El Pensionado de Neuwelke is based on the story of one of the most well-known and thoroughly documented cases of doppelgaenger in history. Since 19th century American socialist and spiritualist Robert Dale Owen offered such little evidence in his book Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World (1859), Vales proposes an homage to 19th century literature (ghost stories, sentimental novels, epistolary novels, gothic novels, Romantic dramas, Dickensian situations, cliff-hangers, etc.) and the biggest storytellers of that era, from Lewis to Dickens to Trollope to Collins.
El Pensionado de Neuwelke tells the story of Emilie Sageée, a young boarding school teacher from Dijon, France, who is plagued by a terrible affliction and exiled. After travelling around half of Europe while fleeing from a fanatic priest who is convinced that Emilie is the incarnation of Lucifer, the teacher arrives at the Neuwelke School for Girls near Wolmar, in the freezing and isolated lands of Livonia. There Emilie finds a real home: the owner of the school, the teachers, the students, the help, and even the grumpy, old, Scottish groundskeeper, form a welcoming environment in which friendship, bonding, piety, and honour combine to fight against envy, jealousy, ambition, and fanaticism. When Emilie starts to suffer her terrifying episodes, the world of the boarding school begins to fall apart, obliging all of its inhabitants to show, for better or worse, their true characters. Some try to hide or explain what is happening to Miss Sagée, others try to take advantage of the unrest that their coexistence with spectres and ghosts implicates.