Tech UPTechnologyThe woman who had a ghostly doppelganger

The woman who had a ghostly doppelganger

Émilie Sagée was born in 1813 in the French city of Dijon. Or so it is believed, because we know practically nothing about her. This woman has entered the annals of the mysterious because in 1845, when she was a French teacher at a boarding school in Latvia, she had her students frightened. The reason? Because of its ability to be in two places at the same time, bilocation . We know its history thanks to three authors interested in the paranormal: the American congressman Robert Dale Owen , the French astronomer Camille Flammarion and the Russian parapsychologist Alexandre Aksakof .

It all took place at the Neuwelcke Boarding School, located a few kilometers from the town of Wolmar (today Valmiera) in Livonia, in present-day Latvia. In 1845 this boarding school for daughters of the Livonian aristocracy was run by a certain Mr. Buch and accommodated 42 young women, including Julie (it is not known whether she was 13 or 18 years old) second daughter of the Baron of Güldenstubbe.

Being a high-class boarding school, the students were taught French , and for that Buch had hired a 32-year-old French teacher, Émilie Sagée. She was a blonde woman, a little taller than average, a little shy and nervous but with a sweet, kind and cheerful character. A few weeks after her arrival, some peculiar rumors began to be heard: two students had seen her at the same time in two different places. That was just the beginning.

One day, when Émilie Sagée was teaching 13 students, including Julie, the young women suddenly saw two identical teachers teaching at the blackboard . A little later another of the students, Antoinette de Wrangel, also saw the teacher unfold while sewing her dress. This ghostly duplication was continuous over the months: sometimes an identical copy of the teacher appeared but sometimes not.

The high point happened when the 42 students were gathered in the classroom. Through the windows they could see Émilie Sagée walking through the garden picking flowers. There was no one with them and suddenly they saw Émilie sitting in the teacher’s chair. Meanwhile, the real Émilie, still in the garden, began to move slowly, heavily, as if she were falling asleep. At that moment, two students approached the double and touched it: it was as if it were made of muslin. Then the ghostly double faded and Émilie moved back to a more normal rhythm.

These phenomena were happening for eighteen months, between 1845 and 1846. Parents began to worry about these strange events that their daughters told them: after 18 months there were only 12 students left in the boarding school. Faced with such a debacle , Buch decided to terminate Émilie’s contract . When the teacher, who was talking to Julie, found out, she sighed sadly: “Oh! It’s already the 19th time. It’s too hard to bear!” She told Julie that since the beginning of her career at the age of 16, she had already been fired from 18 other schools for the same reasons.

After leaving Neuwelcke, Émilie Sagée went to live with a sister-in-law who had several small children to care for. They quickly discovered their ‘peculiarities’ and said they often saw their “two aunts Émilie” . Later, she went to Russia and it was then that Julie de Güldenstubbe lost all contact with her. Emilie was never heard from again.

The origin of the story

This incredible story was first published in 1860 in Robert Dale Owen’s book Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World . In it he states that his source of information had been Julie de Güldenstubbe herself, who authorized him to mention her openly. More than twenty years later, in 1883, an occult magazine, Light , published a text that it presented as the complete account of Émilie’s story, and from which Robert Dale Owen extracted an abridged version for his book. However, we are dealing with exactly the same text, which appears unsigned. Psychical researcher Alexandre Aksakof said it was the full transcript of the testimony of then-Baroness Julie de Güldenstubbe.

Another who was interested in the subject was the famous popularizer of astronomy Camille Flammarion, who for years was investigating spiritualistic phenomena. Flammarion claimed to have met the baroness and her brother, Johann Ludwig von Güldenstubbe, in 1862 and that they were very active in the Parisian spiritualist circle . He described them as “very sincere, perhaps a little mystical, but unquestionably loyal”, noting that the baron had written a curious book on spiritualism: The Reality of Spirits and the Marvelous Phenomenon of Automatic Writing. In it he transcribed the more than 2,000 messages from spirits he had received in his sessions.

For Flammarion it was obvious – as for anyone – that this whole story is based exclusively on the testimony of Julie de Güldenstubbe, whose noble title did not prevent her from having an exaggerated imagination or from living in a family that was immersed in the spiritist world. . The 1859 description of the baroness in the Daily News is very revealing: “very intelligent and kind, but a very strange looking, unearthly, elvish little creature.”

Flammarion decided to search for more information that would confirm Émilie’s existence. If he was 32 years old in 1845, he must have been born around 1813, but he found no Sagée family in the civil registry of Dijon . What he did find was this birth certificate: “On January 3 at six in the morning, Marguerite Saget, thirty years old, a natural worker from Orbigny, department of Haute-Marne and resident of Dijon, daughter of legal age, gave gave birth to a girl whom she gave as her first name Octavie”. The absence of mention of the father reveals that she was a natural child. Flammarion surmised that it was Émilie Sagée, and that the name might have been unconsciously altered; first, from memory by the German Julie de Güldenstubbe and later by the English transcription by Robert Dale Owen.

This birth certificate is the only indication, albeit indirect, of the existence of this teacher . Something really very poor. More suspicious that everything may be an invention of Julie herself is that no other testimony similar to Julie’s has ever been found in any other of the 18 schools where the phenomena supposedly occurred; Neither has any testimony been found from Julie’s 41 companions, and it has not even been possible to verify the real existence of the alleged boarding school. Isn’t it all a product of the Baroness’s ‘elven’ imagination?


Aksakof , A. (1906) Animism and Spiritism: an attempt at a critical examination of mediumistic phenomena, especially in relation to the hypotheses of “nervous force”, “hallucination” and the “unconscious” , Paul Leymarie

Flammarion , C. (1921) Death and its Mystery: Around Death , vol. 2, Ernest Flammarion

Owen, R. D. (1860) Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World, J.B. Lippincott & Company


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