Time travel as we see it in movies – using DeLoreans, phone booths, hot tubs and the like – obviously doesn’t exist. But throughout history, people have insisted that they somehow managed to do it. Though most of their wild tales were eventually disproven, the stories are still incredible. Here are five of the most memorable.
The regular-guy time traveller in Safety Not Guaranteed. Image: FilmDistrict via YouTube
Image: ToucanWings (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
1) Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain
In 1911, Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, who met just prior to working together at the all-female St Hugh’s College in Oxford and shared an interest in spiritualism, released a book that caused a sensation. An Adventure detailed an experience they’d shared while visiting the Palace of Versailles in 1901. While wandering the extensive gardens around the Petit Trianon, they suddenly began encountering people dressed in 18th-century outfits, including a women who strongly resembled Marie Antoinette. Had they encountered ghosts – or slipped back in time somehow? Though they went with the latter for their book, which purported to “prove” their experience by researching and corroborating what they’d seen with historical records, sceptics tended to believe a third option: That the authors of the book (written under pseudonyms; their true identities were revealed after their deaths) had made the whole thing up. Still, their reputations as respected academics did make other people wonder if maybe they had witnessed something way out of the ordinary.
Image: Sandstein – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16332671
2) John Titor
This story has its origins with oddball late-night radio host Art Bell – which should be an immediate red flag – and expanded to include internet message boards circa the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was never clear if the man who made contact with Bell (via fax) was the same as the man who later took to the internet and built a cult following. Titor first popped up in 1998, claiming he was from a parallel timeline where time travel was invented in 2034 by General Electric. In 2001, he explained his mission was to collect a vintage computer from 1975, needing it to debug computers back in 2036. His “predictions” about the future mostly failed to come true (like the second American Civil War, circa 2013), and sleuthing around the Titor phenomenon turned up at least one person (not a time traveller) who seemed the likely source of the hoax. But no amount of debunking can take away the weird and amazing details of this story; it’s one of the earliest instances of internet folklore, and still one of its most fascinating.
3) Andrew J. Basiago
The current US president can certainly be filed under “worst-case scenario” for many, many reasons – but at least one of Trump’s would-be rivals had his own decidedly unusual beliefs. Andrew J. Basiago’s bonkers tale of time travel (as well as teleportation to Mars) caused a stir when it became widely known before the 2016 US election. Here’s the gist from his own website, which touts his “Truth Movement” platform:
For more than 10 years, he has shared with the American people the true facts of our great nation’s accomplishments in time travel and Mars visitation. He has done so as one who served bravely in the two secret US defence projects in which time travel on Earth and voyages to Mars were first undertaken. As a result of his courageous advocacy as a crusading lawyer, Andy is credited with ending the time travel and Mars cover-ups by the US government on behalf of the American people.
And there’s good news for fans of unabashedly public declarations of “facts” that sound an awful lot like sci-fi. True to his promise in 2016, in which he predicted he’d become either President or Vice President before 2028, Basiago is running for POTUS again in 2020.
4) Andrew Carlssin
It’s true that “Andrew Carlssin” may not have actually ever existed, but he dwelled in the imaginations of real people for a brief moment after an article from the (reliably amusing) Weekly World News accidentally went mainstream. Snopes.com has a reprint of the original article, which read in part:
Federal investigators have arrested an enigmatic Wall Street wiz on insider-trading charges – and incredibly, he claims to be a time-traveller from the year 2256!
Sources at the Security and Exchange Commission confirm that 44-year-old Andrew Carlssin offered the bizarre explanation for his uncanny success in the stock market after being led off in handcuffs on January 28.
“We don’t believe this guy’s story – he’s either a lunatic or a pathological liar,” says an SEC insider. “But the fact is, with an initial investment of only $800, in two weeks’ time he had a portfolio valued at over $350 million. Every trade he made capitalised on unexpected business developments, which simply can’t be pure luck.”
Though actual SEC representatives were quick to point out the entire story was, ah, complete and total balderdash, it caught on because it made a certain kind of freaky sense. See, John Titor had a high-concept reason for travelling back in time to get that vintage computer… but Carlssin? He was just capitalising on what he knew about the future to play the stock market and get filthy rich, just like Back to the Future‘s Biff Tannen and his sports scores. Snopes notes that the Weekly World News published a follow-up a month later, reporting that Carlssin had jumped bail, never to be seen again, either in the paper or in reality.
Late last year, several British tabloids gleefully reported on “Noah”, a man who claimed to be from the future, having arrived in our time using technology that was invented in 2003 but not declassified until 2028. A YouTube video on the Paranoid Elite channel – where you can view a variety of other “time-traveller” videos (though Noah’s is the most popular by far) as well as exposés on mermaids, aliens, and other mysteries of the unknown – was Noah’s chosen platform. His revelations were mostly pretty boring (the return of a better Google Glass! Self-driving cars are totally a thing! Trump will be re-elected!), but there’s something decidedly unsettling about his blurred-out performance.