his wife and ended with his wife becoming insane after he left for 46 hours. The rumours involved strange shadowy figures and a strong otherworldly quality of the forest itself. It is also a lost place itself where a settlement was given up after a sheer incredible amount of human tragedies: Once a village stood in that forest and any kind of drama happened here: Pandemics, murder, crime. People mysteriously disappeared in that forest. And here come the characteristic element: There is no good old legend which caused that evil. It is just there. That Dark Entry Forest is like the Freetown-Fall River Forest an archetypical example.

It is particularly interesting that these types of evil forest drives people into madness. Insanity is often a product of encounters with an unnamable evil in cosmic horror stories: In H.P. Lovecraft’s book death is not the worst which can happen.

What Is Evil?

What kind of evil are we talking here? A force driving people into madness or possession, a force that let’s people vanish or which is palpable as a brooding dark energy. What is it? This is not an avenging ghost or some residue of a crime hundreds of years ago. It is a certain quality of a place or a whole landscape which was perhaps there all the time.

It seems that there are forces of chaos out there. Evil and what is evil or not is always a definition by humans. There are endless philosophical discussions about it. But if even only a small percentage of the stories about evil places in forest are true we can there that these are places we should avoid.

It is a common thing that people attracted especially to these places. People obviously wants to take a look into this darkness. It is for the thrill, for the adventure ride of to get knowledge about themselves we don’t know. Or is it some sort of call? Can an impersonal force interact with the human mind?

The most disturbing conclusion which comes up if we read the stories about certain evil places is that evil act like a living agency. Perhaps, it is a living agency. This is a concept which was grasped by J.R.R. Tolkien. I am not talking about the devil here. It would things simplify too much. I am talking about something which manifests in many ways and can’t be seen in itself, but can shaping reality to a certain extend. It’s perhaps what David Lynch had in mind with Judy in the legendary eight episode of Twin Peaks, The Return.

If we come back to real places examples like Glastenbury Mountain and the mysterious Bennington Triangle gives us an idea what we talking about here: The area with the long trail has also a record for missing people and other mysterious phenomena. It was also Native American’s land. But it was not something which happened to them or that they have cursed something. They already warned about the place. Whatever is in these woulds it was already there before the first Native Americans were there. And they had a legend about a men eating stone. A place actually. Of course, there are no literal men eating stones. But it is a great metaphor. It is one of many ways to get closer, a way to understand if we think of a reality which is more as we can see.