Originating in Ireland, a Fetch is a doppelganger spirit; it takes on the appearance of someone who has just died or is just about to die. A Fetch will usually appear to the loved ones of the individual and will appear to be perfectly normal, if somewhat distant or distracted. Additionally, the Fetch will sometimes appear ghostly or shadowy, and may vanish down alleys or halls if followed.
A Fetch is not actually the ghost of the person it appears to be; indeed, often the person imitated is still alive. Instead it seems to be a phantom that simply takes the same form, though for what reason is unknown. It may be related to the German doppelganger, but a Fetch rarely is malevolent. They seem to only be portents, almost like projected versions of precognition.
In most cases, seeing a Fetch is a sign that the person it portrays is about to die. The Fetch may even bear the signs of how the person will die. The movie series Final Destination could be considered to be about an elaborate Fetch scenario, and much like in the films, the victim will usually die as predicted by the Fetch, if not in exactly the same manner.
While the appearance of a Fetch is usually quite dire, in some circumstances they are considered beneficial. A Fetch seen in the early morning as the sun is rising is said to be a sign of a long and happy life for the person it imitates. A Fetch may only be visible to the person it is imitating or may be visible to everyone except the person who it’s imitating.
The Fetch originally comes from Ireland, but migrated to England in the 18th century, where they became more commonly known simply as “Doubles”. Stories of Doubles and Fetches abounded in 18th and 19th century folklore, with authors often employing the double as a means of showing the main character the error of his ways.
Interestingly, there are older Norse legends of a similar type of ghost, known as the Fylgja. The Fylgia does not necessarily imitate an individual, but rather accompanies them and is a portent of death. However, female Fylgia are considered beneficial, and their appearance is said to bring good luck to a clan or family.
The Fetch is the central antagonist of The Stray Sod Country by Patrick McCabe. In McCabe’s version, the spirit inhabits individuals instead of mimicking them and causes them to harm others around them.