Haunting photograph

Someone who I just started talking to online sent me a picture of himself. Looking into the camera from behind him is a man who looks just like my brother. No matter how much I try I can’t see how it could be anyone else. My brother has been dead for eight and a half years.

So, this is either a ghostly presence on the photo (we’ll know if the sender writes back that there is no one else in the photo), a pretty old picture of the sender who is trying to make himself look younger, just a coincidence, or my brother is alive (I never did see his body and he was cremated).

I can’t sleep until I know. It’s haunting me almost. I pick apart every facial feature and can’t find anything not right. Even the expression is familiar.

I sure hope you find out! Have you asked your online pal about this?

I’m wondering about that second possibility. From what you know about your online pal, how likely is it that he did know your brother?

As for the other possibilities: I don’t believe in the first one, but that’s just me. It might be a coincidence after all. Photos capture only a fraction of a second, and perhaps if you’d met this person IRL, the overall impression wouldn’t have been much like your brother. Is the fourth possibility likely? Were there mysterious circumstances? Did anyone in your family see the body?

If it’s any consolation, it is possible for someone not your brother to look exactly like him. For example, years ago, my ex-husband and I were on a Greyhound bus at a bus stop. I looked out the window and there was a guy standing there who looked EXACTLY like my ex (except the clothes were different)! The guy got on the bus, and as he walked down the aisle past us, I could see him looking strangely at my ex, as if he, too, thought they looked the same. I always wondered about that, and whether we should have started a conversation with him (just for curiosity’s sake). Believe me, they really did look identical.

Can we see it? If you don’t have webspace, send the picture to me (my email is in my profile) and I’ll put it up. Of course, if the picture is too personal or you don’t want to show it for other reasons, I’ll respect that.

I’m still waiting for a reply from my friend. I know that the only logical explanation is a look alike or a very old photo.

I’ll post the photo if I can also find one of my brother so you can all compare.

Too bad you didn’t talk to him he could have been an unknown twin to your ex, or maybe the product of a sperm donation.

I havew a near-twin that lives in the same area I do. I went on vacation with my parents years ago when I was 16 and working for McDonalds. Someone came into the store I worked at and all the employees thought it was me until someone finally talked to the guy. Different voice and clothing style but I am told he was nearly identical in every other way. Freaky.

I was at a Church League basketball game while a young teenager, and a nine year old-ish girl came and sat next to me and started asking about when mom was going to pick them up, and other stuff like that. She thought I was her brother in person. It helped we had very similar warm-up suits (both bought at the same PX at Parris Island).

But it’ll be interesting to hear the reply, anyway.

I’ve had losts of experiences like this since my brother died. That too was about eight and a half years ago.

I think it’s just something to do with how remarkably alike people can look, and how much we subconsciously want the image to be our lost one. Consciously, we want to know rationally, one way or the other, but subconsciously we are surprised and fascinated by the resurfacing of a face which we had almost begun to forget, as every one of our photos slowly becomes a static image, quite isolated from the living reality it once shared with us. Living people look slightly different every time we see them. A “new” picture like this is striking because it feels so very alive, because it looks slightly different - but it’s a difference slight enough to still look like your brother. Just like he brushed his hair differently or something.

If there is the slightest chance your brother is alive, then I really really hope he is. But if, as I suspect, this is just a weird coincidence, then I hope it eventually becomes part of the healing process.

I had a look-alike in college. My good friends were even fooled by her much of the time. It didn’t help that we both wore denim jackets in spring/fall, both rode bicycles to classes, and both wore helmets. We had different backpacks and maybe different colored bikes and helmets, IIRC. My sister is a few years younger than I am, and people claim we look like twins. (We deny this; we think we look like siblings, certainly, but not twins.) She ended up attending the same university. So of course, now we really had a problem - her friends confusing the look-alike or me for her, and my friends confusing her or the look-alike with me.

Oddly, neither she nor I ever recognized our duplicate. My guess is that since we deny so vehemently that we look alike, we probably had seen the duplicate woman and just never noticed a resemblance.