Do you believe in time travel? I’m a skeptic myself — but if these people’s stories about time travel are to be believed, then I am apparently wrong. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll have to eat my words. In all honesty, that might not be so bad — because the tradeoff for being wrong in that case would be that time travel is real. That would be pretty rad if it were true.
Technically speaking time travel does exist right now — just not in the sci fi kind of way you’re probably thinking. According to a TED-Ed video by Colin Stuart, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev actually traveled 0.02 seconds into his own future due to time dilation during the time he spent on the International Space Station. For the curious, Krikalev has spent a total of 803 days, nine hours, and 39 minutes in space over the course of his career.
That said, though, many are convinced that time dilation isn’t the only kind of time travel that’s possible; some folks do also believe in time travel as depicted by everything from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine to Back to the Future. It’s difficult to find stories online that are actual accounts from real people — many of them are either urban legends (hi there, Philadelphia Experiment) or stories that center around people that I’ve been unable to verify actually exist — but if you dig hard enough, sincere accounts can be found.
Are the stories true? Are they false? Are they examples of people who believe with all their heart that they’re true, even if they might not actually be? You be the judge. These seven tales are all excellent yarns, at any rate.
1The Moberly–Jourdain Incident
In 1901, two Englishwomen, Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, took a vacation to France. While they were there, they visited the Palace of Versailles (because, y’know, that’s what one does when one visits France). And while they were at Versailles, they visited what’s known as the Petit Trianon — a little chateau on the palace grounds that Louis XVI gave to Marie Antoinette as a private space for her to hang out and do whatever it was that a teenaged queen did when she was relaxing back then.
But while they were there, they claimed, they saw some… odd occurrences. They said they spotted people wearing anachronistic clothing, heard mysterious voices, and saw buildings and other structures that were no longer present — and, indeed, hadn’t existed since the late 1700s. Finally, they said, they caught sight of Marie Antoinette herself, drawing in a sketchbook.
They claimed to have fallen into a “time slip” and been briefly transported back more than 100 years before being jolted back to the present by a tour guide.
Did they really travel back in time? Probably not; various explanations include everything from a folie a deux (basically a joint delusion) to a simple misinterpretation of what they actually saw. But for what it’s worth, in 1911 — roughly 10 years after what they said they had experienced occurred — the two women published a book about the whole thing under the names Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont simply called An Adventure. These days, it’s available as The Ghosts of Trianon; check it out, if you like.
2The Mystery Of John Titor
John Titor is perhaps the most famous person who claims he’s time traveled; trouble is, no one has heard from him for almost 17 years. Also, he claimed he came from the future.
The story is long and involved, but the short version is this: In a thread begun in the fall of 2000 about time travel paradoxes on the online forum the Time Travel Institute — now known as Curious Cosmos — a user responded to a comment about how a time machine could theoretically be built with the following message:
“Wow! Paul is right on the money. I was just about to give up hope on anyone knowing who Tipler or Kerr was on this worldline.
“By the way, #2 is the correct answer and the basics for time travel start at CERN in about a year and end in 2034 with the first ‘time machine’ built by GE. Too bad we can’t post pictures or I’d show it to you.”
The implication, of course, was that the user, who was going by the name TimeTravel_0, came from a point in the future during which such a machine had already been invented.
Over the course of many messages spanning from that first thread all the way through the early spring of 2001, the user, who became known as John Titor, told his story. He said that he had been sent back to 1975 in order to bring an IBM 5100 computer to his own time; he was just stopping in 2000 for a brief rest on his way back home. The computer, he said, was needed to debug “various legacy computer programs in 2036” in order to combat a known problem similar to Y2K called the Year 2038 Problem. (John didn’t refer to it as such, but he said that UNIX was going to have an issue in 2038 — which is what we thought was going to happen back when the calendar ticked over from 1999 to 2000.)
Opinions are divided on whether John Titor was real; some folks think he was the only real example of time travel we’ve ever seen, while others think it’s one of the most enduring hoaxes we’ve ever seen. I fall on the side of hoax, but that’s just me.
3Project Pegasus And The Chrononauts
In 2011, Andrew D. Basiago and William Stillings stepped forward, claiming that they were former “chrononauts” who had worked with an alleged DARPA program called Project Pegasus. Project Pegasus, they said, had been developed in the 1970s; in 1980, they were taking a “Mars training class” at a community college in California (the college presumably functioning as a cover for the alleged program) when they were picked to go to Mars. The mode of transport? Teleportation.
It gets better, too. Basiago and Stillings also said that the then-19-year-old Barack Obama, whom they claimed was going by the name “Barry Soetero” at the time, was also one of the students chosen to go to Mars. They said the teleportation occurred via something called a “jump room.”
The White House has denied that Obama has ever been to Mars. “Only if you count watching Marvin the Martian,” Tommy Vietor, then the spokesman for the National Security Council, told Wired’s Danger Room in 2012.
4Victor Goddard’s Airfield Time Slip
Like Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, senior Royal Air Force commander Sir Robert Victor Goddard — widely known as Victor Goddard — claimed to have experienced a time slip.
In 1935, Goddard flew over what had been the RAF station Drem in Scotland on his way from Edinburgh to Andover, England. The Drem station was no longer in use; after demobilization efforts following the First World War, it had mostly been left to its own devices. And, indeed, that’s what Goddard said he saw as he flew over it: A largely abandoned airfield.
On his return trip, though, things got… weird. He followed the same route he had on the way there, but during the flight, he got waylaid by a storm. As he struggled to regain control of his plane, however, he spotted the Drem airfield through a break in the clouds — and when he got closer to it, the bad weather suddenly dissipated. But the airfield… wasn’t abandoned this time. It was busy, with several planes on the runway and mechanics scurrying about.
Within seconds, though, the storm reappeared, and Goddard had to fight to keep his plane aloft again. He made it home just fine, and went on to live another 50 years — but the incident stuck with him; indeed, in 1975, he wrote a book called Flight Towards Reality which included discussion of the whole thing.
Here’s the really weird bit: In 1939, the Drem airfield was brought back to life. Did Goddard see a peek into the airfield's future via a time slip back in 1935? Who knows.
I’ll be honest: I’m not totally sure what to do with thisone — but I’ll present it to you here, and then you can decide for yourself what you think about it. Here it is:
Valeria Lukyanova has made a name for herself as a “human Barbie doll” (who also has kind of scary opinions about some things) — but a 2012 short documentary for Vice’s My Life Online series also posits that she believes she’s a time traveling space alien whose purpose on Earth is to aid us in moving “from the role of the ‘human consumer’ to the role of ‘human demi-god.’”
What I can’t quite figure out is whether this whole time traveling space alien thing is, like a piece of performance art created specifically for this Vice doc, or whether it’s what she actually thinks. I don’t believe she’s referenced it in many (or maybe even any) other interviews she’s given; the news items I’ve found discussing Lukyanova and time travel specifically all point back to this video.
But, well… do with it all as you will. That’s the documentary up there; give it a watch and see what you think.
6The Hipster Time Traveler
In the early 2010s, a photograph depicting the 1941 reopening of the South Fork Bridge in Gold Bridge, British Columbia in Canada went viral for seemingly depicting a man that looked… just a bit too modern to have been photographed in 1941. He looks, in fact, like a time traveling hipster: Graphic t-shirt, textured sweater, sunglasses, the works. The photo hadn’t been manipulated; the original can be seen here. So what the heck was going on?
Well, Snopes has plenty of reasonable explanations for the man’s appearance; each item he’s wearing, for example, could very easily have been acquired in 1941. Others have also backed up those facts. But the bottom line is that it’s never been definitively debunked, so the idea that this photograph could depict a man from our time who had traveled back to 1941 persists. What do you think?
7Father Ernetti’s Chronovisor
According to two at least two books — Catholic priest Father Francois Brune’s 2002 book Le nouveau mystère du Vatican (in English, The Vatican’s New Mystery) and Peter Krassa’s 2000 book Father Ernetti's Chronovisor : The Creation and Disappearance of the World's First Time Machine — Father Pellegrino Ernetti, who was a Catholic priest like Brune, invented a machine called a “chronovisor” that allowed him to view the past. Ernetti was real; however, the existence of the machine, or even whether he actually claimed to have invented it, has never been proven. Alas, he died in 1994, so we can’t ask him, either. I mean, if we were ever able to find his chronovisor, maybe we could… but at that point, wouldn’t we already have the information we need?
(I’m extremely skeptical of this story, by the way, but both Brune’s and Krassa’s books swear up, down, left, and right that it’s true, so…you be the judge.)
Although I'm fairly certain that these accounts and stories are either misinterpreted information or straight-up falsehoods, they're still entertaining to read about; after all, if you had access to a time machine, wouldn't you at least want to take it for a spin? Here's hoping that one day, science takes the idea from theory to reality. It's a big ol' universe out there.