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Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. Ed. J. Gordon Melton. Vol. 1. 5th ed. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2001. p556-557.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale
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Page 556


According to Irish and British belief, the spirit double or apparition of a living person, also known as the wraith. It resembles in every particular the individual whose death it is supposed to foretell, but is generally of a shadowy or ghostly appearance. The fetch may be seen by more than one person at the same time and, like the wraith of England and Scotland, may even appear to the person it represents. There is a belief, too, that if the fetch is seen in the morning, it indicates long life for the person, but if seen at night, a speedy death may be expected.

The fetch enters largely into the folktales of Ireland, and it is hardly surprising that so many tales have been woven around it, for there is something gruesome in the idea of being haunted by one's own double (an idea that has frequently been explored by more sophisticated writers than the inventors of folk tales).

Patrick Kennedy, in his Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celt (1866), referring to the Irish fetch, quotes the tale of The Doctor's Fetch, based on authentic sources:

"In one of our Irish cities, and in a room where the mild moonbeams were resting on the carpet and on a table near the window, Mrs. B., wife of a doctor in good practice and general esteem, looking towards the window from her pillow, was startled by the appearance of her husband standing near the table just mentioned, and seeming to look with attention on the book which was lying open on it. Now, the living and breathing man was by her side apparently asleep, and, greatly as she was surprised and affected, she had sufficient command of herself to remain without moving, lest she should expose him to the terror which she herself at the moment experienced. After gazing on the apparition for a few seconds, she bent her eyes upon her husband to ascertain if his looks were turned in the direction of the window, but his eyes were closed. She turned round again, although now dreading the sight of what she believed to be her husband's fetch, but it was no longer there. She remained sleepless throughout the remainder of the night, but still bravely refrained from disturbing her partner.

"Next morning, Mr. B., seeing signs of disquiet on his wife's countenance while at breakfast, made some affectionate inquiries, but she concealed her trouble, and at his ordinary hour he sallied forth to make his calls. Meeting Dr. C., in the street, and falling into conversation with him, he asked his opinion on the subject of fetches. 'I think,' was the answer, 'and so I am sure do you, that they are mere illusions produced by a disturbed stomach acting upon the excited brain of a highly imaginative or superstitious person.' 'Then,' said Mr. B., 'I am highly imaginative or superstitious, for I distinctly saw my own outward man last night standing at the table in the bedroom, and clearly distinguishable in the moonlight. I am afraid my wife saw it too, but I have been afraid to speak to her on the subject.'

"About the same hour on the ensuing night the poor lady was again roused, but by a more painful circumstance. She felt Page 557  |  Top of Article her husband moving convulsively, and immediately afterwards he cried to her in low, interrupted accents, 'Ellen, my dear, I am suffocating; send for Dr. C.' She sprang up, huddled on some clothes, and ran to his house. He came with all speed, but his efforts for his friend were useless. He had burst a large blood-vessel in the lungs, and was soon beyond human aid. In her lamentations the bereaved wife frequently cried out, 'Oh! the fetch, the fetch!' and at a later period told the doctor of the appearance the night before her husband's death."


Kennedy, Patrick. Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celt. 1866. Reprint, Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1968.

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition) 
"Fetch." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, edited by J. Gordon Melton, 5th ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2001, pp. 556-557. GVRL.gr710countries, Accessed 21 Mar. 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3403801706

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  • Double,
    • fetch,
      • 1: 556-557
  • Fetch,
    • 1: 556-557
  • Wraith,
    • Fetch,
      • 1: 556-557