I wrote last week about the legendary Bigfoot and I hesitated to write this weekend about more fringe science, but I have a longtime fascination with time travel and a story about a time traveler caught my attention this past week.

Let’s start out by saying this tale is very likely a hoax, but it captivated fans of time travel, the supernatural and the paranormal.

It started with an online post in November 2000 by someone who called himself Timetravel_0 but would come to be known as John Titor.

John Titor said he was a man from the future, who had been sent to the past (our present) to retrieve a portable computer in order to correct something that had happened in his future world.

John said he traveled back from 2036. He posted on the Art Bell BBS Forums. Art Bell is an American broadcaster and author who was the founder/host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM and a companion show Dreamland.

John Titor’s posts ended in late March 2001 but a number of websites reproduced Titor’s posts and sometimes arranged them to create a kind of narrative.

Titor posted right off pictures of his time machine and its operations manual. As you would expect, Bell’s listeners hit him with lots of questions about why he was here and the physics of time travel. He did engage with others on the Bell forum and also on several other online sites.

IBM 5100

Titor claimed to be an American soldier based in Tampa, Florida in 2036. He had earlier been assigned to time-travel back to 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer. He said the 5100 was needed in order to debug various legacy computer programs in 2036. I haven’t dug deeper into this computer – which seems like an odd old technology that would be needed in the future – but others have commented that it may be a reference to the UNIX year 2038 problem. So, Titor was sent back two years before the problem would occur to get the old technology. The IBM 5100 was not a powerful computer and it ran the not very sophisticated APL and BASIC programming languages.

Now in 2000, Titor said he was visiting again for “personal reasons” which included collecting pictures lost in a future civil war and to visit his family.

Titor made a number of predictions – some vague and some specific – about coming events. he described life after a nuclear war, the breakup of the United States into five smaller sovereignties, and the assertion that CERN would discover the basis for time travel sometime around 2001, with the creation of miniature black holes.

Because some of his predictions have already passed and not occurred, people say it was all a hoax. Of course, there are believers that say that Titor or other time travelers have returned to correct things so that these tragedies did not occur.

One of Titor’s “predictions” (not really a prediction since he claimed to be telling us a future history) was of an upcoming civil war in the United States having to do with “order and rights.” He claimed it would begin in 2004 with civil unrest surrounding the presidential election of that year.

He didn’t seem to know that it would be the John Kerry vs. George W.Bush election. This civil conflict build and fully erupt by 2008. Of course, there was unrest during that period and foreign policy was the dominant theme throughout the election campaign, particularly Bush’s War on Terrorism and the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Titor was also big on alerting the public about the threat of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease spread through beef products, which might remind people of “Mad Cow” disease.

Titor said that UFOs were still a mystery in his time, but he thought that extraterrestrials might be travelers from much further into the future.

As a student of time travel, I wondered about all these interactions Titor was having in the past. Wasn’t he afraid he would change something disastrously? Had he seen Back to the Future? Didn’t he know what would happen to Marty McFly if he met himself in the past or stopped his parents from dating and getting married? hadn’t he heard of the Grandfather Paradox in which a person travels to the past and kills their own grandfather before the conception of their father or mother, which prevents the time traveler’s existence.

Titor was unconcerned. He claimed that the “Everett–Wheeler model of quantum physics,” better known as the many-worlds interpretation, is correct. In that model, every possible outcome of a quantum decision occurs in a separate “universe.” No worries about any grandfather paradox. You would be  killing a different grandfather in a different timeline.

By that model, the chances of everything happening someplace at sometime in the superverse are 100%. And so, maybe John Titor did travel back to 1975 and 2000.

On March 21, 2001, John Titor wrote that he would be returning to 2036, and he was never heard from again.

A book titled John Titor A Time Traveler’s Tale was compiled by John’s mother in our time using John’s posts and published as a 164 page paperback. It includes the black and white photos he posted of his time machine and its operations manual. It is now something of a rarity and it sells online for $130-$600. Not bad for a hoax.

John, if you read this, post a comment and give us an update.

http://www.johntitor.com

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