strange cases

The Man Who Saw an Impostor in the Mirror

Photo: CBS

Mr. B, a 78-year-old French man, was mostly getting along just fine despite his advancing age, except for the small, weird problem of the man who’d apparently moved into his home. It was the oddest thing: The man looked just like him. His case is the subject of a recent paper in the journal Neurocase, recently covered by the Discover blog Neuroskeptic.  

The problem: Mr. B. told his neurologists at a hospital in Tours about what he’d been seeing over the past ten days:

… Mr. B. reported the presence of a stranger in his home who was located behind the mirror of the bathroom and strikingly shared his physical appearance. The stranger was a double of himself: he was the same size, had the same hair, body shape, and features, wore the same clothes, and acted the same way.

Mr. B. talked with this stranger and was puzzled because he knew much about him. Mr. B. even brought food to the mirror with cutlery for two persons. Eventually, the stranger became aggressive, and Mr. B.’s daughter decided to drive her father to the hospital.

The diagnosis: His doctors determined that Mr. B. was showing signs of Capgras syndrome, though with a twist. As Neuroskeptic writes, Capgras syndrome is “the belief that someone, often a spouse or relative, has been replaced by an exact double who is not really who they appear to be.” In this case, however, “Mr. B believed that his own image was actually a double himself.”

Capgras syndrome is rare, and Capgras-syndrome-via-mirror is rarer still, but there are at least two cases in the medical literature detailing similar-sounding situations. Back in 1989, for instance, a team of doctors wrote about a patient “who had long conversations with herself in the mirror.” Three months later, after a prescription of an antidepressant and an antipsychotic, Mr. B. had recovered. His mirror-twin had finally moved out.  

The Man Who Saw an Impostor in the Mirror