Time travel claims and urban legends

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There have been multiple accounts of people who allegedly travelled through time reported by the press or circulated on the internet. These reports have turned out either to be hoaxes or to be based on incorrect assumptions, incomplete information, or interpretation of fiction as fact, many being now recognized as urban legends.


Alleged time travelers

Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain

The Petit Trianon in 2005, where the incident purportedly took place. PTV024.jpg
The Petit Trianon in 2005, where the incident purportedly took place.

In 1911, Charlotte Anne Moberly (1846–1937) and Eleanor Jourdain (1863–1924) published a book entitled An Adventure, under the names of "Elizabeth Morison" and "Frances Lamont". They described a visit to the Petit Trianon , a small château in the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, where they claimed they saw ghosts including Marie Antoinette and others. Their story caused a sensation, and was subject to much ridicule.

"Chaplin's Time Traveller"

A still from The Circus appearing to show a passer-by talking on a cellphone 1928-cell-phone-cropped.jpg
A still from The Circus appearing to show a passer-by talking on a cellphone

In October 2010, Northern Irish filmmaker George Clarke uploaded a video clip entitled "Chaplin's Time Traveller" to YouTube. The clip analyzes bonus material in a DVD of the Charlie Chaplin film The Circus . Included in the DVD is footage from the film's Los Angeles premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1928. At one point, a woman is seen walking by, holding up an object to her ear. Clarke said that, on closer examination, she was talking into a thin, black device that had appeared to be a "phone". [1] Clarke concluded that the woman was possibly a time traveller. [2] The clip received millions of hits and was the subject of televised news stories. [3]

Nicholas Jackson, associate editor for The Atlantic , says the most likely answer is that she was using a portable hearing aid, a technology that was just being developed at the time. [2] Philip Skroska, an archivist at the Bernard Becker Medical Library of Washington University School of Medicine, thought that the woman might have been holding a rectangular ear trumpet. [4] New York Daily News writer Michael Sheridan said the device was probably an early hearing aid, perhaps an Acousticon manufactured by Miller Reese Hutchison. [2]

Present-day hipster at 1941 bridge opening

"The Time Travelling Hipster" Time travelling cool dude.png
"The Time Travelling Hipster"

A photograph from 1941 of genuine authenticity of the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in Gold Bridge, British Columbia is sometimes alleged on the internet to show a time traveler. [5] It was claimed that his clothing and sunglasses were of the present day and not of the styles worn in the '40s, while his camera was anachronistically small.

Further research suggested that the present-day appearance of the man would not have necessarily been out of place in 1941. The style of sunglasses he is wearing first appeared in the 1920s. On first glance the man is taken by many to be wearing a printed T-shirt, but on closer inspection it seems to be a sweater with a sewn-on emblem, the kind of clothing often worn by sports teams of the period. The shirt resembles one that was used by the Montreal Maroons, an ice hockey team from that era. The remainder of his clothing would appear to have been available at the time, though his clothes are far more casual than those worn by the other individuals in the photograph. [6] His camera is smaller than most of that era, but cameras of that size did exist; while it is unclear what make his camera was, Kodak had manufactured portable cameras of equivalent size since 1938. [7] [8]

The "Time Traveling Hipster" became a case study in viral Internet phenomena which was presented at the Museums and the Web 2011 conference in Philadelphia. [9]

Mobile device in 1943

A photograph from 1943 of genuine authenticity, showing a scene of holidaymakers on Towan Beach in Newquay, Cornwall, was uploaded to Twitter in November 2018 by multimedia artist Stuart Humphryes, [10] which was alleged by some viewers to show a time traveller operating an anachronistic mobile device, such as a phone. This tweet was picked up by news outlets including Fox News in the US, [11] and various tabloid newspapers in the UK, such as The Daily Mirror . [12] Fuelled by media websites such as LADbible [13] it gained global coverage via news outlets in Russia, Iran,[ citation needed ] Taiwan, [14] Hungary, [15] China [16] and Vietnam. [17] amongst others. Humphryes, the original uploader, was quoted in these stories as dismissing the time travel theories, stating that the man in question was probably just rolling a cigarette.

Rudolph Fentz

The story of Rudolph Fentz is an urban legend from the early 1950s and has been repeated since as a reproduction of facts and presented as evidence for the existence of time travel. The essence of the legend is that in New York City in 1951 a man wearing 19th-century clothes was hit by a car. The subsequent investigation revealed that the man had disappeared without a trace in 1876. The items in his possession suggested that the man had traveled through time from 1876 to 1951 directly.

The folklorist Chris Aubeck investigated the story and found it originated in a science fiction book, A Voice from the Gallery (1953) by Ralph M. Holland, which had copied the tale from "I'm Scared" (1951), a short story by Jack Finney (1911–1995). [18]

John Titor

Between 2000 and 2001, an online bulletin board user self-identified as John Titor became popular as he claimed to be a time traveler from 2036 on a military mission. Holding the many-worlds interpretation as correct and consequently every time travel paradox as impossible, he stated that many events which occurred up to his time would indeed occur in this timeline. These included a devastating civil war in the US in 2008 followed by a short nuclear World War III in 2015, [19] which will "kill three billion people". [20]

In the years following his last posts and disappearance in 2001, the non-fulfilment of his specific predictions made his popularity decrease. Criticism has pointed out flaws in Titor's stories and investigations suggested his character may be a hoax and a creation of two siblings from Florida. [21]

The story has been retold on numerous web sites, in a book, in the Japanese visual novel/anime Steins;Gate , and in a play. He may also have been discussed occasionally on the radio show Coast to Coast AM . [22] In this respect, the Titor story may be unique in terms of broad appeal from an originally limited medium, an Internet discussion board.

Bob White/Tim Jones

Similar to John Titor, Bob White or Tim Jones sent an unknown number of spam emails onto the internet between 2001 and 2003. The subject of the emails was always the same: that an individual was seeking to find someone who could supply a "Dimensional Warp Generator." In some instances, he claimed to be a time traveler stuck in 2003, [23] and in others he claimed to be seeking the parts only from other time travelers. [24] Several recipients began to respond in kind, claiming to have equipment such as the requested dimensional warp generator. One recipient, Dave Hill, set up an online shop from which the time traveler purchased the warp generator (formerly a Hard Drive Motor), while another Dave charged thousands of dollars for time-travel "courses" before he would sell the requested hardware.

The name "Bob White" was taken from an alias that the second Dave used when responding (a reference to the "Bobwhites" of Trixie Belden-fame). [25] Soon afterward, the time traveler was identified as professional spammer Robert J. Todino (known as "Robby"). Todino's attempts to travel in time were a serious belief, and while he believed he was "perfectly mentally stable," his father was concerned that those replying to his emails had been preying on Todino's psychological problems.

In his book Spam Kings, journalist Brian S. McWilliams, who had originally uncovered Todino's identity for Wired magazine, revealed that Todino had been previously diagnosed with dissociative disorder and schizophrenia, explaining the psychological problems of which his father had spoken. [25] [26] Todino's time traveller was referenced in the song "Rewind" by jazz trio Groovelily on their 2003 album Are we there yet? The song used phrases taken from Todino's emails within its lyrics. [26]

Andrew Carlssin

Andrew Carlssin was supposedly arrested in March 2003 for SEC violations for making 126 high-risk stock trades and being successful on every one. As reported, Carlssin started with an initial investment of $800 and ended with over $350,000,000 which drew the attention of the SEC. Later reports suggest that after his arrest, he submitted a four-hour confession wherein he claimed to be a time traveler from 200 years in the future. He offered to tell investigators such things as the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and the cure for AIDS in return for a lesser punishment and to be allowed to return to his time craft, [27] although he refused to tell investigators the location or workings of his craft. A mysterious man posted his bail and Carlssin was scheduled for court hearing but was never seen again; records show that he never existed. [28]

The Carlssin story likely originated as a fictional piece in Weekly World News , a satirical newspaper, and was later repeated by Yahoo! News, where its fictitious nature became less apparent. It was soon reported by other newspapers and magazines as fact. This in turn drove word-of-mouth spread through email inboxes and internet forums, leading to far more detailed descriptions of events. [29]

Håkan Nordkvist

A video uploaded in 2006 shows a Swedish man named Håkan Nordkvist claiming that he had been accidentally transported to 2046 when attempting to fix the sink in his kitchen. There in the future, he immediately met someone who revealed and proved to be himself about 70 years old, and with whom he "had a great time". He filmed a short footage of the two smiling and hugging each other and showing the tattoo they had on their right arms. [30]

The story was a marketing campaign promoting the pension plans of the insurance company AMF. [31]

iPhone in an 1860 painting

Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller's Die Erwartete (The Expected; 1860) Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller - Die Erwartete.jpg
Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller's Die Erwartete (The Expected; 1860)

Some online viewers claimed that an 1860 painting by Austrian artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller titled The Expected depicted a woman holding and staring down at a mobile phone while strolling along a path in the countryside. However, art experts debunked these claims and stated that the alleged mobile phone the woman was holding in the painting was actually a prayer book. [32]

Alleged time-travel technology

Die Glocke

Die Glocke ("The Bell") is a purported Nazi time machine that was supposedly part of a flying saucer.

The Chronovisor

Italian Benedictine monk Pellegrino Ernetti  [ fr ] claimed to have used a time viewer which could film the past without sound called a chronovisor to obtain a photograph of the Crucifixion of Jesus and view scenes from ancient Rome, including a performance of the lost play Thyestes. [33] [34] According to author Paul J. Nahin, a short story by Horace Gold called "The Biography Project" published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine may have influenced Ernetti's claim. [35] According to Guardian writer Mark Pilkington, "Ernetti's glory was shortlived. Another magazine revealed that Christ was a reversed image of a postcard from the Santuario dell'Amore Misericordioso, in the town of Collevalenza. More recently, doubt has been cast on his "transcription" of Thyestes, and an apparent deathbed confession has also surfaced." [33]

Iranian time machine

In April 2013, the Iranian news agency Fars carried a story claiming a 27-year-old Iranian scientist had invented a time machine that allowed people to see into the future. A few days later, the story was removed, and replaced with a story quoting an Iranian government official that no such device had been registered. [36] [37] [38]

Philadelphia Experiment and Montauk Project

USS Eldridge (DE-173), c. 1944 USS Eldridge (DE-173) underway, circa in 1944.jpg
USS Eldridge (DE-173), c. 1944

The Philadelphia Experiment is the name given to a naval military experiment which was supposedly carried out at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, sometime around October 28, 1943. It is alleged that the U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Eldridge was to be rendered invisible (or "cloaked") to enemy devices. The experiment is also referred to as Project Rainbow. Some reports allege that the warship travelled back in time for about 10 seconds; however, popular culture has represented far bigger time jumps.[ citation needed ]

The story is widely regarded as a hoax. [39] [40] [41] The U.S. Navy maintains that no such experiment occurred, and details of the story contradict well-established facts about the Eldridge as well as the known laws of physics. [42]

The Montauk Project was alleged to be a series of secret United States government projects conducted at Camp Hero or Montauk Air Force Station on Montauk, Long Island, for the purpose of exotic research, including time travel. Jacques Vallée [43] describes allegations of the Montauk Project as an outgrowth of stories about the Philadelphia Experiment.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spamming</span> Unsolicited electronic messages, especially advertisements

Spamming is the use of messaging systems to send multiple unsolicited messages (spam) to large numbers of recipients for the purpose of commercial advertising, for the purpose of non-commercial proselytizing, for any prohibited purpose, or simply repeatedly sending the same message to the same user. While the most widely recognized form of spam is email spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social spam, spam mobile apps, television advertising and file sharing spam. It is named after Spam, a luncheon meat, by way of a Monty Python sketch about a restaurant that has Spam in almost every dish in which Vikings annoyingly sing "Spam" repeatedly.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hoax</span> Widespread deliberate fabrication presented as truth

A hoax is a widely publicized falsehood so fashioned as to invite reflexive, unthinking acceptance by the greatest number of people of the most varied social identities and of the highest possible social pretensions to gull its victims into putting up the highest possible social currency in support of the hoax.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philadelphia Experiment</span> Urban legend about a supposed US Naval experiment in 1943

The Philadelphia Experiment was an alleged event claimed to have been witnessed by an ex-merchant mariner named Carl M. Allen at the United States Navy's Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, sometime around October 28, 1943. Allen described an experiment where the U.S. Navy attempted to make a destroyer escort class ship, the USS Eldridge, disappear and the bizarre results that followed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Titor</span> Alleged time-traveler; fictional human described on bulletin boards

John Titor and TimeTravel_0 are pseudonyms used on internet forums between 2000 and 2001 by an individual claiming to be an American military time traveler from the year 2036. Their posts discussed various aspects of time travel, and described future calamitous events, including a global nuclear war. The uniform inaccuracy of their predictions and inconsistencies in their explanations has led many to view the story with skepticism. A 2009 investigation suggested that the entire affair was a hoax created by Larry Haber, a Florida entertainment lawyer, and his brother John Rick Haber, a computer scientist. These claims have never been verified.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maury Island hoax</span> Alleged UFO incident in the United States

The Maury Island hoax or the "Maury Island incident" refers to claims made by Fred Crisman and Harold Dahl of falling debris and threats by men in black following sightings of unidentified flying objects in the sky over Maury Island in Puget Sound. The pair would later claim the events had occurred on June 21, 1947.

The Montauk Project is a conspiracy theory that alleges there were a series of United States government projects conducted at Camp Hero or Montauk Air Force Station in Montauk, New York, for the purpose of developing psychological warfare techniques and exotic research including time travel. The story of the Montauk Project originated in the Montauk Project series of books by Preston Nichols which intermixes those stories with stories about the Bulgarian Experiment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scunthorpe problem</span> Problem caused by profanity filters on the Internet

The Scunthorpe problem is the unintentional blocking of online content by a spam filter or search engine because their text contains a string of letters that appear to have an obscene or otherwise unacceptable meaning. Names, abbreviations, and technical terms are most often cited as being affected by the issue.

<i>The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time</i> 1992 fictional book by Preston B. Nichols and Peter Moon

The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time by Preston B. Nichols and Peter Moon is the first book in a series detailing fictional time travel experiments at the Montauk Air Force Base at the eastern tip of Long Island as part of the Montauk Project.

The strip search phone call scam was a series of incidents, mostly occurring in rural areas of the United States, that extended over a period of at least ten years, starting in 1994. The incidents involved a man calling a restaurant or grocery store, claiming to be a police officer, and then convincing managers to conduct strip searches of employees, and to perform other bizarre and humiliating acts on behalf of "the police". The calls were most often made to fast-food restaurants in small towns.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Virus hoax</span> Message warning of a non-existent computer virus

A computer virus hoax is a message warning the recipients of a non-existent computer virus threat. The message is usually a chain e-mail that tells the recipients to forward it to everyone they know, but it can also be in the form of a pop-up window.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Davis Wolfgang Hawke</span> American neo-Nazi and spammer

Davis Wolfgang Hawke, known in later life as Jesse James, was an American fraudster and spammer. In 2004, Hawke was sued by AOL under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 for spamming thousands of email addresses with millions of junk mail as part of his internet advertisement business for non-existent goods and services. Hawke had already gained media attention in 1999 as a college student for starting two neo-Nazi groups that publicly had the goal to "make the final solution a reality", before it was revealed that he had been hiding the fact that he was actually Jewish, leading to him being dubbed "Spam Nazi" by the press following the AOL lawsuit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Montauk Monster</span> Carcass

The "Montauk Monster" was an animal carcass that washed ashore on a beach near the business district of Montauk, New York, in July 2008. The identity of the creature and the veracity of stories surrounding it have been the subject of controversy and speculation. The corpse was eventually decided by experts to be that of a water-degraded raccoon.

Rudolph Fentz is the focal character of "I'm Scared", a 1951 science fiction short story by Jack Finney, which was later reported as an urban legend as if the events had truly happened. The story tells of a 19th-century-looking young man possessing items of that period who is found confused in the middle of Times Square in the 1950s before being hit by a motorist and killed, suggesting that he had, perhaps involuntarily, time travelled about a century forwards.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut. The perpetrator, Adam Lanza, fatally shot his mother before murdering 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and later committed suicide. A number of fringe figures have promoted conspiracy theories that doubt or dispute what occurred at Sandy Hook. Various conspiracy theorists have claimed, for example, that the massacre was actually orchestrated by the U.S. government as part of an elaborate plot to promote stricter gun control laws.

National Report is a fake news website that posts fictional articles related to world events. It is described by Snopes.com as a fake news site, by FactCheck.org as a satirical site, and by The Washington Post as part of a fake-news industry, making profits from "duping gullible Internet users with deceptively newsy headlines." The National Report describes itself as a "news and political satire web publication" and provides a disclaimer that "all news articles contained within National Report are fiction".

<i>Omega World Travel, Inc. v. Mummagraphics, Inc.</i>

Omega World Travel, Inc. v. Mummagraphics, Inc., 469 F.3d 348, is a case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in which Mummagraphics, Inc. is sued by Omega World Travel, Inc. (Omega) and Cruise.com after Mummagraphic alleged that they received 11 commercial e-mail messages in violation of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act of 2003 as well as Oklahoma state law. In the initial filing, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia had awarded summary judgment to Omega on all of Mummagraphics' claims finding that the commercial emails from Omega did not violate the CAN-SPAM Act, and that the CAN-SPAM Act preempted Oklahoma state law. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

The People's Voice is an American fake news website based in Los Angeles. The site was founded as Your News Wire in 2014 by Sean Adl-Tabatabai and his husband, Sinclair Treadway. In November 2018, it rebranded itself as NewsPunch. Your News Wire was revived as a separate website in November 2020, and has continued publishing hoaxes similar to those in NewsPunch. In 2023, NewsPunch adopted its current name, The People's Voice.


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