Did they really travel through time?
March 30, 2015
“This cost me a pretty penny, but I had to have it,” Barclay admitted to his dear old friend, Newton. “The delivery men were kind enough to bring it inside the door for me. I knew you would want to see it and I will also be grateful for your help un-packing it.”
“Glad to be of assistance. I can’t wait to see it, old chap. Let’s get with it, straight away,” Newton replied.
Both retired widowers were movie buffs and aficionados of the unexplained. They lived in the Soho area of London, just a few homes apart from each other. Time travel was their favorite common area of interest.
Barclay continued. “I saw this at an online auction site devoted to old movie props, and put a bid on it, as you know. I had no idea my bid would win. I am almost too excited to open it.” He put the small crowbar down on the floor and stood back to look at the huge crate. “It was fortunate that I have an oversized entrance door, or it would never have fit through. They had a time getting it in. I almost had to unpack it on the street, in front of prying eyes!”
“Very well, I will make the first move, then.” Newton took his crowbar and began to gently remove some of the wooden supports to the crate. Barclay picked up his own crowbar and followed suit.
When the outside of the crate was removed, a large, unusually shaped object swathed in brown crinkled paper revealed itself. The two men began to unravel the paper. What appeared next seemed to be a chair-like seat with a huge disc standing on end attached to the back of it.
“You know this won’t really be effective, don’t you?” Newton asked Barclay with a little chuckle.
Barclay hesitated. He did not answer verbally but raised one eyebrow. “They made several of these for the movie. Then there were mock-ups and prototypes. This is not the one seen in the actual movie, but it is very close. It is one of the final prototypes, Barclay exclaimed.”
“Outstanding!” Newton exclaimed when he saw the contraption, sans its packaging. “Brilliant, fantastic! I am quite envious, you know. You have scored a coup. It is a good thing for you, that you saw this item advertized before I did.”
Barclay stood in awe of his unusual purchase. He reached out his hand and caressed the metallic dial. Then he finally said, “I must get on it.” He slid himself into the seat of his replica of the time machine from the 1960 movie of the same name, based on the H. G. Wells story.
“We have discussed this many times, but I must ask you once again. If you could make this thing actually operate effectively, where would you go, in time?” Newton awaited his turn to sit in the machine while his friend answered.
“Oh, you know. I would like to go see the Great Pyramids being built. I would like to go see ancient Rome. I would like to go on one of the ships of Columbus, also upon the Mayflower, float in the boats of Phoenicians. I would also like to travel as a pioneer in the American Old West. Of course I would have to go watch Jesus Christ delivering a sermon somewhere. I would then have to take some kind of foray into the future, perhaps after they discover aliens do exist in the galaxy and I would like to see one, wouldn’t you? Or a real spaceship?”
“Yes, I totally concur. I would want to do those exact same things and then some. I would love to see dinosaurs and cave men. The ability to time-travel must exist. We have just not been able to figure out the key yet, as mere Twenty-First Century mortals,” Newton agreed.
“I was so hopeful when we heard the Rudolph Fentz Story. It made a true believer of me,” Barclay admitted to his friend.
“Yes, I found that encouraging, indeed. Sad for the man, but encouraging for time travel. It seems he was seen disoriented in Times Square, New York in June of 1950. Witnesses noticed his confusion as he darted in front of a taxi and was struck down. They were baffled by his dress. He had on the clothing of an 1800s man. He was sporting mutton chops sideburns to boot. He wasn’t very old-looking, around late twenties,” Newton recapped part of the legend.
“And at the morgue they were even more baffled,” Barclay added. “They discovered a copper beer token on his person, from a long-gone saloon. They found seventy dollars in antiquated bank notes. They found a bill from a livery stable for the care of a horse. They found a business card on him, with the name Rudolph Fentz, the address was on Fifth Avenue. All of the items on him seemed quite new, not old and weathered, including a letter addressed to him from Philadelphia.”
“I so wanted this to be true,” Newton mused. “Even more enticing, the police could find no history of the man, or of his living at that address. They did find a Rudolph Fentz, Jr., in a 1939 phone directory. The widow of the junior Fentz was still alive so they contacted her about the senior Fentz. He had disappeared in 1876 at the age of twenty-nine, and he was wearing the same attire as the body in the morgue. He was never found and his disappearance was recorded in old police records, the clothing he had on was described to a tee.”
“It is all so tantalizing. It was believed to all be true for so long, yet there are those who claim it is a hoax—that rumors of this incident were based on a story written as science fiction in the 1970s.” A distracted Barclay set the dial on the time machine to 1876, as if he intended to go back to the scene of disappearance of the man, Fentz. He listened to his friend continue.
“That is what they say, now,” Newton said, “but I wonder. There are many stories written as fiction, including that booklet on the Angels of Mons, that later were found to have true elements to them. People came forward with new tidbits backing up the story. It is hard to separate fact from fiction after time elapses, from times when there was not accurate record-keeping involved. There will always be question marks to some of these things, I am certain.”
“For now, we will have to cling to the Philidelphia Experiment and its offshoot, The Montauk Project for our proof of time travel, I suppose. There are about ten recorded examples that believers point to, but most are borderline, in a shadowy area.” Barclay decided at that moment that he would needed to do even deeper research, to find more examples to prove the time travel theory. There had to be some he had not yet discovered.
“The Montauk Project conspiracy, now that is something else. A man wrote a series of books involving his suppressed memories of government time travel experiments at a military base on Long Island, an extension of The Philadelphia Experiment. One day his memories started surfacing and he put them in these books. He uses a sort of disclaimer for the books that says to read them as true, or fiction, however the reader decides to digest them.”
“That disclaimer leaves it wide open for me. I think it truly happened and he is trying to protect himself and others,” Barclay interrupted.
“That is exactly my opinion. Exactly!” Newton slid into the seat of the time machine replica in response to Barclay’s gesturing him to do so. “Take me back, take me waaayyyy back!” His face wore a mask of bliss. “Say, don’t forget the tantalizing Moberly-Jourdain Incident.”
“Oh yes, I almost forgot about that one,” Barclay said, as he reminded himself. “Two women in 1901, Misses Moberly and Jourdain, decided to become traveling companions on a visit the Palace of Versailles. They spent many hours traveling by train. They were trustworthy women involved in academics. One came from a stalwart family with religions connections and positions.”
“They experienced some kind of time slip, did they not? People from the past made appearances!” Newton interrupted from his seat as the commander of the time machine.
“Yes, they had just toured the palace and decided to wander around on the site. As they roamed through the grounds of the nearby Petit Trianon, they somehow got lost and were overcome by an odd mood of depression as they ventured slowly down a lane. They saw gardeners in the lane in antique clothing. Some pompous officials came by in old-fashioned dress with three-cornered hats upon their heads. As they went further on they came upon a young woman, sketching, oblivious to the modern women. She looked very much like portraits of Marie Antoinette, and the women later decided that it had to be her. They were so convinced that they had gone back in time for a few moments, that they later published their story, The Adventure, under pseudonyms.”
Newton finally gave up The Time Machine, and Barclay hopped back on. “You know, time travel is more that possible. It has the support of many physicists. Controlling how to get to an exact time, presents problems, though, and being able to return presents more. I am convinced that some day they will crack the code,” Newton concluded.”
“Yet, that brilliant man, Steven Hawking has pointed out an excellent argument against it. There is a glaring lack of visitors to the now, from the future,” Barclay said with sadness in his voice.”
“And he is always light years ahead of everyone else. That is a given, yet how can we be sure they have not visited, or are not visiting as we speak, time traveling incognito?”
“Good point, old chap. I have often wondered this myself as I inspect people on the street with critical eyes.”
In Soho, two old Brits cling to the possibility of time travel. They also cling to the hope that it will happen in their lifetimes and that they will have access to it—like many of the rest of us.
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